10 things that will make your resume stand out in the pile

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1. Only include the best and most relevant work experiences for the types of job you're applying for — that means customize your resume.

Remember when Paris Gellar and Rory Gilmore are getting ready to graduate, and Paris talks about the 10 different versions of her resume? She isn't completely crazy. I know.

You should have more than one version of your resume. You should go in and reorganize and reword your resume for each and every job you apply to that you value. If you're just submitting resumes left and right to 100 companies without any thought to how your resume looks to each individual company, you aren't going to have as much as luck as you would if you made a custom version of your resume for 10 jobs.

When I say customize, I don't mean entirely redesign your resume for every position. But consider what experience is most relevant. Say you're in communications and you're applying for a job within the government or a very corporate company and also a job with a startup marketing firm. Those two hiring managers are looking for very different skills and work experiences, and you shouldn't expect one resume to fit both jobs.

2. Use present tense for jobs or positions you currently hold and past tense for jobs you no longer hold. 

This is literally so small, so so so small, but if you remember my last post, consistency matters.

Your work experience should be ordered chronologically — meaning the positions you currently hold are at the top, followed by positions you no longer hold in chronological order. And in that same vein, you should distinguish between jobs you are doing now and jobs you are not doing anymore by changing the verb tense for each position. A small detail that I think means a lot. It shows you invested time into your resume.

3. Quantify your work. 

This is one of the most important things anyone has ever told me about resumes. You must quantify your work, not just qualify it.

So that means instead of saying I edited stories for The Daily Tar Heel for print and online, I say that I edited between 10 and 15 stories a day, five days a week, for The Daily Tar Heel, which at that time had a daily print circulation of 14,000 copies a day and reached 25,000 people every day online.

See? Sounds far more specific and professional, right?

4. Include skills that make you stand out — don't waste space with the skills everyone has. 

Everyone knows how to use PowerPoint. Sorry, but it's true. Remove it — it's a waste of space.

Not everybody knows the Adobe Creative Suite or is fluent in Spanish or can use a DSLR like a pro. Include the skills that make you different. If you had an internship and used a specific program (for example, if you used QuickBooks or Adobe Omniture), include that program on your skills. It'll make you stand out if another company you apply to uses that same program and you already have the skills.

In the same vein: If you show through your work experience that you are a strong editor or writer, you don't need to say that you are a strong editor under your skills section. Your work experience shows it.

5. Don't include things from high school.

Unless you have been in college for no more than 30 seconds, leave it off. If you're including it because you don't have any or nearly enough college or post-college experience to fill a page … Stop what you're doing and reevaluate. Join a club or something.

6. Use powerful verbs.

Too often, people start every sentence with "Responsible for," "handled," "led" or "managed." Use powerful verbs that convey what you did and give more value and importance to your tasks. It's very similar to quantifying your work. A powerful verb makes you stand out from the hundreds of other candidates who have also been responsible for menial tasks as an intern at some company or another. It's all about standing out.

I am literally linking to a list of 185 powerful verbs to use instead.

7. Skip the content that feels and looks compulsory.

That includes things like "references upon request" or an "objective" sentence. You don't want someone to look at your resume and feel like they've read 15,000 of these before and yours is nothing different at all. Do not be that resume. Be the one that breaks the mold and doesn't include an objective sentence that no one reads anyway.

Something else that seems compulsory but isn't necessary: Your home address.

Instead of the compulsory, include your cell phone number, email, website and LinkedIn profile. Maybe your Twitter if that would be appropriate for your industry. (It is for mine.) No one is mailing you anything anymore, and if you include a home address that isn't in the area of the job you're applying for, it could put you out of the running — even if you are 100 percent willing to relocate or move to the moon for a job.

Also, you may think your college GPA is important … but it's really not. Unless the job you're applying for asks for a GPA or has a GPA requirement or your GPA is above a 3.5, I would leave it out.

8. Put your most pertinent experiences at the top. 

Sometimes, I've seen sections called "JOURNALISM (or the industry you're applying for specifically) EXPERIENCE" and "OTHER EXPERIENCE." That way, you don't have to be restricted to chronological order — put your most relevant work at the top in a different section from the experience you want to include but isn't the most relevant. For example, if you have experience in both marketing, public relations and digital marketing and are applying for a digital marketing position, it makes sense to have a DIGITAL MARKETING EXPERIENCE section and an OTHER EXPERIENCE section.

But please stick with chronological order within those categories because otherwise, it does get messy and confusing. Maybe that's just me. Oh well.

9. List your honors – if they're things people might recognize.

Winning a scholarship or award is great, but if you don't have room to explain what it is or why you received it, it's probably not worth including. You don't want people to have to guess how big of a deal it is that you won a scholarship in your first year of college three years ago.

But if you, say, were a Morehead Cain Scholar at UNC (a big deal)  then you would't need to break that down. If you win an award that has somewhat of an explanation in the title (like a community journalism award I won last year), that probably will also suffice.

List the honors that are the biggest deal to you and the most relevant to your job search. Employee of the Month at the on-campus bookstore? Eh. Leave it.

10. Your relevant class history is important, but don't speak in tongues.

When I say tongues, I mean class shortenings — ENGL 105, JOMC 153, POLI 203. No one knows what those course codes mean except people in your own university's registrar and also that one kid who memorized the course bulletin their first year whose name is Paige Ladisic.

Before I graduated I used the actual titles of my courses — Media Law, Professional Problems and Ethics, Introduction to News Editing, etc. — and only include the courses that are most relevant to my career search. A lot of people I know mention every course they've ever taken … Not necessary, unless they are possibly all relevant to your experiences and your skills. Feel free to leave off your first year chemistry lab!

Now that I am out of college, I do not include class history at all and include any of my skills from those classes in my skills section. It's a personal preference.

•••

Okey dokey! That's some of the best resume advice I have. Are you working on a resume now? Are you totally out of your wheelhouse? Feel free to send me an email! You can reach me at thedailypaigeblog@gmail.com with any questions or requests for feedback on your resume.

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