10 Tips to Distinguish Your Resume from the Rest

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With unemployment currently sky high, competition for jobs is tougher than ever. Anywhere from 10 to 10,000 people can apply for the most hotly contested places. Your resume is the greatest marketing tool you’ve got at your disposal. If you’re going to stand out from the crowd and get that all-important interview, you need to make sure that your resume’s saying the right things about you.

HR managers spend much of their days trawling through resumes. It’s a laborious, often boring process and few managers spend more than a minute or so reading through each one. You need to get inside the mind of your potential employer- find out what makes them tick and be the answer to their business problems. You’ve got 60 seconds to shine. Follow the 10 tips below for resume success.

1. Include a Personal Profile

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Don’t make employers search through your resume for the vital information. Present it to them right at the top in a Personal Profile section. Make sure this profile includes a snapshot of your career history to date, your greatest abilities, why you’re the ideal candidate for the job and what specific skills you’re going to bring to the role. Don’t forget to back up everything you say in this short section with evidence further down.

2. Use Keywords

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To make your resume searchable in job databases and get it picked up by scanning software, it’s essential that you include certain keywords, which can be found in the advertisements for the jobs you’re applying for. Including keywords not only gets your resume seen, it aligns your skills and experience more closely to specific job requirements.

3. Scrap the Clichés

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HR managers read tons of resumes on a daily basis. It’s hardly an exhilarating task. Using clichés only makes the reader of your resume more bored, more quickly, accelerating the speed of its journey to the bin. Avoid overusing words and phrases like “excellent written communication skills”, “team player” and “experienced”. These things mean nothing without explanation.

4. Keep Your resume Current

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If your resume’s not up-to-date, it’s going straight on the reject pile- it’s as simple as that. Set aside one day a month for updating your resume, adding information about any new responsibilities and accomplishments. If you don’t update it regularly, you might forget to add elements that will really impress next time your resume’s called for.

5. List Your Experience by Skills Category

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Most people start their working lives at the bottom of the ladder, achieving greater things as they progress along their career path. By listing your skills and achievements in chronological order, chances are you’ll be drawing attention first to the least impressive of your professional accomplishments. Instead, list them by skills category, the most impressive first, with employers and dates under each if necessary.

6. Focus on the Here and Now

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Focus your resume’s careers section on positions you’ve held during the last ten years (max!) Anything before this is old news so far as many employers are concerned. If you need to add information from your distant past, include it in a brief “Early Careers” section. Furthermore, don’t include any jobs in unrelated fields or leave gaps in your career history. This will only leave HR managers asking questions, and as you’re not going to be there to answer them, your resume will more than likely end up as recycled paper!

7. Include All Relevant Experience

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Most people are, by definition, average. If you want to stand out, you’re going to have to offer more than the average candidate will. If you’re unable to prove your extraordinariness with professional experience alone, don’t be afraid to include volunteer work, leadership roles outside of the workplace and community projects you’ve been involved in. It all counts.

8. Take a Targeted Approach

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Sending out a generic resume to every employer on your professional radar is the most common route to failure. HR managers are not stupid, they read resumes all day, they can tell in an instant if the CV in front of them has been sent out to 10, 20 or even 100 potential employers. You must take a targeted approach. Carefully select a batch of, say, five jobs to apply for and explicitly tailor your resume closely to each individual role.

9. Be Concise

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Chances are, you’ve heard this tip before, but it’s so vitally important, I’m going to repeat it again. As fascinating as it might be, no HR manager wants to read your life story, so keep your resume brief: generally speaking, no longer than two pages. Choose the facts that are most interesting, important and closely linked to the vacancy in question. Avoid long sentences and leave some white space around text.

10. Dare to Be Different


If you’re applying for a job as an accountant, for instance, it’s probably best to keep your resume as traditional as possible. If you’re applying for a role in an organization which values creativity, however, feel free to let your inventiveness shine through. The key is subtlety. By all means incorporate an element of individuality into your resume design, but beware of gimmicks like colored paper and silly fonts. A straightforward font like Arial prints well and looks good in PDF format.

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to save a couple of lines at the end of your resume for hobbies. Employers want to know that you’re a real, rounded person after all. Include something physical, cerebral, social and altruistic.

About the Author

Tom designs and writes for UK based provider of Epson printer inks, toner and paper. You can read more of his writing on their blog, CreativeCloud.

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3 Responses to 10 Tips to Distinguish Your Resume from the Rest

  1. Pingback: links for 2010-02-06 « random thoughts and casual ruminations

  2. ZXT says:

    Awesome tips! I must admit my resume is nowhere this good…I think I need to change it soon.

  3. Anup says:

    Very Good and Nice Tips 🙂