Wondering these days why your résumé is not getting read by employers or recruiters? You may need to give your résumé a thorough analysis and consult a career professional.
A compelling résumé can make a great first impression just like a firm handshake between a candidate and a prospective employer. It can set a candidate apart, highlight his/her brand, and secure interviews. Often, it's a combination of all the key elements in the résumé that make a big impact, including content presentation, design, format, style, and mechanics.
Here are 10 tips on making your résumé stand out:
1. CREATE A POWERFUL BRAND MARKETING DOCUMENT.
Your résumé is a brand marketing tool that needs to tell your career story or narrative.
To elaborate further, your résumé is not a synopsis that merely outlines a laundry list of every single work experience that you have done from beginning to end.
>> Place yourself in the employer's or recruiter's shoes.
>> Consider what the employer or recruiter is seeking in a top candidate.
>> Do you possess those qualifications and experience to begin with?
Help the employer to connect the dots by conveying:
>> Who are you?
>> What have you done?
>> What is your unique value –– what sets you apart?
>> Why should the employer hire you? How can you meet the organization's goals?
>> How do your expertise, strengths, and qualifications align with the role
2. INCORPORATE A CLEAR FOCUS/TARGET IN YOUR RÉSUMÉ.
Define your focus. This will make the résumé clearly focused. Without a clear career target and brand statement at the top, your résumé will lack direction.
>> What type of role are you seeking?
>> What type of company are you targeting?
>> What main industry(s) are you targeting?
>> What expertise and skills are needed to do this role successfully?
Here's a helpful exercise: Select a few job postings using Indeed.ca or LinkedIn to give the résumé writer an idea of what type of role you are applying for. This approach also helps the writer to keyword-optimize and appropriately tailor the résumé for a specific role, which, in turn, helps get past the ATS.
When you have a clear direction, your résumé can be then written to the position that you want, and can effectively highlight your value and accomplishments.
3. POSITION YOUR RÉSUMÉ TO BE SEEN BY THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
Your résumé must get past the gatekeeper, whose job it is to screen paper out.
>> Ensure that your résumé is strategically and concisely written to the role and company applied to, is fully updated, and addresses any potential gaps.
>> Identify the key person who is recruiting and establish a connection. Then get your résumé in the hands of the hiring manager or appropriate decision-maker who has the power to hire you.
>> Sending numerous résumés to people you don't know or 'To Whom It May Concern' often fails to pass the test or may end up getting passed over.
4. REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF THE RÉSUMÉ PACKAGE.
The purpose of the résumé and cover letter is to get you in the door and secure an interview.
The résumé is a key piece to positioning yourself for your next career move.
However, many jobseekers solely rely on their résumé to help them secure the job. Often, I hear comments such as "I hope that this résumé finally does the trick and gets me the job that I want."
>> Note, that there are various brand marketing pieces vital to ensure a successful job search besides the résumé. Ultimately, a successful job search depends on how you best leverage these various elements in conjunction with networking.
>> Consider equally the importance of a networking résumé or biography, business cards, solid references, networking and presenting your value to the interviewer.
5. STOP WORRYING ABOUT RÉSUMÉ LENGTH!
The rule of thumb for résumé length (a commonly debated question):
The résumé needs to keep the reader’s attention with relevant information to entice them to keep reading. Standard length is 2 pages. Yet, there is no fixed rule.
>> Avoid stuffing every bit of information about your experience and accomplishments into your résumé.
>> Don't overload information on past roles. Employers will look to your current / most recent roles. Convey past experience concisely.
The résumés that I create are usually two pages -- maximum three pages in some cases for an executive with extensive experience or an academic CV.
>> With a solid Master-level strategy that features relevant content to presenting your value and offerings, the résumé length issue will take care of itself.
Before adding in any content into the résumé, ask yourself these key questions:
>> Is this information relevant to meeting the employer’s buying motivators? Why?
>> Will the reader's eye be drawn to reading this certain information?
>> How is this particular content relevant to the role and company applied to?
>> How will this information showcase my value?
6. FOCUS ON RESULTS, NOT RESPONSIBILITIES.
Many jobseekers forget is that a résumé should always focus on RESULTS, not job descriptions. It is a common fault to incorporate meaningless job descriptions or responsibilities that fail to present value.
>> Highlight both quantitative and qualitative results. Think Challenge -- Action - -Results (CAR), and always lead with results for maximum impact.
This means reverting back to your accomplishments and asking yourself:
>> "What precise impact did this project or initiative have on strategic goals?"
>> "How can I accurately quantify this accomplishment or milestone?"
>> "How have I met or exceeded strategic goals?" For example, revenue growth, business expansion, customer retention, or cost savings -- related to your role.
>> Don't forget about your community leadership or board role accomplishments if applicable.
7. INCORPORATE POWERFUL AND RELEVANT LANGUAGE.
The résumé needs to show the prospective employer that you are the right candidate for the position. After all, your goal is to stand out from the crowd with an exceptional résumé and capture the attention of the employer within seconds!
>> A résumé needs to incorporate a careful selection of words -- remember, the right words have power and meaning!
>> Ensure your content offers substance and conveys your true value to the employer or recruiter.
> Utilize captivating titles and strong keywords to draw the reader’s attention and to create a stellar impression of you as a candidate.
>> Make your résumé more compelling to read by using results-driven action verbs in your accomplishment statements. Always lead with results.
>> Avoid squeezing in meaningless adjectives or redundant words. Demonstrate your value with proven results.
>> Never overuse common action verbs such as led, drove, developed etc.
8. UTILIZE A COMPELLING RÉSUMÉ DESIGN, PRESENTATION, AND FORMAT.
Don’t forget how your résumé appears, including design, presentation, and format as well as mechanics.
Even if you have correct information in your résumé and it reads well, if the format is inappropriate in conveying your value, your résumé may likely get passed over.
>> Most often, a hybrid résumé strategy works best to highlight the candidate's value. Functional résumés can be often misleading or confusing for employers.
>> Opt for an ATS-friendly résumé. This means going easy on the design.
Although there are 200+ ATS systems that are becoming increasingly sophisticated, an overpowering résumé design that incorporates tables or textboxes may not be scanned effectively and may just detract from the reader's eye.
>> Capture key content thoughtfully.
>> Leave enough white space for readability.
9. BE TRUTHFUL ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE, CREDENTIALS, SKILLS, AND MILESTONES.
In an attempt to stand out, I see some jobseekers wanting to stretch the truth.
>> Integrity is the key rule when it comes to résumé writing.
>> Don’t lie or exaggerate in your résumé as this can be verified by the employer. This includes everything from employment dates, titles, skills, and professional experience and milestones as well as education and community leadership roles.
You want to get hired because you are the right person for the job -- not because you said the right things in your résumé the employer may want to hear. If the employer finds out that you have lied or presented inaccurate information, this can result in getting screened out from the hiring process altogether.
10. PROOFREAD YOUR RÉSUMÉ THOROUGHLY FOR ACCURACY.
Proofreading and spellchecking your résumé again and again are essential for complete accuracy and correctness, but especially for error-free content.
Just one error or a few minor errors in a résumé or cover letter is enough reason to get screened out. If an employer has 20 candidates for a job and one candidate has a minor gap or grammatical or spelling errors in their résumé that cannot be explained, chances are that candidate isn’t going to get selected for an interview.
>> Read the résumé out loud to yourself a few times for clarity and accuracy.
>> Use a spell-checker or grammar-checker.
>> Have an absolutely polished résumé ready to present before you submit it!
Essentially, the résumé is your chance to make a great first impression, and if you fail to pass the test, this can lead to an overlooked application. It all starts with a powerful Master-level strategy!
If you have been keeping an updated accomplishments file this summer that include performance review milestones, certificates, testimonials and others, the résumé building process will become much more efficient.
Keeping a "brag file" can help you track career patterns and themes, understand your accomplishments, realize your value, and forecast ahead. And you won't have to rely on your memory when it comes time for résumé building. For more information, view my Career Resources section for the Career Milestones Journal.
Six Key Application Tips to Remember:
✅ Follow the application instructions. Pay attention to the job posting requirements. If you don't meet the core qualifications, don't apply.
✅ Keep a record of the résumés you’ve sent. When you send out a résumé, make a note of when to follow up in your log / journal and follow up.
✅ Never use your current employer’s contact information in your résumé — and that includes using your work email address.
✅ If your most recent position does not even appear in your current résumé — or if it’s been more than 6 months since your last update — get your résumé updated!
✅ Avoid using the same résumé to apply for different types of jobs.
✅ Recustomize your résumé and cover letter to align with the job posting requirements.
Invest in a custom and compelling résumé package this summer.
For more information, contact 905.730.2374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View more about my Master-level résumé strategy. See the samples on my website.