5 Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out

It could use a little je ne sais quoi.

By Lauren McGoodwin

Are you gearing up to update your resume? I’m sorry. It’s not exactly one of the more fun ways I can think of to spend your time, but since the average hiring manager is thumbing through dozens or hundreds of resumes every day, it’s worth it to go the extra mile and make sure yours stands out. But how to do it?

Add some color to your resume. Instead of treating your resume as a static list of past jobs, infuse some life into your resume.

By thinking outside of “work-only” accomplishments, by using dynamic verbs, and by thinking of who is actually reading it (sometimes it might be read by a machine first, sorry.)

Let’s dive in. Here are 5 ways to add some tszuj, pizazz, and a little je ne sais quoi to your resume.

image via paper & stitch

Pay Attention to Verb Tense

I know it seems silly to say, but resumes play out like a story. As such, pay attention to the verb tense you use when explaining who you are, what you have done in the past, and what you look forward to achieving in the future.

When explaining a past job, use the past tense to describe your achievements and responsibilities. If you are detailing your current workplace, make sure to write in the present tense. These are projects and initiatives that are ongoing—make sure to impress with all of your ongoing performance.

work, officeimage by career girl daily

Use Just Enough Formatting

I’m a proponent of the one-page resume rule. As such, it can be difficult to keep all of your experience to one page. In high school, you might have used double spacing, wide margins, and 14-pt font to stretch your words to the 5-page minimum. Here, you will have the opposite problem.

Format your resume to display enough information to tell your story, your experience, and your accomplishments. Be careful not to jam-pack a ton of information into an 8.5 x 11-inch document. Only include the things about yourself that really spark joy 😉 You can also take our free quiz to help you determine your resume format!

office, friends, coworkers

Awards, Recognition + Achievements

Everything fabulous you have ever done will likely not fit on your resume. You’re just that amazing.

Additionally, some of your achievements will not happen within a strict work environment. That doesn’t mean you cannot include it within your resume.

Think about some of your key achievements. If they are applicable to the position at hand, then include them in your resume. For example, if you planned a large charity event and you’re applying for a project manager role, the experience is extremely relevant. It shows that your skill set expands far beyond the office walls.

office, work life, computer

Example-Based Skill Sets

One thing I see—a lot—is candidates claiming to be extremely detail-oriented. Nine times out of ten, I will find a “detail” missing. The thing here is that anyone can attribute a quality to themselves on paper. However, it becomes very obvious that the candidate is not so focused on detail when there are spelling errors, missed documents, or other errors.

This is why I would include a “show and tell” section of your resume. Instead of listing a specific skill—like being detail-oriented—expand it further. State that, as a detail-oriented employee, you were trusted as a final copywriter on important press releases or product copy. If you’re labeling yourself a “creative thinker,” state how you transformed a project with one of your great ideas.

office, work life, improve your resumeimage by madewell

Infuse it with Keywords

I hate to break it to you, but sometimes your resume is being read by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and not a human. In these cases, your sparkling personality might be lost on a machine. In these cases, you will want to make sure your resume is built for humans and for Applicant Tracking Systems.

This may sound daunting, but it really isn’t—trust me! A great way to make sure your resume is packed with the right keywords is by looking for your “dream job” job description and drawing keywords from the job listing itself. If the job requires that you are fluent in a specific program, make sure to mention your skill set in that area. If the job requires you to have management experience, detail the successes you have experienced in management roles.