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6 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out

On average employers and hiring managers will spend as little as six seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether it's worth a closer look. Your resume is an opportunity to stand out to an employer, but it must also stand out to the recruiter you are partnering with, allowing them to work effectively and help you reach new career opportunities.

So, how do you update your resume to make sure it gets noticed?

Here are six tips to help increase the chances of your resume going from inbox to interest and getting you closer to your dream job.

1. Consider Resume Layout and Length

A good resume has both concise, proofed copy and an appealing design. Clean lines, good margins, a strong but simple layout and consistency in font style and tense are a must to ensure the content on your resume is easier to scan. Lastly, one of the easiest steps applicants forget when finalizing their resume is to run a spell check. A resume that is clean and error-free helps convey you’re detail-oriented and committed to producing high-quality work.

Unless you are applying for a job as a graphic designer, avoid photos, logos and fancy graphics as these can distract your reader and take up valuable space. Your accomplishments should be ordered and summarized in a way that make the most sense to the reader. Ideally, a resume should be no more than one to two pages and really focus on highlighting your core accomplishments, career development or any experience that directly relates to the position you’re applying to.

2. Follow a Consistent Structure — Sell Your Skills and Experience

It’s vital that you organize your resume to show that there is a timeline to your career and create a document that is easily scannable so potential employers know you have key position requirements.

Consider incorporating the following to help structure your resume:

Objective or brand statement — Include two or three lines at the start of your resume that summarize your intent: who you are, what you do and what you are hoping to achieve with your resume.

Skills and experience — Use brief headings and a bullet point format that display clear and detailed information about your roles. When listing your past experience, include the name(s) of the company you worked for and the month and year of employment to help show continuous employment. If you were promoted during your time at a company, make sure the progression is visible by listing out your different titles. If there are skills specifically mentioned in the job description that are applicable to your experience, make sure to highlight those as well. Many hiring managers will scan resumes initially by solely looking for those keywords to help narrow their pool of applicants to consider.

Professional highlights and achievements — Use this section as an opportunity to highlight any professional accomplishments or awards you have received throughout your career (particularly if you’ve received any accolades relevant to the position to which you’re applying).

Qualifications and educational background — Make note of any relevant qualifications achieved and position them near the top of your resume. Consider refreshing this every few years to keep up with recent industry trends. Place relevant work experience first, with your educational background following. Educational background should only take precedence at earlier career stages, where there may not be significant work experience.

Contact details — Make sure that a potential employer will be able to contact you by clearly listing your contact information at the top of your resume.

As your career adapts and changes, so does your resume. It’s normal to have a few different variations that are tailored to each unique position you’re applying for.

3. Consider Your Keywords

With advancements in applicant tracking systems (ATS) and job site technology, many human resources departments and recruiters are relying on the use of simple Boolean search strings to identify and filter through pools of relevant resumes based on the inclusion of related buzzwords from the job description. This doesn’t mean you should litter your resume with the latest trends or industry buzzwords, but carefully study your job specifications and include any keywords relevant to your experience and the role. If a job description asks for experience with “Microsoft Excel” and you have this skill, then ensure your resume says so. While it may be tempting to include keywords from the description that aren’t reflective of your experience, you should never embellish or falsify your abilities.

4. Commit to Upskilling

Applying for a job is an individual process that relies on you successfully conveying your unique set of skills and value adds. While teamwork is essential, recruiters prefer to see candidates take ownership and demonstrate what they specifically did.

That said, there is an increasing demand in certain markets for multiskilled workers, so being able to demonstrate a commitment to improving, and growing, your skills is a great asset.

5. Don’t Undersell Yourself

It’s often said that telling is not selling, however, in resume writing, it absolutely is. Try not to make assumptions of your reader; if you don’t state it on your resume, how are they supposed to know you did it? That said, it’s important to strike a balance and give enough detail that generates interest but leaves room to discuss specifics further during an interview.

6. Remember Your Soft Skills

Soft skills and personality are a great way to make you stand out from other applicants, but they can be difficult to convey in a resume. You can highlight these in your key skills section or by listing hobbies, interests or additional extracurricular activities. These should go at the end of your resume and can often form interesting talking points during an interview.

Creating a resume is not a one-off task. It is a document that should evolve with your career and be customized to each new role you apply for. The steps above provide a solid framework to help your resume get noticed, but they are not all you can be doing. Updating and maintaining your online presence on career sites like LinkedIn can also be helpful for job seekers. That information is often used as the first point of reference when screening a candidate, and a profile that is reflective of your resume will position you to stand out from the crowd.

If you’re seeking career advice, or would like to learn more about prepping your resume, interviewing best practices or connecting with a recruiter, contact Aston Carter today. Ready to explore new job opportunities? Explore Aston Carter’s job board.

*This article was originally developed by Aston Carter EMEA and adapted for Aston Carter North America.

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