Ways to 'Stand Out' With Your Resume

Creating a resume can be a tedious, time-consuming task. Even when it's complete and free from spelling errors, it may still sound bland. When you're competing for a job with hundreds of other applicants, 'ordinary' just won't do. You have to stand out from the get-go! Establish yourself as the front-runner with these five helpful tips, and you can breathe easy during the interview process.

  • Your cover letter is really part of your resume. Therefore, cover letter writing is equally important. When it comes to writing a good cover letter, make it personable. Applicants often sound robotic in attempts to sound formal. Of course you want to be respectful in addressing whom you are sending your cover letter to, but go beyond "I read about your job opening online and am submitting my resume for consideration." Write what compelled you to apply for the position and how not just you, but your personality can be an asset to the company.
  • Note a few key characteristics pertinent to your position in the cover letter, and also in your resume objective. These characteristics should be a combination of personal attributes that subtly suggest you're 'made' for the job. For example,
    • For a teacher resume, you want to project yourself as a nurturer.
    • For sales resumes, you want to come across as persistent without being too pushy.
    • For IT resumes and engineering resumes, it's important that you show quick thinking and problem-solving skills.
    • And for executive resumes, you want to show you're a leader with sound judgment.
  • Show you've made your mark. So you want to convince your prospective employer that you'd be an asset to the company? Show him or her that you've already made your mark on the world by noting feats and accomplishments pertinent to your field.

    In a human resources resume, that could mean mentioning a 20% increase in your previous company's productivity after you implemented monthly training workshops and team-building activities. For a journalist resume or even a journalist cover letter, mention how your discovery of illegal dumping sites led to the city suing a recycling plant.

    Showing you've made your mark at your previous jobs signifies your potential value as an employee and how a company could benefit from your abilities.
  • Show an eagerness to learn. Every job applicant will, more than likely, meet the educational requirements for the position. Most applicants will possess bachelor degrees and MBAs, depending on the position. A way to stand out educationally is by listing additional technical training, particularly training you sought out yourself. For customer service resumes, you could mention a seminar you attended on interpersonal communication and how to handle difficult people. For acting resumes, you could mention how you took adult gymnastics lessons for two years in the event you needed to perform stunt work. By showing you've gone above and beyond with your education, it shows you're committed to and passionate about your craft. It also shows that you're willing to refine weak areas.
  • Provide strong references. Most jobs applications require you to list three personal and professional references with their names, address, phone numbers, and email addresses. Think very carefully about whom you want to mention. In many cases, they will call your references. Most family and friends will be happy to vouch for you as a 'good person,' but you really want to find three people who will sit down and give a written assessment of you as a person, and your job capabilities.

    If you can get a former employer to give you a written recommendation – excellent. For new college graduates with entry level resumes, have a professor write a recommendation, along with a peer who you worked with in a group setting, and a supervisor from an internship.

    Go ahead and ask for several written recommendations so you can choose which ones are strongest and most appropriate for your position. You want to weed out the ones that simply say, "Jane Doe completed a successful four-month internship here and should do a fine job with any company who hires her," and go with, "Jane Doe's unwavering commitment to helping students with disabilities was truly admirable and showed us all how capable these young children really are, despite their circumstance."

    The key thing to remember when writing a 'standout resume' is that you have to stand out as a person. If you're stumped on whom to ask for a reference or what to note from your previous jobs, perhaps you need to work a bit harder at getting the type of results worth mentioning.

    If you didn't make that much of an impact at your previous job, get involved in community service and start there. Most organizations are grateful for having resourceful, bright people like yourself helping their cause, and most will be happy to note your involvement.

    If you didn't take any noteworthy classes in school, it's never too late to enroll in a technical program or an extra class at your local community college. The important thing to note is that there are always ways to better yourself, just as there are always ways to improve a resume.