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Job hunting can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience. I get it; no one likes to get the dreaded rejection email, and nothing is more frustrating or discouraging than sending off 20 or more applications and getting zero responses. You may have the exact experience a hiring manager is looking for, but maybe you’re just not telling your story right. Or it’s possible your resume isn’t getting past strict algorithms that scan resumes for keywords.
If you’re wondering what you can do to set yourself apart from other candidates, you’re in the right place. From choosing the right keywords to designing the ideal layout, creating a stellar resume is no easy feat. But you’re fully capable of getting the job done — no pun intended.
1. Customize your resume for your industry
When you’re creating your descriptions for the roles you’ve held, you should include all of your skills and experiences relevant to the job(s) you’re applying for. Read through the desired job description and see how you can tailor your resume to showcase you’ve got the skillset they’re looking for in a candidate.
You may want to have a few different versions of your resume depending on the types of roles you want. For example, if you work in marketing and are interested in a few different roles within that industry, you can have one resume specific to SEO content marketing, one resume specific to PPC campaigns and one resume that is specific to email marketing.
Related: 13 Must-Have Words to Include in Your Resume
2. Use a header
You can think of your header as a business card right under your name and right at the top of your resume. It should include your job title, phone number, email address and your location. If you have a link to your portfolio, you should add that in there as well, along with any certifications and or desirable credentials.
This helps hiring managers see right away what your goal is without having to sift through your resume.
Here’s an example:
EMAIL MARKETING SPECIALIST
Los Angeles, CA, 90210 | 310-XXX-XXXX | email@example.com | jsmithportfolio.com
This is just one example, but you can find a few more here along with some useful tips on how to make your header stand out.
3. Make sure your resume is clean, concise and error-free
Hiring managers and recruiters are usually overwhelmed with resumes and cover letters to sift through and manage. Give yourself a leg up by ensuring your resume is easy to read and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Keep the content concise; simplicity goes a long way!
Additionally, hyperlinking to your portfolio or LinkedIn profile is an easy way to preserve space and keep your resume looking clean and easy to navigate.
4. Don’t go wild with fonts and colors
Look, even if you’re a creative and want to showcase your talents, your resume really isn’t the best place to do so. Your portfolio can be stocked with relevant work, but your resume should still be easy to read and formatted to look both modern and professional.
You can add a border to your resume or use some color in a tasteful way, but sticking to a clean and simple resume ensures it will be legible across all platforms. Readability is huge when it comes to creating an effective resume, so make sure any colors you use are easy on the eyes.
5. Incorporate industry keywords
If the job description has certain keywords (and it almost undoubtedly does), your resume needs to have those as well. Many companies today use some sort of method to search for keywords when sorting resumes. This means in order for your resume to even be viewed, you need to include those keywords in your resume.
It can be a tedious process, which is why I suggested having a few different versions of your resume on deck depending on which roles you’re applying to. But either way, make sure your resume includes the right keywords for the role. Taking the time to do so is a surefire way to ensure your resume stands out.
Related: 10 Tips for Writing an Impressive Resume
That all said, don’t overdo it! Yes, it is possible to “keyword stuff” your resume. While some companies’ algorithms initially sift through resumes, the human being eventually reading your resume will be able to see that you stuffed a bunch of keywords into your descriptions. No one likes to see that. Hiring managers have seen enough resumes to last ten lifetimes and can easily see when someone is guilty of keyword stuffing in the hopes of getting past algorithms.
6. Include those metrics!
Anyone can write about or fluff up the role they did while at a company. So, if you want to show hiring managers all that value you can bring to their company, you need to include metrics. Including your quantifiable achievements helps hiring managers get a better idea of the kind of results they can expect from you.
Every industry is different, so if you need help deciding which metrics to include and how they should be included, check out this site that goes into further detail.
7. No need for any trash talk
Unless you’ve been absurdly lucky throughout your career, it’s likely you’ve had some less-than-ideal experiences at past companies or maybe even at your current one. Do not include negative information or details about anyone or anything, neither in your resume nor in your cover letter.
And, it should go without saying, but you really shouldn’t trash talk past or current employers or teammates in your interview. You are above that, and it is never a good look.
8. Create a cover letter that tells your story
While your resume should convey your professional story in the most concise and effective way, your cover letter can really show the hiring manager your professional experiences, accomplishments and how you’ve grown over the years.
The top three things that must be included in a cover letter are how your work experience meets job requirements, how your skills meet job requirements and the reasons why you want to work at the organization.
Related: 6 Ways to Make Sure Your Resume Gets Read
Your cover letter needs to show the reader that you are just the right person for the job. You don’t need to include any hobbies; just stick to showcasing your skillset and how it’s relevant to the job.
Keep in mind that hiring managers often see the same phrases and claims over and over again. You can consider using a template and refer to Glassdoor’s blog on writing a solid cover letter to make sure your cover letter doesn’t sound like everyone else’s.