How To Make Your Resume Standout
How has your resume been performing in getting you job interviews?
One of the biggest mistakes that job seekers do during their job search is look for things like “The best resume templates”, “Best Resume formats” or hire someone to write your resume for you. It is counter intuitive, but you should be going in the opposite direction. If your resume sounds and looks like everyone else’s resume, then how can you standout from the noise and make the impression you need to?
A resume is not meant to document what you did in detail in your previous jobs. It is a marketing brochure. Nothing more, nothing less. You have exactly 5-10 seconds to capture the attention of the potential employer and get your resume from the “Go to trash bin pile” to the “Look at later pile”. A resume is not meant to get you a job at all. The only job of the resume is to get you an interview, or a phone call. It is up to you then to take it the rest of the way to secure that job.
Tip #1: Use Numbers
Whether you code, sell, manage people, or clean dishes. State numbers! Nothing helps to dimension what you do and your accomplishments as much as numbers. Look at the difference between these two different statements:
“I helped break into the enterprise market and sold my company’s software to several big players such as x, y z.”
“I generated $500,000 in sales within six months of working to 3 major players in my industry.”
You would think this works for sales only? Here are a few other example for different roles:
Customer Support Rep
“I helped many customers solve technical and billing issues to their satisfaction”
“I handled over 100 calls per day, solving 20 complex issues on daily basis, 50 medium complexity issues, and 30 minor issues.”
“I wrote extensive software in C++ to enhance the performance of our product.”
“I wrote 100 lines of code that improved system performance by 93%.”
As you can see using numbers completely changes the dimension of your statements, and gives a vivid image to a potential employer about what you have been doing in your past experience. Further, it gives solid credibility to your claims and makes them much more memorable.
Tip #2: Talk about results
A resume is not the place for you to document your daily routine and bore a potential hiring manger to death. Well you won’t bore them, because they will most likely have quit reading your resume much earlier. In your resume keep it sweet and simple. Talk about accomplishments and results. Before starting to write those ask yourself
- What were the business outcomes from my work with my previous employer?
- How much money did I save my employer?
- How did I improve customer experience?
- What products did I improve and how did I improve them?
- What positive change did I create and how did I create it?
- What value did I bring to the table?
Don’t discount what may seem like a minor accomplishment, but that had a major business outcome for your previous employer. When talking about accomplishments, be as precise as possible and don’t try to inflate your accomplishments artificially by using imprecise or vague language. Hiring managers will see right through it. In most instances employers are looking for a set of behaviors including willingness to take on challenges, and problem solving abilities. Dimensioning your accomplishments shows professionalism, and appreciation for results.
Tip #3: Don’t over-use buzz words and acronyms
Using buzz words and acronyms doesn’t make you sound smart. It is confusing for potential employers and wastes precious time (remember you only have 5-10 seconds to make an impression). For example saying something like “I worked on the PP20K program and delivered firmware software” doesn’t mean anything because your potential employer doesn’t know what the PP20K program was. Saying something like
“I wrote more than 10,000 lines of code that was 95% bug free in my first submission for our flag ship product”
makes a lot more sense and shows real accomplishment, and contribution towards business outcomes.
Typically words such as manage, lead, coordinate, participate, are imprecise words that can mean anything. Instead focus on results key words such as closed (number) , wrote (number) , solved (number), delivered (number), sold (number)…..
Tip #4: Quickly show why you are qualified for the position
You don’t really have a lot of time. All you get is 5-10 seconds to make a first impression and so at the very top of your resume you must show why you are qualified for the job that you are applying for. That should not be buried deep in your resume. If your resume was real-estate, then the top half of your first page is the most expensive part of your resume, yet typically the most wasted. Instead of putting nice sounding objectives, your education or some other none sense, ensure that section contains nothing more than your name, and a summary showing in bullet points why you qualify for exactly the position you are applying for.
Tip #5: Use Inbound marketing strategies
Inbound marketing is the art of driving internet traffic to a website. It is so successful, because these days people google everything. So for example if you were an accountant in Seattle or Toronto, and you managed to rank for say “Great Accountant in Seattle” or “Great Accountant in Toronto” your chances of being found by employers will sky rocket. Help employers find you, instead of you running after them. It sounds strange, but it is very effective. Think about it.
To start with inbound marketing you need your own website or you can opt for service like Linkedin.com which allows you to create a professional profile. Linkedin is great, but it does have its draw backs.
Steps to start using inbound marketing for your job search:
- Get a personal resume website. Here we have a few ready-made ones you can download today.
- Identify the keywords that you should be using (e.g. accountant in Toronto) and make sure that you optimize your site for those key words.
- Use a visually attractive site.
- Connect your website to google analytics (we can also help you with that)
- Share your website on your social media, with friends, and with employers. Put it on your resume.
- Keep it updated.
- Create useful content.
- and most importantly, have fun.
You are a business of one. You are the owner, director, and CEO. You are also your product, and finding a job is just another exercise in sales and marketing. Unfortunately most people who engage in a job search don’t understand that reality and don’t read up on the right marketing and sales techniques. One of the most valuable marketing techniques that we advise small business owners to use is inbound marketing. Basically having a digital store front (a website or blog) and advertise your products and services. The same can be easily implemented for any professional.
So, Tip #5 would be to claim your own online brand. Reserve your domain name (as close as possible to your name) and put yourself out there. Reference your website on your paper resume, and on your business cards. Use inbound marketing strategies like blogging, and putting in details about yourself to show case to the world who you are, and what you are capable of doing.