Even in a strong job market, competition for good positions is fierce. To land an interview, you need to submit an application that catches the eye and persuades the hiring manager to call you in so they can learn more.
But with only that recommended one page to work with, how can you effectively use the space you have to write a resume that lands at the top of the pile?
Keep It Clean and Professional
In a world where most people always seem to be one-upping each other on Instagram and Facebook, it’s tempting to want to make your resume the most unique, different, special one a hiring manager has ever seen. For the majority of jobs out there, getting creative with colors, fonts, photos, and more is definitely eye-catching — but not necessarily in a good way.
Having a resume with a lot of color, oddly-formatted text, or that’s not organized in any kind of cohesive way will likely just annoy the poor person who has to go through fifty other applications each day. And if you’re submitting your application online, sending in a document that software can’t scan for keywords may really tank your prospects.
The exception to this general rule: highly creative, specialized fields. Graphic designers, website developers, or other kinds of artists may be able to take more liberties with their resumes. And freelancers and consultants who work mostly online might not need a traditional resume at all, but a professional website showcasing their portfolio instead.
For most folks, your resume will perform far better if you keep it simple, clean, and easy to read — and more specifically, easy to scan.
Craft a Story With Your Copy
Instead of trying some crazy design to make your resume stand out, use the space you have to tell your story. Don’t just recite a bullet-point list of simple facts. Use those highlights to express how you took action to create a desirable outcome, and be prepared to speak more about each of those mini-stories when you get to schedule your interview.
Additionally, make sure your copy is unique to you. You want to write your resume in such a way that only you could have written it. Everyone can say they have “administrative skills.” But perhaps only you are so organized, detail-oriented, and resourceful that you routinely saved the day for your supervisor by handling botched travel plans to ensure your team got to the sales meeting across the country.
Even if your work is completely different, you get the idea. Be specific and share the facts via an engaging story.
Don’t Make Silly Mistakes
The quickest way to bypass the resume pile entirely? Make a lot of spelling and grammatical errors in your copy. Your resume will be sure to go straight in the trash. It’s not a bonus to have an error-free document. It’s required and expected.
Proofread every resume you send out (since you’re tailoring your application to each position, right?). Then have someone else give it a look to catch mistakes you might have missed.
Go Beyond the Actual Resume
Often, the best way to have your resume land at the top of the pile is to secure a recommendation before submitting anything. The adage that “it’s not what you know, but who” is true in most fields. Invest time in networking, making new connections, and seeking out people who may be familiar with new opportunities within industries that interest you.
If someone at the company you want to work at already has a recommendation about you from someone they trust, they’re more likely to move your resume to the top of their list and devote more time to read it over and more consideration to hiring you.