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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: July 03, 2015

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By Marianne Stenger

Recent reports have suggested that the average employer spends no more than 30 seconds scrutinising a resume, and one frequently cited study even indicates that recruiters can make up their mind about a resume in just 6 seconds.

But regardless of long it may take employers to size up your resume, the takeaway is that it needs to stand out in order to make it past the first check, so here are some important things to keep in mind when sprucing up your resume.

Keep it simple

Most experts suggest avoiding special effects, coloured letters and backgrounds or an overly an elaborate layout unless you’re sure it will be appreciated, because while these things can make you stand out, it won’t always be for the right reasons.

In most cases, it’s best to keep the design of your resume fairly simple and use an easy-to-read font so an employer or recruiter will be able spot the most important information first. Also try to break up any large blocks of text with bullet points or headers which make the resume easier to scan, and always send your resume off as a PDF file to ensure that your original formatting will remain intact.

Describe accomplishments not duties

Since most industry professionals are familiar with the general duties involved in their line of work, it’s important to dig a bit deeper and describe some of the things you have accomplished rather than merely listing all the responsibilities you had.

Did you improve revenue, and if so, how? Did you successfully manage a large budget or team of people? Describing your accomplishments like this shows employers that you excelled at your job rather than just going through the motions.

Customise it

Every job is different, so ideally you should customise your resume for every job. This doesn’t mean you need to create an entirely new resume every time you apply for a job, but you should try to tailor your personal statement to include some of the keywords mentioned in the job description and highlight the specific skills and experience the employer is looking for.

Also take the time to find out as much as you can about the company’s culture and work environment so you can emphasise how you might fit into that picture. Start by checking social media pages such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to see what the company shares and how they interact with customers.

Leave out irrelevant or outdated information

Since employers and recruiters tend to scan resumes fairly quickly, you shouldn’t waste precious space on outdated or irrelevant information. As a general rule of thumb, any experience older than 10-15 years should be left off your resume unless you’ve been out of the workforce for some time or are changing careers and want to highlight a specific skill.

Any experience that isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for should also be left off unless you’re just starting out and don’t have much experience yet. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in IT, your brief stint as a caterer isn’t exactly relevant, or if you’re a university graduate, you don’t need to list your high school information.

Bonus tip:

If you’ve gone through the process of researching company and tailoring your resume to the job, it would a shame if it never reached its intended audience. Make sure you understand the company’s hiring process and have the right email address. If possible, also try to do a little research on the hiring manager so you can include their name and any other relevant details.


Marianne Stenger

Marianne is a London-based freelance Writer and Journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central.

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