Writing a Resume that Stands Out

I will be laying out step by step guidelines to create a resume that truly stands out to any employer in search of a top notch candidate. Using Microsoft Word, adjust the margins of the document to only allow .5″ margins on all sides. This will allow for maximum page saturation without appearing too stretched. Ideally, your resume should not exceed 1 page in length. This is most true for newer college graduates seeking entry-level work who really don’t have more than a page to show but feel that embellishing the little experience they have, to exceed the 1 page barrier, will give them an edge on other candidates. Quality is by far the more desired trait, opposed to Quantity, when it comes to resumes. The sign of a decent writer is their ability to be concise and to get to the point as soon as possible. The same should shine through in a resume whether you are a writer or not. There are (of course) some exceptions to the 1 page length barrier, but the majority of people who are in a need of jobs and are not getting calls for interviews are not one of those exceptions (mostly doctors, or others with years of education to list). The top and center of your resume should list your name in large bold font (20pt). Beneath the name should be your current address, phone number (list most common number, not multiple home/cell listings), and your email address in slightly smaller font. Many resume sites or software programs will lead you to believe that a statement at the top of your resume which lists your purpose or employment goals is needed. In my experience, I have found the majority of these statements hold little weight in the eyes of an employer and they are often redundant statements that more eloquently say “I need a job”. Unless your situation is unique, I would suggest skipping this section and get right down to the material that will make someone want to hire you. I would suggest using left justified headings that state each section, tabbing the bulk of the information 2 Tab presses to the right in 10 pt font (the headings can be bold 11 pt font). Your job experience is what employers will look at the most. This should be the first section of your resume following your name. Education is a key component to your resume and ultimately to your employment power, but it is nowadays a given and is not looked at too closely by employers (I have applied to probably 50 jobs and went on 20-25 interviews in the past 2 years and only had one interviewer ask to see my Diploma). The college education is the status quo in the job market and those with it are let to the next level of qualifications which is primarily your job experience.

Job Experience

Each resume you submit should be tailored specifically for that position for which you are trying to obtain. You have most likely held numerous positions in your life up to this point (otherwise a resume is not going to help you), and you know what experience you have that is marketable to a new employer. Let’s say you have had 5 positions since high school that you are working with to put on a resume, if you are applying for an office job, you would choose the office related positions to embellish more than say your retail experience. If you were applying for a customer service position, you might make the retail experience sound more geared toward the customer service aspect of the job. All of your experience is relative to where you want to go with it. I have had retail positions help me get jobs in teaching areas and office areas all based on the angle I put them towards in the resume submission to the unique job description. You should begin by listing your past experience in reverse order starting with your current or most current job and going backwards to your least recent. If you have jobs that have little or no value in respect to the wanted job you are applying for, do not put them in. It might not always be possible to omit jobs if you worked them for significant amounts of time in between 2 jobs you do wish to put down. In that case, simply list the company and job title and do not waste paper explaining the duties if they are remedial or meaningless to the job you are aiming for. You also do not need to go back that far in time as long as you have 2-3 positions that span a few years; that will suffice. I have seen some resumes that list high school jobs that are of no value whatsoever to a real-world job and these are best left out unless you are still in high school and are applying for similar positions. There are many ways to structure your job experience blurbs within your resume. I usually give a paragraph form overview of 2-3 lines and then list bullet points that outline highlights of the pertinent experience I received from each position. The bullets are key spots to embellish and add to the positions to make them sound more meaningful to the wanted position. I would recommend adding 3-4 bullets per useful job description. If you are a fresh college graduate and do not hold much experience, be creative with any classes, internships, study groups, special projects, research assistantships, etc in order to make it sound like you didn’t just go to class for 4 years and did nothing but party and drink for the remainder of the time you spent there. I had a few research positions (that were for credit) and worked in a computer lab and I made it sound like I worked in an office environment supporting professors to being a customer service contact in a high volume learning center (all changed by the spin of the description, I made nothing up but choose more eloquent ways to push my experience to a more substantial aim. Once the job description section is done, an Education section is needed to display your credentials and show off your GPA (if it was worth showing off); include any organizations or awards you may have received. Next should be a Skills section which lists any special skills you might have that are DIRECTLY PERTITNENT to the job you are going for. This includes: computer skills, programs proficient in, typing skills, social skills, etc. Try to stay away from listing wishy washy traits like “Multi-tasking”, “Great attention to detail”, “Goal oriented”; these are best left to market in the interview process.

Cover Letter

This should be your personal address to the company you want to read your resume and you want to consider you for the job. Many people cut and paste these without making direct references to the job description details that match with their abilities. You resume should be the standard package of information that sets you apart from every other candidate, your cover letter should be the bridge that puts your resume into the heart and mind of the interviewer and ultimately gets you a call. Cover letters do not need to be lengthy but more so should be concise and quick to the point about how good you are for this job and how well you think you would fit in and enjoy the position.

Things to Omit

I would strongly suggest omitting items like lists of references, salary requirements, and school class histories from resumes. These are often the culprit for multi-page resumes and are often not necessary at this stage in the job negotiation. A resume should be the stepping stone for you to get an interview, period. Employers read piles of resumes before they make any calls and are simply trying to find the few diamonds in the rough that stick out. The interview process is where all the extra information can be given if asked for or can be explained through interview questions. Avoid using expensive and often offensive resume paper that looks like it was recovered from a Pirate’s treasure chest. Plain white is fine, brighter paper is often viewed better.

Remember that a resume is nothing more than the sheet that represents you in a much abridged and condensed form. The full version of you is to be discovered in the interview process. Try making multiple versions of resumes if you are applying for various positions in different fields. Always submit a cover letter and make each letter unique to the different job you are applying for.

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