Improve Your Odds With A Great Resume

Getting the first interview becomes less a game of chance with a strong resume.

Ah, the resume. Almost everyone hates making a resume or updating a resume. One of the hardest things to do yourself is to present yourself to recruiters in the best light. For the same reasons that it’s hard to write or talk about yourself in any context, the resume presents some unique challenges for anyone. Presenting your personality, your work history, and your x-factor on paper takes work. But stand out from the crowd you must if you want to make it to that first interview and beyond.

On the face of it, writing and laying out a good resume doesn’t sound hard. But it is. In many ways, it’s easier to have someone write your resume for you. But in the event you want to DIY, here are some things to keep in mind:

You need to tell your story

This means putting your history into a context that will make you feel like a good fit with the organizations with which you’re applying. Story goes not just for the words on the page, but also the way that information is presented. Use strong, active language, present yourself as a solution to problems and a problem solver.

Layout and design matters

You want to highlight certain areas of interest, and make sure these highlights stand out for a recruiter. Some resumes will be designed with a sidebar of highlights, like achievements, hard and soft skills, and education. Don’t be afraid of using color on your resume but be mindful that your resume might be printed off in black and white, so stay away from gradients and colors that are too soft. Designing in black and white is always classic. Pay attention to fonts and use a hierarchy of sizes to indicate to the reader what things are most significant by how you treat your headlines, sub headlines, and body copy.

Introduce yourself, what you like, love, and what’s important to you

You will be part of a whole team, so you want to give your future employer a clear sense of who you are as an individual. Many people are going to be competitive with you on the level of work experience. What sets you apart on your resume is how unique you seem when compared to other candidates.

Make your work history active and results oriented

You can go beyond simply listing your job duties for any position by making it achievement driven. In doing what you did in a certain role, how did you achieve (or exceed) your goals? What was the benefit you created by your actions? How did you help your last company achieve its goals? If you’re in sales, this will be largely sales oriented. If you are an engineer, this will be related to your subject matter expertise. But also think about what you did that had cross-departmental value. If you can show that you think strategically and holistically, you will be seen to have more skill than if you are just performing a narrow function. Think about the big picture.

Use testimonials

If you have three solid, snappy testimonials, it’s a good idea to include these in your resume. Ideally, these are diverse, from superiors, co-workers, and community leaders. If you have three of a kind, that’s fine too. Make sure they are short, speak about your skills, and speak to your character. A few short testimonials from people who love what you do and how you do it is a good way to orient a recruiter to how you work and how you’re seen. These same people can double as your references or not. Pick and choose based on what makes strategic sense for you.

It’s always a crap shoot when it comes to getting your resume to the top of the pile and on to the first interview. But you can improve your career chances by paying a little more attention to your resume. Your resume needs to speak for you, so give it a good voice, a good face, and dress it to do the work for you. Paying attention to the quality of your resume is a foundational first step you can take to getting that next great job.

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