8 tips to make your resume stand out

If you are looking for a job right now, you’ve probably been thinking a lot about your resume, and candidates often ask us about best practice. As recruiters, we sift through thousands of resumes each year, and we learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. So today, I wanted to share my insights.

#1 Make it clear and readable

Using jargon or overly formal language typically doesn’t make you seem more experienced, it simply makes your resume harder to read. It can also look like subversion – trying to make your skills sound more impressive than they are. Instead, let your skills shine and use everyday language. Your resume should be the written articulation of your skills and reflect how you will position yourself in the interview. 

The order and format are important. Typically, a good layout starts with your professional profile, then education and work experience, followed by skills/software knowledge.

When it comes to the style, keep it clean. Adding unnecessary elements or colours can detract attention from your skills and experience. Use simple fonts that are accessible on any device and easy to read; Arial or Calibri are good bets. Headings should be larger and can be bolded, but different fonts are a no-no.

#2 Keep it concise

The length of your resume will depend on how long you have been working and at what level, but as a general rule, three pages is the maximum. Two pages are sufficient for a more junior role. And if you’ve been in the workforce for 30+ years, you likely don’t need to add great detail for roles that were more than ten years ago.

Be judicious in what you include. For example, including Microsoft Word in your software skills isn’t necessary as it’s a given for professional roles today.

#3 Include a professional profile, but no photo

There are many terms for your professional profile, but essentially it is the blurb at the start of your resume that tells the employer about you. Being the first thing an employer reads, this can be make or break. So, it’s worth putting a little effort into making sure it accurately portrays your experience, goals and a little of your personality.

It might sound simple, but make sure your profile is relevant to the role you are applying for. Too often, I have seen profiles with career goals that don’t align with the job on offer, and it’s an immediate red flag.

Trends can and have changed when it comes to photos on resumes. However, in my experience, it is simply unnecessary. It opens you up to additional unconscious bias and takes the focus off your skills and experience. And as a recruiter, I remove these before sending resumes on to employers, so it’s often not worth your time.

#4 Make sure it aligns with your LinkedIn profile

For most white-collar roles, employers will look at the LinkedIn profiles of their longlist, so it’s critical to make sure yours aligns with your resume. Differences in dates, position titles or descriptions can be a deal-breaker as they indicate inaccuracies, or worse, intentional deceit.

In fact, building a killer LinkedIn profile before you update or write your resume is a great way to think about how you want to position yourself to prospective employers.

#5 Include dates on employment history

While it’s essential to be concise, removing dates from your work history is a definite no-no. Simply putting the year/s you worked at a company leaves a lot open to assumption, which won’t work in your favour. There is a significant difference in your experience when you worked somewhere for a month versus twelve, so adding the dates will help you accurately convey this.

And when it comes to order, most recent first is the only way to go. An employer or recruiter doesn’t want to sift through what you did a decade ago to get to your current skills and experience.

#6 Describe the skills and accomplishments your roles entailed

A bulleted list of broad tasks you did in a role doesn’t tell an employer or recruiter anything about the value you can add. This is your chance to showcase your skills and achievements, so review how you have positioned your employment history and make sure your skills shine.

#7 Don’t rely on spell-check

Errors in a resume can give unintentional messages about your commitment and attention to detail. Many candidates rely on spell-check software alone to do this, but these aren’t fail-safe and often use American English.

The best approach is to use automated options judiciously and read through the document yourself several times. It’s also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to give it a read, as we can become so close to something we’ve written that we can’t see mistakes.

#8 Keep your focus on the end game

At the end of the day, the purpose of your resume is to provide an accurate picture of why an employer should hire you. So start by considering your pitch – why should the employer hire you? – and jot down the key points that make you ideal for the role.

Then, write an initial draft with everything you want to include and cast an editing eye over it. Where will more information help you make your case, and where have you added irrelevant detail that takes attention away from your core message?

Keeping this focus on the end game and editing judiciously will help you put your best foot forward.

Looking for your next role? Get in touch with Denovo. More than simply helping you find a job, we focus on helping you manage and grow your career, wherever life takes you.