5 Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out

You’ve Got 60 Seconds to Impress. 5 Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Why mentioning Bill Gates, the CIA, or your dog won’t give you a leg up on a hiring resume.

I was recently brought in by a company to coach a Millennial who was on a fast track for becoming a C-suite executive. This person’s red-hot rise to the top had been interrupted by a photo they had placed of themselves on Instagram, clearly drunk on a beach and partying like a madman.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “What an obvious act of stupidity.” But when it comes to what is and isn’t appropriate to present to an employer (or potential employer), for many people, the line is not as clear as you would think.
A new survey out this week by CareerBuilder found that 75 percent of HR managers have found a lie on a resume. The reasons for these falsehoods may in part come down to the perceived need to grab a resume reader’s attention — fast.
According to the survey (which included more than 2,500 U.S. employers), 39 percent of HR managers said they spend less than a minute initially looking at a resume. Nearly one in five (19 percent) spend less than 30 seconds.
The tell-all, spin-it-the-way-you-see-it nature of social media has contributed to a rash of behaviors on resume writing that are leaving many would-be employed out in the cold. Some of the biggest gaffes noted in the survey included:
The biggest resume blunders.
  • An applicant claimed to have written computer code the hiring manager had actually written. Both had the same previous job, but the applicant did not know that fact.
  • An applicant included a picture with all of his pets.
  • An applicant’s resume was lifted from the Internet and did not match the cover letter.
  • An applicant said he had studied under Nietzsche.
  • An applicant stated that he had tried and failed a certification exam three times, but was planning to try again.
  • An applicant claimed to have been an anti-terrorist spy for the CIA during the time period he was in elementary school.
  • An applicant falsely claimed to have a PMO credential when applying for a job at PMI, the organization that grants that credential.
  • An applicant included a description of his family.
  • An applicant mentioned that his hobby is watching horror movies.
So what’s a well-meaning potential worker to do to catch the attention of a company, without resorting to ridiculous stories and stupid tricks?
“If crafted well, your resume is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “In a matter of seconds, it can make or break your chances of moving along the hiring journey with a company. That’s why it’s important to be proactive with your resume and avoid embellishments or mistakes. Take advantage of the tools available to you — the worst thing you can do is send a generic copy out to employers and then sit and hope for a response.”
Beyond the obvious, CareerBuilder found there were five things hiring managers said made them more likely to pay attention to an applicant:
  1. Create a resume that has been customized to their open position. I always advise my clients to create a one-page, visual resume that cherry picks the content most appropriate for that particular company.
  2. Include a cover letter with the resume. Again, this sounds obvious, but so many people just toss out a resume with no context. A cover letter gives you a chance to establish your personal brand.
  3. List your skill set up front and first on the resume. By leading with what you can offer, rather than what you have done in the past, you can quickly get the resume reader’s attention if you fit what they are looking for.
  4. Address the application to the specific hiring manager. Again, while this may seem like a “no kidding” item, it’s missed by many a would-be employee.
  5. Include a link to your blog, portfolio or website. It’s human nature to want to click a link and find out what lies behind the door. This is a chance to give the hiring manager more information about who you are and what you can do and to establish your personal brand at a deeper level.
Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity of these items. In today’s highly competitive world, first resume impressions count, as do the images that go with them.
The next time you’re tempted to stretch the truth or show a shot of you whooping it up on a weekend, skip the crazy and go for creditability instead. You might find yourself in the C-suite sooner than you think.
By Kelly Collins
Kelly Collins Senior Director of Graduate and Alumni Career Services Kelly Collins