Thinking about finding yourself a new 9-5? It can be hard to figure out what exactly you can do to make your résumé stand out in a crowd of other, similarly polished, one-page masterpieces. Even after you've looked at every template around and re-written your cover letter fifteen times, there are still ways to make the recruiter or hiring manager in HR notice your résumé first — and help them remember it when they're looking at 200 others. These résumé writing tips from experts can help you polish up what you send out with your application and help you stand out.
These days, it's considered necessary in most fields to have a LinkedIn or a website which provides easy access to all your materials, past job experience, or even some of your portfolio, if you work in an industry that needs it. It's the modern equivalent of a business card (which you should also get, if you're a networking sort of person in a career that prizes face-to-face contact). Beyond those standard sites, though, it can feel difficult to make your résumé shine without resorting to absurdity or stunts. Step away from the glitter, be prepared to put in some work, and always run a proper spellcheck at least twice; a spelling or grammar error will virtually guarantee that your résumé doesn't go any further than the rubbish bin. Here are five expert-backed tips to turn your résumé into a (very professional) work of art.
Don't Be Passive
Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, tells Bustle that the language of a cover letter and résumé is important. "Take a look at the verbs in the job posting," he says. "Use the exact terms or close synonyms on your resume. Why? This will help you get past applicant tracking systems (ATS) robots that read your resume and pre-filter cover letters and resumes before they get to a hiring manager."
But, he says, there are limits. "Weak action verbs include 'assist', 'help', 'responsibilities include', 'involved in', 'motivated', 'participated in', 'functioned, and many others. In the end, strong action verbs demonstrate careful and expressive writing." Strong action verbs include terms like 'controlled', 'manage', 'execute', 'advance', and many more — the idea is to show that you're someone who makes things happen. "Utilizing [these words] on your résumé means you took the time and attention needed to write strong bullet points. It means you care," Patel says.
Show Your Success
Don't just list your jobs and what they involved; focus on what you actually got done. "Any time a candidate can provide statistics to back up work achievements, it goes a long way to proving their suitability for the job," says Gillies. "Solid data, like a percentage gain, shows the scope of achievement." Got productivity up by 25 percent? Earned a bumper account that got your company into the red? Mention it.
If you're having trouble picking what achievements to highlight, "The best examples applicants can include are self-initiated projects that they took on that might have been risky, but paid off," Dana Case, Director of Operations at My Corporation, tells Bustle. "This demonstrates that the applicant is driven to keep going and push for success, which makes for an incredibly valuable hire."
Gillies says you have to be selective. "Too much information can become overwhelming and difficult to read, ultimately hurting your chances to stand out," she says. "To avoid getting lost in the shuffle, applicants should pare down the amount of information offered and stick to what's essential to the job at hand. The purpose of a résumé is to get an interview, and you can do that by preserving some white space on the page." As always, cap your résumé at one page long, format it with a clean, readable font, and don't get too caught up in the bells and whistles.
Don't Go Too Quirky
It can be tempting to personalize your résumé in ways that show off your creative side, but if you're going for an office job where your duties will primarily involve Excel, you may want to rethink that. Sara Morgan, founder of Eleven Eleven PR, tells Bustle that her favorite examples have been subtle. "Try subtly incorporating your favorite color into the document while still keeping in mind the ease of readability," she suggests. "For example, if your favorite color is blue, use a navy blue, as opposed to a bright blue that might be distracting or hard to read." And don't do an Elle Woods and spray it in perfume.
Writing a résumé doesn't have to be difficult; think of it as an opportunity to show off how great you are, because you're wonderful, of course. Good luck making those money moves.