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Top 12 Tips for Making Your Resume Standout

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Bad Resume

If your current resume isn’t garnering calls for interviews, it may be time for a re-do.

I don’t care if your prose is sparkling or if you spend $2,000 on a professional resume writer. The goal of a resume is to be a marketing document that entices recruiters and hiring managers to feel compelled to meet you.

Most hiring managers spend their days wading through resumes from qualified job seekers. What will set yours apart?

Put yourself in the hirer’s place. There’s a position to be filled. Which candidates are most likely to be the best fit for the job?

You, as the one entrusted to fill the vacancy or new position, do not have the luxury of a lot of time to complete the process. You are doing all of this in addition to all your other responsibilities, and you are tired and stressed out.

As you sort through the hundreds of resumes you’ve received, you’re looking for any reason to knock someone out of the running.  You will spend only a few seconds scanning each resume before deciding — reject or consider? Would you be impressed with your resume under these conditions?

Here are some tips to consider if your resume isn’t getting you the results you want:

TIP 1 – You Have My Attention:

Your first few lines are crucial.  Grab the reader’s attention quickly and then back up that positive first impression with relevant details.

TIP 2 – Nail the Summary:

Tell your future employer how your value translates into his specific needs with a compelling summary statement.

This should be a section at the top of your resume. You can call it Overview, Summary of Qualifications, or something similar. It can be a paragraph or a list of bullet points.

The key is to pull out your most relevant and impressive qualifications from throughout your career and highlight them where they can be appreciated at first glance. Don’t bury your most important qualifications on page 2.  Hiring managers won’t take the time to search or even read carefully.

TIP 3 – Customize It:

This means that you must customize your resume at least slightly for each job opportunity. Make sure that the summary statement is customized based on the job description if you want to catch that recruiter’s eye.

You may also want to edit other sections of the resume to emphasize the experience and achievements that align with the requirements of the opportunity in question.

TIP 4 – Repeat After Me:

Incorporate keywords from the job description in your resume. This helps to ensure that you’re speaking the employer’s language and that any keyword-scanning software will find what it’s looking for. You should review and edit the keywords in your resume for each opportunity.

TIP 5 – Lose the Objectives:

In most cases, a statement outlining your objectives is a waste of the most valuable real estate on your resume. Your resume is about communicating what you can do for the hiring company, not detailing what you’re looking for.

TIP 6 – Short N’ Sweet:

Keep your resume length at 1-2 pages. If you are still in the early years of your career, limit yourself to one page. The descriptions of your most recent and most relevant positions should be the longest.

TIP 7 – You’re a Star:

Focus on your achievements, not your boring, generic job responsibilities. Many résumés simply list the duties that ANY breathing human would have performed in the role. This will not set you apart from the competition. You must communicate what you did to excel in the role.

TIP 8 – Show ‘Em The Money:

Whenever possible, flaunt the specific numbers. Show them the money, the percentage improvement– any statistics that back up your claims of greatness. Your purchasing plan saved $100,000 or your revamping of the personnel policy slashed the turnover rate by 20%.

TIP 9 – Lose the References:

Don’t waste space on References Available Upon Request. They know.

TIP 10 – Personality Matters:

Show some personality. Achievers tend to be interesting people, and if the hirer thinks you are interesting, he’s more likely to want to meet you in an interview. That doesn’t mean you should describe your tattoos or love of fondue. Keep it professional. However, it can be useful to mention interesting volunteer activities and hobbies that demonstrate skills relevant to the job (creativity, determination, initiative).

TIP 11 – Lean on a Friend:

Ask trusted friends and contacts for feedback on your resume.  Sometimes a friend with a little distance will be able to see weaknesses that you can’t. When the subject is you, it can be difficult to evaluate objectively.

TIP 12 – Spell-check can be a Backstabber:

It may seem obvious, but spelling and grammar are critical—even if you are in computer programming or sales. Spell check is not foolproof. Just because it’s a word doesn’t mean it’s the word that you want to use. Ask a detail-oriented friend to help you proofread.


Creating a great resume is a little bit of a balancing act. You want to show some personality but not come across as unprofessional. Clearly, given how competitive the job market is, you need to give yourself every advantage. Hopefully some of the resume tips spelled out above will help yours stand out from the crowd.

For your amusement, here is a Funny or Die job interview with a resume rundown:

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

10 Comment to Top 12 Tips for Making Your Resume Standout

  • Georgina Koenig

    Really like number 7. Focus on achievements. Can’t tell you how many generic resumes come to me.

  • Like the post, but I’m not sure about not striking off an Objectives section. It probably depends on how much experience the persona has.

  • Renee Smith-Baldwin

    I think my resume is strong enough, but what if I dont have tip 8? I don’t have specific statistics to point to.

  • Matthew T Rader

    This is full of such great information about writing resumes. So many people do realize how many resume’s look the same when you are sorting through dozens of them. I hope people looking for jobs really like this advise. I’m going to do a brief write up about this and then link to your site for people to read the 12 tips.

  • Pamela Skillings

    Hi Larissa,
    It can be a good idea to include an objective in your summary in a couple of situations: 1) If you are fairly new to the job market and your career goals are not evident from your resume; and 2) If you are making a career change and seeking a next step that is a departure from your past history. However, even in these cases, I would recommend using a Summary that integrates both your Objective and some high points of your background.

  • Pamela Skillings

    Do you have other evidence of achievement? For example, mentioning a promotion or an award or a certification is just as good as quoting a statistic.

  • Stephanie Vega

    Tip #4 really hits home. I have so many different versions of my resume – in folders with names that reflect the keywords of various job descriptions – that it’s been hard to keep up with them. So I know use and excel doc to manage them. Each tab represents one resume that is suitable for positions that use certain keywords. So far I’ve seen call backs increase just a little from actual employers and recruiters call me almost daily.

  • Jennifer D.

    yeah, lose the objectives. My college career counselor stressed that. She said what if your objective was different than what the company is offering? And they’re generally irrelevant. Of course you’re looking for a great job at a great company. Big space waster.

  • Emily Dillingham

    Tip one is an great idea. I short – one line or two – lead. Like a teaser for a great upcoming movie. Not too long as to give the entire resume away but short enough to make people anticipate what comes next.

  • Jay

    Jean-ralphio from “Parks and Rec” !