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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out to Employers Job-seekers, follow these updated tips to attract an employer's attention

By Consiglia Intile, Assistant Director of Career Services, National Louis University

Your resume is one of the most important documents you will send off to a potential employer. Whether you are creating a resume for the first time or simply updating it with your most recent experiences, every job seeker should spend some time ensuring that you are following these important resume rules. 

1). Start your resume with either a career goal or professional summary

If you want your resume to stand out amongst other candidates, use updated titles for the first section of your resume. I have come across many resumes that are still using the heading Objectives. This is seen as an outdated term (except for Education students). The more updated titles used on resumes now are Career Goal or Professional Summary. A Career Goal is a more updated title that is similar to the objective. Use this title if you are just starting out in your field and do not have much experience. To create a Career Goal, provide the employer with a goal you want to accomplish for your targeted organization using three specific skill sets you have. For instance: To obtain an administrative role to utilize excellent communication, organizational and problem-solving skills to increase retention for your organization.

Use a Professional Summary when you have many years of work experience, regardless of the industry. A Professional summary is made up of 3-5 sentences that highlights your skills, talents, strengths, and accomplishments. To create a strong summary: use this sample format:

Two personality traits that describes your work ethic with ______ (list number of years of experience here; if more than 10 years of experience, only list 10+ because employers only want to see the past 10 years on a resume) in _______ (state industry here). Then you can continue to list your skills and talents here that are relevant to the position.

2) Tailor your career goal or professional summary to each position you target

Since the career goal or professional summary is the first section that will catch the employer’s eye, you will want to make sure you are a creating a powerful statement that is relevant to your targeted job posting.

For instance: To create a strong marketable career goal, research the company’s website and learn about its mission statement and the values and goals it has set out to accomplish. To attract an employer’s attention, refer back to the job posting and focus on what specific skills you have and how you can help them accomplish their goals. Remember, your resume is a marketing piece that will tell the employer what you can do for them vs. what you will get out of the position.

The same concept applies when using a professional summary. The goal here is to use specific traits that are relevant to the targeted position. Take a look at the job posting and highlight the skills you have that you want to market to the employer. Incorporate strong sentences including these skill sets into your professional summary.

3) Avoid the use of templates, tables, or tools on your resume

Times have changed, and more applications are submitted online. Also, no employer has the time to go through the thousands of resumes they receive from candidates, so many large corporations are relying on Applicant Tracking Systems, These are designed to scan incoming resumes and provide employers with a score indicating how qualified these candidates truly are. Using any resume template, tables, or tools actually confuse the ATS, which does not recognize what these are. Because of this, any information that is placed in a template or table will not be read by the system.

4) Be consistent with adding action-benefit statements

With a competitive job market out there, it is important to showcase your accomplishments on your resume. Your previous accomplishments can provide employers with a clear picture of what you can do and bring to their organization. Using these action-benefit statements on your resume can also make you stand out amongst other candidates. The simplest way to create these statements would be to start with a strong action verb and list the task you performed with the benefit. To help create these strong statements, try to answer one of the following questions within your statement: What was the result? What was the purpose? What was the benefit? Or why was this important to do? Whenever possible, try to quantify your results. This will provide the employer more concrete data that will increase your marketability and surpass other candidates in the review process. I have also added another resource that can help you create these statements.

5) Avoid using bland action verbs

Employers will skim through many resumes, so engagement is key when creating your resume. The use of bland verbs on a resume can cause an employer to lose interest. Avoid these verbs: Assist, Helped, Responsible for, and Successfully Completed. These verbs fail to tell the employer what you exactly did in your role. To grab an employer’s attention and keep it, try to use different strong action verbs that will make your resume stand out to employers. To make this process seem simpler, I have included a great resource to help you get started.

6) List a variety of different tasks for similar positions

This is actually something very common that job seekers do not do before submitting their resume off to an employer. If you have worked similar roles in your experience, you may think that you should include all the tasks you performed, even those that were similar to other roles you help. However, this is not for a resume. Adding the same exact tasks performed for multiple positions fails to grab the employer’s attention because it becomes redundant to review. An employer frowns upon this and may assume that you did not spend enough time on your resume which may be a “red flag’ or indication of how you may handle your responsibilities if chosen. This can alone tell an employer they should move on to the next candidate. if you are going to include similar bullet points (tasks) on your resume, try wording your tasks differently.

7) Proofread your resume for grammar errors, typos, and inconsistencies

Creating the content for a resume is a common obstacle most job seekers face. Many job seekers also struggle with creating strong action-benefit statements for each position they worked at. Many are familiar with the work they did or are doing, but struggle coming up with the right way to word their tasks. The best tip that I can provide is simple: Four eyes are better than two. It’s a challenge in itself to write your own resume, but an even greater challenge to critique your own writing.

To help make this process simpler, take advantage of your university’s resources. We have career advisors that can provide you with their feedback and even help with wording that needs revisions. Also, writing tutors can review your resume and offer feedback on how you can enhance your sentences.

The same goes for typos and inconsistencies. Our career service advisors are trained and skilled to easily spot typos or inconsistencies on your resume.  Before sending it off to employers, stop and schedule an appointment with an advisor. You can schedule your appointment through our new platform Handshake.