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How To Write A Resume That Stands Out: 6 Tips To Help You Get Ahead

April 6, 2011 · 136 comments

in Work

From Kris:  This is a guest post written by Khaleef, author of two blogs:  Faithful With A Few and Fat Guy – Skinny Wallet.  After you read this post, go check out his sites- they are two of my favorites!

I was recently asked to review a group of resumes for an open position at my company. With all of the job search websites, temp agencies, headhunters, and resume templates available, I assumed that I would have a difficult time choosing the best candidates. I thought that everyone would know how to write a resume that stands out.

Well, I did have a difficult time choosing the best candidates, but not because they were all so great; actually, many of them lacked what I feel are the basics of a professional resume. It’s not as if they were applying for jobs in a candy factory – this is an accounting/finance position at one of the largest employers in the state!

I am not a career coach or even an HR manager, but I have reviewed and created many resumes over the past 15 years! Here are a few things that I picked up along the way.

How To Write A Resume That Stands Out

Proofread!

I have seen so many basic spelling mistakes on resumes that it’s almost comical. People have included spelling errors within their list of skills, job description (including acronyms), and even their address!!!

Have someone else review your resume and cover letter for basic mistakes. Our brains are so advanced that we have the ability to see past spelling errors if we know how the sentance should actually read (How many people noticed the mispelled word here?).

Since the phrase “attention to detail” is now included within every job description and resume, it makes sense to honestly pay attention to detail when applying for the job!

Make Sure Your Resume Matches The Position/Industry

If you are applying for an accounting position, then know the terminology – but be careful when it comes to jargon, because the first review of your resume may not be conducted by someone in the hiring department. Look at the job description, and highlight the areas in which you have the most experience, then focus on those areas in your cover letter and resume.

For positions in accounting/finance, your resume should look and sound professional (no one cares about your social activities in college)!  However, if you are applying to be a social media manager, then your resume will be expected to have a little flair!  For example:  Use Keywords and Make Them Bold!

You should mention industry-specific software and certifications to demonstrate your expertise. Be sure to make these terms stand out on your resume (make them bold, or use them at the beginning of your sentences). It should be clear from a quick scan of your resume, that you “know your stuff”.

Speak For Yourself

While reading your resume, the hiring manager is not simply looking at a list of facts – they are actually trying to learn so much about you so that they can try to picture you in the position.  If you appear to be timid and weak, then you probably won’t be called in to interview for an executive position that calls for an aggressive person.

Try your best not to sound like a robot. Don’t just take a generic resume template and change around a few things.  Instead, allow for glimpses of your personality to shine through (just keep it professional) – this is why you should write a cover letter for each position (rather than using the same letter with minor changes).

Be Creative

This is an area in which you must exercise caution.  You want to stand out from the pack, but you don’t want to appear to be unprofessional.  Try to make small changes that will stand out such as using arrows in place of spherical bullets, making keywords bold, or creating a functional resume that is grouped by skill/responsibility rather than chronological order.

If you are applying for a job that celebrates creativity – such as graphic design, social media, online advertising – then feel free to get a little more creative!  Remember, the point of a resume for many of these openings is to draw someone’s attention and get you an interview!

If Possible, Start A Blog Related To Your Field

It has become very common for a hiring manager to enter your name into a search engine to see what type of person you really are. That is actually how I first heard of Facebook. An old boss would try to find every applicant’s Facebook page – then he would look at their friends, pictures, and whatever information wasn’t private.

It would be great if your industry-related blog came up first in the search results. You don’t have to be extremely specific or even have to update it often, but just put something out there as an additional representation of yourself!  You can talk about your training, experience, trends in the industry, etc.  If you are applying for a job that calls for creativity, here is a perfect way to put your best work on display!

Just make sure to include a link to your blog or website on your resume (not all managers perform searches on applicants).

Try To Find A Contact

Once you find a job to which you plan on applying, try to make a connection with someone at the company.  Send out an email to everyone that you know checking to see if you know anyone that either works with the company, or has a contact there.

Be sure to mention it in conversations with your neighbors, the parents of your kids’ friends, and even members of your church.  It is a very small world out there, and there is a strong chance that you either have a contact yourself, or you have a contact that has a contact at the company to which you are applying!

Reader Questions

  1. What is the most dramatic thing which you have done when applying for a job?
  2. If you work in a more “creative” field, what things have you done to grab the attention of the hiring managers?
  3. If you review resumes often, what is the worst thing that you have seen?
If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Thanks for visiting!!!

{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Centavos April 6, 2011 at 6:48 am

Spelling mistakes on resumes drive me nuts! So harmful and yet so easy to fix. There’s an open position on my team (replacement, not a new position), so we’ll be doing the resume reviewing thing again soon. Good article.

Reply

Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

I think that is probably the worst thing for me! It shows that the applicant didn’t put a lot of time into their resume. Everyone creates a resume using MS Word, or some other software that has a spell checking feature, so there is no excuse.

I hope you don’t have to see the caliber of resumes that I looked at recently!

Reply

Moneycone April 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

Excellent tips Khaleef! I would add one more thing before sending it out – clean up your Facebook! More and more employers do a Facebook check these days. Your online reputation matters!

Reply

Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Yeah, I couldn’t believe that my old boss would look people up on Facebook – especially back then!

Reply

Nicole April 6, 2011 at 8:18 am

If you’re looking for work after being out of the labor force for a long time, definitely make sure your resume looks modern. Resume styles have changed a lot in the past 30 years.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm

That’s a great point! It pays to know what employers expect to see. There are so many free services that will help you in this area – such as the career services department at your alma mater – so there’s really no excuse!

Reply

Resume Templates April 16, 2011 at 5:51 am

Useful tips! I have been searching for something like this for a long time now..Thanks!

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How To Write a CV April 21, 2011 at 2:15 am

Out of these 6 tips, 3 tips helped me to create a winning resume.
Now i am happy with my resume after some changes.

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How 2 do a CV May 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

great tips. All these tips are good for writing a resume. Do you have any tips for interviews.

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Resume Service September 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

This was a very informative post, and I appreciate the insight. This will help me greatly with my job search.

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toshiba t January 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I read all blogs, posted by the author for this article, as well as employers. Now, my question is, how am I supposed to know of a way to get creative but simultaneously professional. I think its a great idea to put all job experience within the same area of your resume instead of following the old fashioned chronological order. As for myself, I was in the Social Service field for years (5) & Im trying to expand into the Administrative/clerical, data entry field But Im sure employers take one look and see Social Service experience and merely any experience from the field applying to. How can I get them to say hmm… lets give her a try, since she willing to learn a new craft in her career.

Reply

Kay Riley May 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Great article!! Your suggestions are good ones. I have been on both sides of a resume. As a job seeker, I made sure that my resume was specific and directly related to the job I was applying for. I tried not to just spit out information but show that I was human and passionate about my work. Funny enough a line at the top of my resume got the most attention: “ability to make order out of chaos”. So many potential employers said that was the reason they called me.
As a manager, I have read many bad resumes. I hate reading spelling and grammar errors, or endless paragraphs about what they are looking for. I don’t mind interviewing new to the market job seekers if I feel their education would help them learn the required job skills. With new job seekers, I look to see if they have some meaningful life experience such as volunteer work or are a member of a professional group or association; anything that shows they are ambitious.

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Meaghan October 11, 2013 at 12:36 am

I review many resumes and one of the most common mistakes I see is starting off with an objective statement. Most objective statements I see are terribly written, usually very vague and full of cliques. Starting your resume off this way is one of the worst mistakes you can make. You will be lucky if your potential employer continues reading.

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