How to create a standout resume

November 25, 2021

DegreeChoices Staff

Are you looking for your first job fresh out of college? Or planning on a bold career change? Your resume is a staple requirement when searching for your next role.

In today’s highly competitive job market, your applications need to stand out from the crowd. It can feel tough to secure an interview, especially if there are a lot of other people competing for the same role.

This guide will help you put together a resume that stands out from the crowd. A resume should clearly and quickly outline your skills, expertise and personality to enable busy business owners to determine that you would be a good professional and cultural fit for their businesses.

High-impact resume guide

Choosing the right format

There are 2 main types of formats to consider for your resume:

  • Reverse-chronological format: You list your most recent work experience first, before adding previous jobs in reverse order, meaning your first position is listed last.
  • Functional, skills-based format: this focuses largely on your individual skills, grouping all your skills in themes. Your relevant professional experience and education records follow at the end. It is particularly useful if you are planning a major career change and looking to change industries.
Pros Cons
Reverse-chronological format Clearly tells the story of your personal development. Easy for employers to pinpoint when an applicant has secured promotions and accepted more seniority and responsibility in previous roles. Tried and tested appearance. Your resume is less likely to leap off the page in the eyes of prospective employers.
Functional, skills-based format Reassures employers that you have a transferrable skillset for the vacancy. It could require more work to tailor to each individual job application.

Length – less is more

We all want to be sure that potential employers see all the hard work we put into our education and previous positions. When we asked Silicon Valley Senior Recruiter and Career Expert, Ilil Ginsburg, about finding the sweet spot between substance and length, she emphasized efficiency.

“It is very important to keep your resume to one page. I know it sounds harsh, but for sought-after positions, it is likely that very little time will be spent reading through your resume. You need to have all the important stuff at the top so that it may be digested in…the first 5-6 seconds.”

 

To improve the chances that a hiring manager sees your resume, Ginsburg recommends leveraging your existing contacts when possible.

“Try to avoid sending your resume through LinkedIn or the company’s website if you can help it…Find a person in the organization that can give you a referral.”

 

The exception to this advice are applicants to senior roles, who may need 2 pages to demonstrate career progression. Fortunately, many employers now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that filter resumes for key skills and competencies. As not all companies have this practice, however, be sure to start with concise information about your key skills and knowledge at the top of your resume.

Your personal details

A professional resume should clearly include essential contact and personal information, including:

  • full name
  • telephone number
  • email address
  • LinkedIn profile URL
  • personal blog or website (providing it is professional and relevant to the vacancy)

It is not essential to include your personal address unless requested by prospective employers. Your date of birth and headshot are considered private information and not used on resumes.

Your resume summary

A resume summary should draw your reader in and motivate the reader to learn more. This personal statement about your professional achievements is particularly effective if you already have a wealth of experience in the industry across multiple job roles. In this case, the summary should succinctly communicate your relevant skills and qualifications.

If you are applying for a role for which you have no relevant experience, an objective statement will suffice. Those looking to change career paths will use an objective statement to outline transferable skills. If you are an entry-level applicant, you should note your most relevant educational achievements and your ambition within your target industry.

Your relevant experience – a checklist for future employers

After the summary, you get to present your work experience and achievements relevant to the vacancy. This usually takes the form of a list including descriptions indicating the details of each role or achievement. To make this section most impactful, Ginsberg recommends tailoring the information to the vacancy as much as possible.

“The job description is a checklist of what the team is looking for. Make sure you adjust your resume to accentuate the experience and skills that correspond to that checklist.”

 

Work experience should not go back further than 10-15 years. If you are a graduate, you might not have relevant achievements or work experience. However, listing any awards or certificates received during college can further demonstrate your knowledge and skills.

Job descriptions are another area to leverage the use of ATS software. By using the these descriptions to incorporate relevant keywords into your personal profile, you can increase the likelihood that your resume will be chosen for a closer look.

Be clear and transparent about your education

Your education record is essential to a successful resume. Education records should be listed in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent degree or qualification listed first. If you completed a university degree, you do not need to include your high school diploma.

Include your soft skills to catch your reader’s attention

Your resume should also include your soft skills. In contrast to hard skills that focus on specific learned abilities, soft skills are less measurable attributes, such as interpersonal skills and leadership expertise.

Just as with hard skills and experience, Ginsburg recommends being selective when choosing which soft skills to highlight.

“Act as if you’ve only got 5-10 seconds to make an impression. Make sure you distill your excellent qualities…into short, punchy sentences at the very top of your resume.”

 

Don’t forget to humanize your resume

Feel free to incorporate additional sections that help to build a picture of you as a person, providing you have enough space. Mentioning hobbies and passions can help to add personality to your resume. It can even be used to demonstrate relevant skills for the vacancy. For instance, experience as a softball coach suggests you have strong leadership and people skills.

Resume must-haves by industry

A vacancy’s job description is not the only aspect that affects the way you create your resume. Resume styles vary across industries. Below, you can find some specific information about tailoring your resume to the industry you are targeting.

Digital industries Digital industries

In most digital industries, everything you do is tracked and monitored. This can work to your benefit to demonstrate data and figures from previous roles to prove your credentials. Examples of this data are an increased ROI from online advertising or soaring conversion rates from an email campaign. Any hard data in this industry can strengthen your resume.

Finance Finance

Qualifications and credentials are essential in finance. Demonstrate your certifications and expertise clearly in your resume summary and use your personal profile as an opportunity to articulate the scale and type of businesses you have worked for previously.

Sales Sales

Recruiters for sales departments demand sales figures. How successful were you in meeting sales targets in the past? What were your biggest sales achievements? Quantitative facts are better in this industry as they directly highlight the scope of your commercial expertise.

Retail Retail

Use your personal profile to provide tangible examples of retail success and expertise. Consider a visual portfolio of assets to showcase previous works and designs.

Logistics Logistics

Prospective employers will want to know the scale of operations you have overseen in the past. This may include the number of sites overseen, individuals managed or the volume of deliveries handled. You should also be able to quantify how you improved efficiency and saved the business money.

Human resources Human resources

Employers recruiting for HR roles are looking for evidence that you are able to quickly build a working knowledge of the structures and functions of their organization. You should be able to use your personal profile to demonstrate figures based on recruitment savings, staff retention and engagement, and increased productivity.

Your perfect resume – key takeaways

The next time you are building your resume for a new role, be sure to review your work with Ginsberg’s basic checklist.

  1. Keep it short and simple: basic formatting, clean fonts and clear organization in PDF
  2. Focus on quantitative results
  3. Start with a punchy, concise summary at the top of the page
  4. List your relevant core skills, degrees and certifications
  5. Show clear professional development
  6. Focus on verbs with agency: managed, led, achieve, initiate, mentor, collaborate

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