How to make your resume stand out

These proven tips will get you – and your resume – noticed by employers.

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Six top tips for creating a great resume

With the odds stacked against you and time being of the essence, it’s really important to know how to successfully sell yourself to your potential employer. One significant way to do this is through your resume, one of the most important tools in the job application process. Look at it as the main catalyst for securing interviews and getting yourself noticed.

So how can you give yourself the best odds at snagging an interview and getting an opportunity to seal the deal in person?

Here are six resume tips to help yours rise to the top of the (very tall) pile:

1. Show you care about quality

A resume will usually be tossed without a second thought — or second chance — if it contains grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Why? Because it gives the impression that you don’t care about quality in your work. Other things that give a bad impression include poor sentence structure, typos, wrong phone numbers and incomplete addresses. Oh, also using slang words or exclamation points.

There is no excuse for any of these blunders. Here’s how to make sure every word is perfect.

  • Write simply and clearly.
  • Don’t use a thesaurus. If it’s not a word you use regularly, you may trip over a grammatical error.
  • Adverbs and adjectives are not your friends. They can make you sound boastful or phony. Use them carefully.
  • Thoughts don’t belong in parentheses. If it’s important enough to say, it doesn’t have to hide.
  • There aren’t many words that must be capitalized. Titles and names, not much else.
  • If in doubt, look it up in a dictionary, the best resource for checking spelling and grammar.
  • Break up long sections into short paragraphs to improve readability.
  • Fact check: make sure former employers are still in business; dial reference phone numbers to make sure they still connect; double-check addresses.
  • Put your faith in proofreading, not spellcheck. Print it out, then read it. Correct it, then read it again. When you’re happy with it, give it to at least one other person to proofread.

You can get lots of help on the web. Look up “writing simply and clearly”. Big plus: so many dictionaries are online. They’re the best resource for checking spelling and grammar.

One last thing: once you’ve found your dream job, keep writing simply and clearly. It will always serve you well.

2. Keep it concise

Hiring managers don't need your life story; they receive tons of resumes and job applications on a regular basis, so they only want to see the most relevant information about you that’s going to be applicable for the job at hand.

Whether you're sending printed copies or PDFs, ensure that your resume is as concise as possible. Some hiring managers have confessed to throwing away anything they receive that's stapled, paper-clipped, or longer than a page.

Some CEOs think that one of the most important things to look for on a resume is your target-driven accomplishments: “Include numbers, numbers, and more numbers that demonstrate that your efforts and hard work have actually generated results.”

In addition to a brief job history, always opt for bullet points and lists over paragraphs when describing your qualifications and achievements. You want your most marketable and relevant skills noticeable at a glance. With this being said, it’s good practice to create several versions of your resume for specific jobs you are applying for. This allows you to tailor your skills and experience to each company or role that you’re interested in.

3. Have fun with formatting

Keeping it brief doesn't mean your resume can't reflect who you are. Depending on the type of job you're seeking, a custom design that goes beyond the buttoned-up, linear format could be the perfect way to get your resume noticed.

Whether it's with your choice of typeface (no Comic Sans, please), a sleek layout, or colourful word choice, don't be afraid to add a little flair. Show just the right amount of your personality but make sure that you keep it professional.

You can download free resume templates from hloom.com or, if you have Microsoft® Office for Mac or PC, browse the resume templates in Word.

The infographic resume has grown in popularity in the past few years. If you're applying for a job in marketing, social media, or design, an infographic that describes your skills and qualifications might be a fantastic attention-grabber.

Another option, creating a short video to introduce yourself and your skills, is also becoming popular – just make sure that the video quality and editing is up to scratch.

4. Pair it with a complementary cover letter

Use your cover letter as your initial opportunity to knock a hiring manager's socks off. Do more than recap what's on your resume. Highlight some of your proudest professional accomplishments to date, provide an insight into who you are as an employee, and really delve into the unique skills that you can bring to the job.

Even if you're sending a simple email to accompany your resume attachment, don't underestimate the power a cover letter can have on the first impression you make. Use it to reinforce your experience and qualifications and make sure you tailor it to the company. Show them why you are the ideal candidate.

5. Extend your footprint

Go beyond the single-page resume – there are so many tools at your disposal. There are plenty of online services out there that will help you create beautifully visual and interactive versions of your resume: about.me, for example, is a free option that creates a mini-site all about you.

You may also opt to create a website focused on your job search or professional skills. weebly.com, wix.com, and squarespace.com all offer low-cost website templates that make it simple to set one up.

In addition to a static website, blogs can be a simple way to position yourself as a thought leader in your field, provided that you're a decent writer with something to say — and can commit to updating it at least semi-frequently.

6. Leverage social media

Many hiring managers will be looking for you online — from your LinkedIn profile to a Google search — for any other extra or inside information they can find after receiving your job application.

First, your LinkedIn profile: Is it up to date? Have you included industry keywords in your headline and a summary to ensure your profile is search engine optimized (SEO)?

Check that your work history is current and that your profile headline and summary are adjusted for the type of work you're looking for. If your SEO skills are really sharp, you may even attract recruiters and hiring managers for jobs you haven't applied for yet.

It’s also important to choose a professional photo for your profile: a clear headshot with a simple background is usually a good start. If you need any more guidance, follow these steps to create a powerful LinkedIn page.

Secondly, make sure there is nothing too embarrassing or incriminating out there on social media that is accessible to the public. Those pictures from Spring Break 2008 may seem like fond memories to look back on, but your future employer could well think otherwise.

This is more important than you might realize, as more than a third of hiring managers immediately screen out candidates based on what they found on their social networking profiles.

Overall, it’s vital to ensure that your resume stands out for all of the right reasons. This means really going that extra mile to make a good impression on your future employer by thoroughly researching the company you’re applying to first and adapting it accordingly.

Adam Hatch, career expert at resumegenius.com, said:

“Many applicants attempt a "shotgun approach" to job seeking – they make a general, watered-down CV and send it to as many companies as possible, always opening with, "to whom it may concern." CVs not tailored to a specific organization tend to wind up in the round filing cabinet, so while it seems like a time-saving strategy, it ends up working against applicants.”

What are some of your top tips for creating a great resume? Get in touch on Twitter at @Roevin_Canada.

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