Applying for your dream job can be stressful. And while candidates have the advantage in today’s competitive job market, it’s still hard to land coveted positions. So how do you make your resume stand out among hundreds of applicants?
Hiring managers don’t have a ton of time to thoroughly look over each resume, which means you have to be judicious about what to include. From choosing the right font to deciding whether or not to include that internship, creating a resume in 2019 isn’t easy.
Beyond the basics, a resume should be the space to communicate your story, says Julie Kim, a Senior Recruiter at Jun Group, an advertising agency based in New York City. Your resume should reflect more than just what you did. A good resume includes specifics on what you’ve actually accomplished throughout your career, says Traci Schweikert, Vice President of Human Resources at POLITICO.
If you’re looking to make your resume stand out, consider these six tips from HR executives.
Customize your resume for your industry
People are often encouraged to include personality in their resume, but unless they are applying for a job in a creative industry, they may want to rethink that strategy. “A lot of pictures and fonts and colors and a whole lot of personality just doesn’t align with the jobs we have here,” says Schweikert, whose team recruits for positions in sales, product and marketing. “If I was in an organization that, for example, was in web design, then I would want to see those design elements in a resume.”
Kim agrees that resume layout is wholly dependent on the position you are applying for. “If you are applying for a designer role, I want to see something creative there. If you’re applying for a finance role, I want to see numbers,” she says.
Include keywords from the original job posting
One of the best ways to make your resume stand out is to use the job posting as a guide. Schweikert says that she often tells people that is the first place they should look when revamping their resume.
“We’ve written the job description with certain words,” Schweikert says. “And when we see a resume with those words on it, those are the resumes that instantly get our attention.”
Some companies actually conduct keyword searches when sorting through resumes, Schweikert adds, which means those terms are even more important to include if you want to secure an interview. It may sound tedious, but taking the time to customize your resume for each individual job you apply to is a surefire tactic to stand out among the pack of applicants, she says.
Be clean and concise
It can be difficult to view your resume from a hiring manager‘s perspective — but one thing many employers agree on is that simplicity goes a long way.
For starters, you never know exactly how a hiring manager will be reading your resume; they may pull it up on their phone, or go through an applicant tracking system. Schweikert suggests sticking to clean and simple resumes, since they are legible across all platforms. Hyperlinking to your portfolio or LinkedIn profile instead of including that information elsewhere on your resume is also an easy way to preserve space, she says.
Format and font are important, too. Kim says that she likes to see all titles in bold, because they catch her eye. And again, unless you are applying for a creative position, stick to a monochromatic color palette.
When applicable, consider using numbers to back up your success. “I love seeing numbers,” Kim adds. “I am personally a big number person and it can stack up your experience better than two paragraphs explaining what you do.”
Write a pithy objective
Whether you’re switching careers or feel slightly underqualified for the job you are applying for, Kim suggests including an objective at the top of your resume. This will help hiring managers understand the thought process behind your decision to change industries or why you are applying for the job. She says you can fill the gaps in between your experience by detailing the inspiration and motivation behind your move.
This objective statement should be limited to two or three sentences explaining what you are trying to accomplish and what you can contribute, Kim says.
And don’t be discouraged by the job description: Schweikert notes that it is written for the perfect candidate — and hiring managers know that — so they likely expect that you won’t fit each bullet point on a posting. There’s also a relatively simple way to determine if you’re right for the role. “Most job descriptions are written [from] most important criteria to least important criteria,” Schweikert says. “So if you’ve got a lot of the first couple of bullets of the job posting, you are probably in a pretty good place.”
Research the company’s culture
Take the time to go beyond the job description and do your research on the company. Schweikert suggests simply going on the company’s career website to see what their values are. In addition to including your professional experience on your resume, think about including information relevant to that company’s culture.
For example, if you see that a company participates in a significant amount of charitable work and you have volunteer experience, consider adding that to your resume, Schweikert says. And even if the company doesn’t mention anything about volunteering, you may want to include it anyway — about 80% of “hiring influencers” (employees who have the ability to influence the hiring process), indicated that they believe there is a relationship between volunteering and leadership ability, according to a 2016 Deloitte survey.
Reach out to your network
Arranging informational interviews with people you are connected to can also help your resume stand out, according to Schweikert. Most applications are submitted online, and the volume of resumes that hiring managers must sift through can be overwhelming at times — so establishing a personal connection can help you get noticed, she says. Plus, if you are invited in for an official interview, you can bring up what you discussed at the informational one. “You can say, ‘hey I did a lot of research on the organization and met with Susie Q and they shared this with me,’” Schweikert says.
After your informational interview, you can reach out to that contact and ask that they glance over your resume, making sure to pose as many specific questions as possible about how you should tailor your resume to the company or specific role, Schweikert adds. For example, if you are struggling to decide whether to include your college activities on your resume, reaching out to your connection for advice can provide invaluable insight on whether that might be important to that company.
Kim also encourages informational interviews, as they are a great opportunity to learn more about an industry, company or specific role. There is also significant value in having someone else look over your resume. “A second pair of eyes can bring a lot of fresh perspective,” she says.