Recruiters look at dozens of resumes a day. If they see something they don’t like, your resume could wind up in the “no” pile in just seconds. Here are a few tips to help make sure that your resume will stand out from all of the other people applying for the same job.

1. Make sure your resume is error-free.

I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised at the number of resumes that I review for clients who have a spacing issue, a punctuation error, or even a misspelling. The problem is that you have looked at your resume so many times, your brain knows what it is supposed to say, but in reality, it says something else. Get several people to proofread your resume, and have them read it for different purposes. One person should read for grammar, for example, and another should read for punctuation and spelling. You cannot afford to send a resume that has any error at all in it. I have heard former HR directors admit that they scan resumes for errors because they are looking for ways to eliminate potential candidates. Any superficial error will eliminate your chances of getting a call for that job.

2. Make sure that your resume is in alignment with the job description of the job for which you are applying.

Too often people think that their resume is a “once and done” proposition. Not so! You should customize your resume for every job each time you apply. Match up keywords from the job description with keywords in your resume. Make sure that your achievements and successes indicate that you are an excellent candidate for the job for which you are applying. You need to tweak your resume for every single job posting.

3. Make your resume sleek.

Some people think that the trick to a great resume is to stuff as many accomplishments as possible into it by using tiny font and stretching the margins to the limit. The result is a resume that is difficult to read and looks cluttered and clunky. Those resumes will wind up in the “no” pile because the person in charge doesn’t have a magnifying glass handy and doesn’t care enough to try to ferret out the pertinent information. Your resume should have a clean and contemporary look and feel. Use lots of white space by maximizing margins and being as concise as possible. Also, use fonts that are clean looking like Calibri or Arial.

4. Use keywords strategically.

Check the job description carefully for each job for which you are applying, and use keywords in your resume that match keywords in the job description. Use a free resource like to help you identify the keywords that are used most frequently in the job description, and then use those keywords throughout your resume. The people who are recruiting or hiring are looking for individuals who are a good match for the job opening that they have. Don’t make them guess whether or not you have the required experience or skills. Make it easy for them to consider you a good match.

5. Describe accomplishments, not responsibilities.

Avoid using the word “responsible” in your resume. Instead, concentrate on specific and verifiable accomplishments. For example, which sounds more specific (and impressive):

  • “Responsible for manufacturing production with proven record of exceeding expectations.” Or
  • Project Manager – Managed five different teams over the course of 10+ years resulting in $50 million in new sales along with a 30% reduction in waste.

6. Use “power” words.

Demonstrate that you are a person of action. Rather than being “responsible for,” something, use words like “advised,” “led,” “launched,” “executed,” “generated,” “planned,” “produced,” etc. These words (and others like them) demonstrate your ability to perform on the job and your specific role in previous jobs. Strong action words validate your capabilities and specific duties you have performed. Consider which is better:

  • Responsible for launch of a new product.
  • Initiated and led new product-launch that resulted in $20 million in revenue.

Don’t forget that your resume is your document, and it represents you, who you are and what you can do when you can’t be there in person to explain all of that to a recruiter or hiring manager. Your resume is just one of hundreds that fly into any given company on any given day. You need to stand out from the crowd, and it is your responsibility to make your resume stand out.


Author: Kitty Boitnott