We all know the feeling. The one when you tediously update your resume to ensure the recruiter knows that you (and only you!) are the perfect fit. But then you never hear anything. Not even crickets.
When your resume is the first thing the hiring manager sees, and she’s only looking at it for a few seconds, how do you make sure she picks yours out of the pile? Especially when some of those piles could have hundreds of applicants.
Well, today is your lucky day because I have a few simple changes you can make to give your resume a better chance to stand out.
1. Add Some Color
A little bit of color will jump out from stacks of black and white pages. It’s not only appealing to the eye (because, hey, it’s different), but it can also help highlight certain sections and make your resume easier to navigate.
And, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Stay away from making every other line a different hue and splashing the page with neon. That’ll just send the reader to the eye doctor. My go-to is to simply add some color to the background of the header and each section. You can get creative with it, just make sure you’re not distracting from the content.
2. Avoid Overused Fonts
Somehow, Times New Roman became the professional font to use. And sure, it looks nice and it’s easy to read, but it’s also a great way to blend in. Plus, it’s a little boring.
In fact, one creative director even said that using Times New Roman is like wearing sweatpants to a job interview (Hint: You shouldn’t do that).
But, I’ve got good news. Janie Kliever, owner of Design Artistree Creative Studio, put together the best and worst fonts for a resume. A few that topped the list? Garamond, Helvetica, and Georgia. Unsurprisingly, Comic Sans didn't make the cut.
3. Get Rid of Clutter
Remember: Hiring managers don’t have a lot of time, and they don’t want to squint when they read your resume (so don’t use size 8 font to fit everything on one page). You need to make it as digestible as possible, which means you’ll probably have to cut a lot out.
Saumya Verma, communications analyst at Deloitte, says that employers “want to get down to the core of your qualifications so they can determine whether or not they should call you.”
Don’t ruin your chances by being too wordy. Try to take an objective view of your resume. With each detail, ask yourself, “Is this really necessary?” If the answer is no or you aren’t sure, remove it.
4. Use Active Words
Which hypothetical bullet point sounds better? “Responsible for putting together annual reports” or “Evaluated and analyzed performance data and compiled reports?” (Hint: The answer is number two.)
The words you choose are important. But hold on—put that dictionary away. Because here’s a secret: Some of the words you should use are right in front of your face, right there in the job description.
Does the company want someone who can design and implement new programs? Use those words (unless, of course, you haven’t done those things). In addition, use language that emphasizes what you accomplished, not what your responsibilities were. These 185 action verbs can help.
5. Arrange Your Experience Differently
Experience. Education. Skills. Other. That’s the typical format hiring managers see. And that’s fine. But, that’s not the only way to do things. You can also set it up so that, instead of telling a chronological story, you tell the story of your skills. I’m talking about a skills-based resume, where you still list your employment, but it isn’t always front and center.
“By eliminating the focus on your previous positions and titles,” explains Jennifer Little-Fleck, Muse author and creator of Smart Bold Job Search, “you’re able to highlight experiences and skills from all facets of your life and provide a more comprehensive view of your abilities."
Not sure how to make one? This article can help.
And, while not every one of these tips is going to work in every single situation, it’s a great place to begin revamping that old resume. Start with one—the one that intimidates you the least—and go from there. Good luck!