There’s plenty of advice out there about how you need to make your resume “stand out,” and while in some cases a little originality can certainly help, you do want to make sure that you are standing out for the right reasons.

The problem with using the same buzzwords that everyone else uses is that rather than making you stand out, they make your resume seem generic.

A resume printed out on a sheet of pink paper would stand out, but what does it say about you to a hiring manager or potential employer?

Hank Boyer

According to Robin Reshwan

Founder of placement and career consulting firm
Collegial Services

Robin Reshwan, founder of placement and career consulting firm Collegial Services, has 20 years of experience the recruitment industry, and believes that most of the time, job seekers should put professionalism above originality or creativity.

"The internet has been bombarded with information on how to write a resume and while it is usually helpful information, some of it is misguided,” says Reshwan.

“Originality is a wonderful trait and something to be admired, but a resume should be a professional portrayal of the candidate,” she explains.

“Objective statements filled with analogies and quotes may seem like a unique approach for describing one's work ethic or experience but it does little to impress an employer.

An employer wants a resume to tell them about a jobseeker's abilities and expertise, not what Steve Jobs thinks about workplace attitudes or performance.”

Top Tips

In short, including keywords and buzzwords in your resume can be helpful, but only when you use them correctly. To do this, keep the following three tips in mind.

1. Consider “curb appeal.”

“A resume is a visual document. This means that using a layout that is organised, symmetrical, and allows “resting places” for the eyes with good use of white space, and is not overly text heavy or styled works best.

A document that looks like a novel often scares the reader off because it looks like too much work.”

2. Move beyond the duties.

“Most recruiters know the general duties related to careers within their specific fields. What really stands out is the impact you had and results you drove within your career.

A more unique way a candidate might describe the position is:

1. Initiated a minimum of 60 outbound calls daily to C-level professionals in the software industry

2. Exceeded company activity standards with an average connection rate of 20%

3. Planned and tracked sales funnel in Salesforce.com

Almost every role has a measurement of success – customer satisfaction, time to complete a task, volume of activity completed, error rate or even internal performance measurement rankings. Whenever possible, list those accomplishments or the impact you made in the role.”

3. Think outside the box

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and sometimes a more creative approach, providing it stays within the boundaries of professionalism, could help you get noticed.

In some industries like graphic design or film, a creative resume can give you a huge advantage over someone who goes the traditional route. So if you’re handy in the design department and have a great idea for a resume template that will really stand out, then by all means, go for it.

There are plenty of examples of people who thought outside the box and executed a creative idea that blew everyone away, but on the other hand, there are also a few instances where candidates’ attempts to be original earned them a place on a list of the wackiest resume blunders.

The key is to really know your industry, the company you are applying to, and your own limitations.

Beth Campbell Duke

According to Beth Campbell Duke

Youth career educator and author of the book Future-Proof Careers

Beth Campbell Duke stresses that before you even think about using an innovative format or adding creative touches; you need to get the content right.

“Since you are not likely to know who is reading the resume, you want to make sure that when the resume grabs attention, the content keeps the reader engaged,” she says. “Fancy formatting doesn't gloss over a poorly written resume.”

“When it comes to formatting, you can be as conservative or edgy as feels right to you, always keeping in mind that your resume is a marketing document created for the reader,” says Campbell Duke.

“Don't make it too complicated for you to deal with - because you have to target each resume you send out. And don't make it hard to read - or it won't be read.”

“The reality is that there's no 'perfect' format - because every position, recruiter and HR professional is different. And you don't fit every position out there,” she adds.

  • Give yourself a great title

    Along with your name, you should always give yourself a professional title that describes what you do, such as “Business Development and Sales Director.” This title is the first thing that will catch the reader’s eye, so make sure it clearly conveys what you have to offer.

  • Use power words

    The words you use can have a big impact on whether or not a hiring manager or employer will consider you a capable candidate, so try to use power words or phrases that demonstrate your capability.

    Power words include things like initiated, implemented, managed, increased, launched, advised, demonstrated, influenced, increased, etc.

  • Include job related interests

    You don’t need to tell employers about everything you like doing, especially not generic things like “watching television” or “playing sports.” But, if your hobbies, personal interests or volunteer positions tie in with the job, including them helps to show employers that you really are passionate about the work you do, or would like to do.

  • Tailor your resume

    A Career Builder survey shows that 36% of employers automatically take an applicant out of the running if their resume is too generic and doesn’t seem personalised for the position.

    While you don’t have to change your whole resume for each application, you should always tailor your personal statement or professional profile to the job you are applying for. It also helps to highlight the skills or experience that a job posting has specifically mentioned.

  • Include hyperlinks

    Including hyperlinks to your online profiles, websites or work shows initiative. If you want to showcase work that is relevant to the job, such as writing samples, websites you have created or other projects that demonstrate your expertise, it’s a good idea to have everything easily accessible in one place, such as your LinkedIn profile or a personal blog or website.