Skip to content

4 Essential Tips To Make Your Resume Stand Out From The Crowd

This is a guest post by Shankar Ganesh, one of my long-time blogging friends. He’s also the founder of  Red Squiggle, a service that helps students and professionals revamp their resumes and land the jobs they want.

Seth Godin says if you’re remarkable, you probably don’t need a resume at all. That’s not the case with many of us in college though – almost every job interview requires you to submit your resume listing information about your academics and internship experiences. However, there’s more to creating an attractive resume than just firing up a word processor and typing out bullets.

You can use some of the tips below to make your resume stand out from the crowd and get easily hired. If you already have a resume ready, use this information to further refine your document for the better. Let’s get started.

Use numbers to your advantage

Numbers grab attention. Numbers spark curiosity. The next time you’re mentioning an accomplishment under your work experience, try adding numbers to substantiate your stints. For instance, ‘Increased sales by 67% in the year 2009’ is much better than just ‘Increased sales in the year 2009’.

The Psychotactics blog offers a three-step procedure to add numbers to your presentations. You could get the same thing done on your resume by following these simple steps:

  1. Outline actual results you achieved in past stints
  2. Find spots in sentences where you can insert a number
  3. Insert those numbers at appropriate, well-spaced intervals

Pretty much it! Just make sure you don’t over-do it – you don’t want to end up with a crowded resume that no one wants to read.

Avoid clichéd keywords

On, the Get Hired page has some solid advice on job interviews, but there’s also a long list of keywords that you could choose for your strengths. You can be sure that an insane amount of resumes have words like this fitted in:

  • “fast learner”
  • “dedicated”
  • “organized”

Don’t use them in your resume. Instead, ask trustworthy friends about your strengths. They should know. List them, and add a line or two substantiating incidents or experiences when such strengths showed up. They’re far more attractive to a hiring manager, and they would provide you with a talking point during the interview process.

Take a look at this brutally honest cover letter that’s going viral all over. Good things happen when you’re honest, not when you’re making stuff up.

Bonus Tip: You could probably get away with listing MS Office as a skill in your resume. However, it doesn’t do anything good, because it isn’t a specialized skill anymore. It’s like saying, “I know how to use the Internet.”

Write consistent bullets

The next time you list bullets on your resume, make sure that they are consistent. Bullets should always have the same grammatical structure throughout the document. This improves readability and makes it easy to peruse a long list quickly.

For instance,

  • Generated 47% increased sales in the first quarter of 2010
  • Received an award for surpassing the sales quota for third time in a row
  • Had supervised a new product campaign

Note that parallelism is missing in the third bullet, where past perfect tense is used instead of simple past. This inconsistency only causes the reader to pause and rethink for a few awkward seconds. Similarly, other grammar mistakes could potentially wipe out your chances of landing an interview as well. Copyblogger lists 10 common errors that you should avoid making in your resume.

Bonus tip: One of the toughest things about writing a resume is deciding what to include and what not to include as part of your document. A rule of thumb could be to focus just on your highlights. Ruthlessly discard items that will bore a hiring manager, and remove words that are only fluffy. You could even ask a friend to do this for you.

More than a PDF

PDF resumes are so passé. Why not try a video? Why not make an interactive web page yourself demoing your skills? Or something else everyone else hasn’t thought about yet.

Check out what Jason Zimdars did for 37signals. He made a custom page on his personal website to increase his chances of getting hired by the web based business app company, 37signals.

Jason wrote persuasive copy demonstrating his interest, and showcased relevant past work from his portfolio to increase his chances of landing the job.

Eventually, 37signals hired him as a contract worker, and commissioned him to do variations on a product’s user interface. Despite having a day job, Jason went out of his way and delivered excellent results that helped him join the company as a full-timer.

Or take a look at the extraordinary amount of effort that Phil Dub, who describes himself as a ‘web product manager’, put into creating this excellent resume that looks like a product listing on Amazon.

His skills were listed in place of the category list in the Amazon-like page with descriptions on past experiences replacing the reviews part of the product page.

The catchy resume went viral all over the internet after it was featured in Hacker News, a discussion board for people into startups and tech, and even Mashable featured the profile, putting Phil in the spotlight across the world.

How about the previously mentioned coolest-resume-with-QR-code-on-mouth:

People take notice of the little things you do differently, and you could get your foot in the door by standing out. Try thinking out of the box next time!

The next time you’re preparing a resume for yourself, try giving these elements a little more thought that you usually do. Don’t overlook the details – spend a couple of hours paying attention to detail and polishing the document. These few hours of investment will pay you off in the long run amazingly well, so it’s only good for you if you don’t overlook.

If you have any tips on creating an outstanding resume and getting hired, share them in the comments section below!