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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out Amongst Other Job Applicants

Pamela Fay
August 306 min read
People discussing a resume at a table

That dream job suddenly appears and you need to know how to make your resume stand out from all the others. With many companies scrambling to find workers and 9.2 million job openings, how hard can it be?

Lots of people are reassessing the work they did pre-pandemic, exiting the workforce en masse and considering what they really want now that we’re (almost) on the other side. In the midst of it all, there are still plenty of applicants for the most coveted jobs. You may be able to shine once you get to the interview, but before you’re able to do that, you’ll need a resume that rises above the rest.

These days, many companies use online systems to collect resumes. While this makes it incredibly easy to apply for openings, it also creates tons of competition. You’ll need to go the extra mile. It’s no longer sufficient to tailor a cover letter. Your resume is going to have to do some heavy lifting as well. That means customizing your resume for every application.

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s your best chance to make a good first impression. It doesn’t have to be an impossible task, but it’s surprising how many people don’t get the basics right. If you want your resume to get noticed, you’ll need to understand:

  • What to Include in a Resume
  • Skills to Add to a Resume: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
  • Resume Mistakes to Avoid
  • Considerations for Professional Resume Design

What to Include in a Resume

To build a stand-out resume, you’ll need to include important items like contact information, objectives(s) and of course work experience. Here are some of the main items:

Personal Information

At the top of your resume, include your city, state, and contact information only. Don’t clutter it with unnecessary details like your street address. Do provide at least two reliable ways to get in contact, such as your cell-phone number and your email address.

Objective or Summary Statement

Beneath the contact information at the top of your resume, include a few sentences that summarize your purpose or explain your objective. Some examples include:

Objective: To obtain a position with ABC Company as a Distance Training Analyst for a dynamic legal tech entity with an international footprint and opportunities to grow with the company.

Summary: As the training manager for a regional finance company, I streamlined and automated the knowledge management system, reducing costs by 60% annually. To further enhance my knowledge and leverage my 12 years of experience, I’m seeking to lead your international training initiative as the Remote Development Director.

Your statement will almost certainly be read. So make it compelling.

Work Experience

Obviously, one of the most important items to include in your resume is your job history. List any current or past jobs in reverse chronological order with your most recent first. Be sure to include the name of the company, location, dates employed and title. You should also briefly describe what you did in each position and any contributions or achievements.

Skills to Add to a Resume: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills Your resume should include a mix of both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are abilities that you may have learned in classes, though training, or on the job. For example, programming is a hard skill. Soft skills are those interpersonal traits that help you succeed in the workplace. Communication skills and problem solving are two examples.

You do not necessarily need a separate section for skills. Weave in your skills with your work experiences. If you prefer to list them instead, create logical groupings with, for example, all of your hard skills together followed by soft skills. Limit them to a couple of lines separated by bullets or vertical lines.

Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Be sure not to make any of these resume mistakes which can hinder your chances of landing an interview.

Pretty Pictures

In order to avoid the appearance of discrimination, many U.S. companies discard resumes with a picture attached. Do not include a photo unless you’re applying for a modeling or acting job. If the company has no specific policy against photos, individual managers themselves may feel it necessary to eliminate the perception of bias. At the very least, they may consider a picture unprofessional. Save it for your LinkedIn profile.

Remember, too, that each resume only receives a quick scan before landing in the keep or discard pile. You would rather have that limited time used to focus on your qualifications rather than your picture-perfect face.

Irrelevance

Before you develop the body of your resume, read the job posting carefully. Take notes, paying particular attention to keywords that describe qualities, skills, aptitudes and capabilities. What is the hiring manager seeking? As you customize your resume, you’ll want to present those aspects of your experience that are most salient to the position. Use your notes and check off items as you go.

Too Many Past Jobs

If you have experience, consider excluding positions that have no relevance. This includes short-term jobs, side gigs, or anything in the distant past. If you’re a 42-year-old applying for a marketing manager position, you may have worked for the past 20 years. It’s mighty interesting that you were the concertmaster in the municipal symphony before you got your MBA, but it’s probably not all that relevant.

However, if a position was recent and long-term, it can be difficult to explain the gap. You are better off including a job if by its omission you would appear to be hiding something. With only a few seconds to devote to each resume, you may be eliminated simply because the hiring manager has too many other viable choices.

Considerations for Professional Resume Design

The design and layout of a resume is just as important as the text within. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when designing your resume or choosing a template to start from.

Go Easy on the Eye

Use a normal font like Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or Helvetica. If you think these are too old-school, Georgia is a bit more creative and designed to read well on screen. The font size should be 12-point. If you’re trying to fit a bit more information on a one-page resume, you could go as small as 10.5; but it’s better to run onto the second page than risk the recruiter or hiring manager’s irritation at overly dense material. You can also mess with the document margins to ensure everything fits and is still readable.

Your resume should be as long as it needs to be to convey the information required. For many people, that’s one page, but that isn’t always the case. Just make sure that the information is concise and that the length of your resume accommodates the accomplishments and achievements you wish to convey.

Enough White Space

White space is your friend. When there is too much information on the page, eyes tend to glaze over. Even if you have scant experience, white space enhances readability and reduces eye fatigue. You don’t have to fill the page just because you can. Read and reread your resume to eliminate redundancy and fluff. It will be scanned, so use bullet points to facilitate the process.

Proofread Again

An error-free resume demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail. One little typo can knock you out of the running when there are many qualified applicants to sort through. Always use spell-check, but remember to go a few steps further. Also, consider using an application that corrects grammar, such as Grammarly. Read your resume out loud and then read it backwards. Find an online program that can read your resume to you.

Compare the language you used in your resume against the keywords you identified in the job posting. Make sure you have included the must-haves as part of your skills and experience. Put the phrases containing these words close to the beginning of the sections.

Finally, ask a friend to carefully read through your resume. A second pair of eyes will catch what you miss. You want to submit your application early, but if time permits, put the resume aside for a day. If there are errors, they will be easier to spot after the break.

Optimize for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs)

There’s a good chance that your resume never crosses the desk of an actual human. That’s because many companies rely on an ATS to streamline the process. These systems rank applicants using specific keywords. The objective is to whittle down the pile.

Even the most qualified applicants get overlooked in this process. It doesn’t matter that you have every quality the hiring manager needs. You’ll never land an interview if you develop a resume that is incompatible with the ATS scan. So be sure, to make your personal information viewable, include relevant keywords, check spelling and follow other tips to optimize for the ATS.

Luckily, designing a resume with Rocket Resume uses an ATS-friendly skills builder so you don’t have to worry about getting disqualified through a digital scan.

Rocket Resume Templates to Land That Job

With so many job openings, now is the time to spruce up that resume and look for your next opportunity. It may seem like an overwhelming task to create a standout resume every time. But remember that your attention to small details can make a big difference.

If you need resume assistance, Rocket Resume can help by taking the design work off of your hands and ensuring that you’ll be noticed after passing the ATS scan. We have dozens of proven templates that give you a head start on the competition. Find one that’s perfect for you and customize it to suit your needs. Let’s get you hired!

Sources: Bureau of Labor and Statistics - Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary