Snag the Job You Want: How to Write a Resume That Stands Out
by Tiffany Walking Eagle | 10-minute read
Putting together a resume can seem like scary business, folks. And it is! You know, a resume is often the only link between you and a potential employer, and it can be so quickly tossed aside if it doesn’t stand out or meet basic qualifications.
It hurts my heart to think about all the people who are absolutely fantastic professionals who are totally deserving of and qualified for the jobs they want, but they may not ever get them because their resume isn’t that great or they’re unsure of how to create an awesome resume to begin with. It ain’t right, y’all!
So that’s why I’m writing this post. I want you to get that job you want or need, and I don’t want you to let a lackluster resume be the thing that holds you back from it.
Here’s what you gotta do, friend.
Be descriptive, but concise.
Don’t ramble on and on forever about the details of your previous work experience or every skill and hobby you have. It’s important to highlight the skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, and also, remember that the people looking at your resume are busy folks likely looking through many resumes. So be descriptive with your experience, but keep it to the point. Quality over quantity.
You’ll never get a chance at an interview if your resume isn’t even read because it’s too wordy.
2. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
It is so important to make sure that your resume is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Proofread it yourself thoroughly and have a friend or colleague look over it too. A careless error could literally cost you the job, so don’t be sloppy!
3. Pay attention to format.
Like correct spelling and punctuation, having decent-looking formatting is important. Make sure everything is evenly spaced, fonts are consistent, and that the page overall looks balanced and pleasing to the eye.
When you click on a blog post and see a long wall of text that’s not broken into readable chunks, you’re probably immediately tempted to click away, and it’s unlikely you’ll actually read it. The same concept applies to your resume.
4. Implement buzzwords.
Use descriptive, powerful words in your resume and cover letter to make the language more concise and effective.
I recommend using strong verbs as well so you'll come across are more authoritative. For example, instead of saying something like “helped businesses with their marketing plans,” say “collaborated with team members to create marketing strategies for businesses.” See how much better that sounds?
If you’re having trouble thinking of buzzy words, a thesaurus is your best friend. Scrutinize every word and if it sounds bland, look up synonyms, no matter how silly it may seem at first. For example, synonyms of the word “help” include “facilitate, mitigate, support, accommodate, advocate, promote.” Some synonyms of “work” include “manage, strive, pursue, specialize.” See how much cooler those words sound? They evoke a certain feeling from the reader, and that’s what you want when a hiring manager (or whoever) is reading your resume. Those words will make you more memorable when they’re narrowing down potential candidates.
Words are the building blocks of your resume, so choose strong building blocks to make up sentences that strike a chord. Hit up thesaurus.com when you need a little help.
Just a few buzzwords and phrases I recommend include:
(Hint: “Passionate” is kind of overused, so find another word if you can! ;) )
5. Relate previous work experience to the job you want…no matter what experience you have!
I have had so many people come to me for help with their resumes who thought they had zero relevant job experience for the job they actually want. And so many times, after grilling them a bit about their past experience, I was able to pick out things that their potential future employers would view as valuable experience.
If you’re thinking “I want to work in such-and-such office doing such-and-such work but I’ve only ever worked in food service,” or something similar, don’t fret, my friend. Take a deep breath, and take the time to think about the many duties you’ve had at your previous jobs and think of how they could relate to the job you want.
To give you an example, my little sister came to me wanting some help with her resume. She wanted to apply for a managerial job at a winery, but she had no managerial experience and no idea how to show she had any qualifications for the job. Now, I want to say this because it’s important: never lie on your resume. Just don’t do it. You’ll find yourself in way over your head and karma is going to come back and bite you.
This explanation of how we made this happen may seem long, but hear me out if you really want help.
Here’s the breakdown of how we built her a great resume. While she had no managerial experience, I quizzed her on the types of things she did at her previous jobs, and the types of things she knew she’d being doing at the job she wanted.
She had worked in food service. Sweet. We included that she had experience providing great customer service and collaborating with a team to ensure customers had an enjoyable experience, yada yada. She didn’t know a ton about wine, but she served wine and beer at one of her past jobs, so that was included.
Next, we took some time to think about what she would be doing if she got the job as a manager. For this particular job, when she wasn’t serving customers on the floor, she’d be managing the wine club, invoicing customers for wine shipments, and emailing customers to notify them about deals/sales/new wines, etc.
Omg Tiffany I’ve never done anything like that before what the heck how is this going to work aaaaaah…
The most recent place my sister had worked at was an auto parts store. Sounds totally irrelevant and unrelated to working at a winery, right? Think again. I asked her what some of her duties were at the auto parts store, and she mentioned putting together and scanning invoices, delivering auto parts in a timely and efficient manner, handling transactions, and following up with clients and customers to ensure that their orders were fulfilled. Perfect. We highlighted that experience in her resume since it was totally relevant to the job she wanted.
She landed the job.
So before you get discouraged thinking that you have absolutely zero experience for the job you want, think about specific tasks and duties in your work history that could apply as well as unique skills you would offer as an employee. Sure, “delivering auto parts in a timely manner” doesn’t sound like it’s relevant to a winery job, but it shows follow through, responsibility, and the ability to meet deadlines. These types of qualities are absolutely priceless to employers.
Even just seemingly simple and basic principles like the ability to meet deadlines or find solutions for tricky situations or an ability to deal with people in a positive way can be invaluable in the professional world.
Ya see what I’m sayin’?!? Think outside of the box and figure out the valuable traits and experience you have to offer even if it seems irrelevant on the surface. This kind of innovative thinking will get you far in other areas of your professional life as well!
6. Be confident.
It often seems awkward and uncomfortable talking about yourself in your resume and highlighting your skills, but employers want to see an honest, bold representation of what you have to offer. Think confidence with a hint of pride in your worth as a professional. Don’t skimp on your skills, unique talents, and relevant experience.
7. Use a resume template.
I’ve made my resume in Word before, and it’s mostly fine, but it can be frustrating if you accidentally hit enter in the wrong spot and your indentation three paragraphs down is off and suddenly your fonts are extra large and you’ve got seven extra pages added to the end of your document.
I’m mostly kidding, but there are much better places to create a stunning resume than Word,
I recommend Canva. I use Canva for pretty much everything, and they have a resume category that makes things super easy. It’s very user friendly, beautiful, and totally free. Their gorgeous, customizable resume templates are sure to make your resume stand out, and use of the platform is totally free. Try it for yourself! (NOT an affiliate link. I wish, LOL. I just seriously love Canva and it’s such an awesome and useful tool.)
8. Get a second opinion.
Have another person take a look at your resume and get their honest opinion. It’s important to get more perspectives that just your own, and a second pair of eyes may catch errors you might have missed.
9. Include a cover letter.
It’s not absolutely required that you include a cover letter with every resume or job application, but it does show initiative, and it’s an opportunity for you to talk about why you want the job and why you’re the right candidate.
Some employers will ask for one, so best to have something ready. Keep it at about 3-4 paragraphs (no more than four sentences per paragraph) and write no more than a page.
10. Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for.
Don’t just send out the same cookie-cutter resume to all the jobs you’re applying for. For the ones you really want, tweak them a bit by including the specific experience that is relevant for each job as well as providing a cover letter than mentions why you would be a great choice for that specific job.
11. Include the necessities.
Make sure to include your contact info (email, mailing address, phone number, etc.). Provide a link to an online portfolio if you have it, and I recommend linking to your LinkedIn account or setting one up if you don’t already have it.
I know that putting together a resume is intimidating, but I hope these tips helped. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below! I’m considering offering resume consulting services, so let me know if you’d be interested. :)