Writing your resume can be tough. Are you putting enough detail? Too much? How can you, this marvelous and knowledgeable individual, possibly be captured on a piece of paper?
Well, you can’t. And honestly, all a resume represents is a ticket that gets you in the door. You have to have a pass that the reviewer thinks, “Yes, that is a person I want to speak to.” From their perspective, think of what you would look for on a resume.
You would want something neat and easy to read. Everything would be spelled correctly. Sentences would vary in length. Some sentences would be long; they would use semi-colons to break up points of communication. Some sentences would be short. And of course, the only full sentences on your resume describe your relevant job experience.
While everything in your resume is great, it’s the subtle organization and clarity differences that differentiate good and great resumes. This is what breaks you away from the pack.
In the following article, we’ll guide you through the top 5 tips that make you come across as a credible and leading candidate based on the formatting and grammar of your resume.
5 Tips for a Stand Out Resume
Just as important as the text on the page is the text that is not on the page. Leaving whitespace allows for your dark text to stand out more and enables the reader to feel less overwhelmed. What would you prefer to read? A large block of text, or something that is skimmable and easy to digest.
If a hiring manager has to work to read your resume, you’ve already lost the job. Make sure you keep plenty of white space on your resume. Try to shoot for 50-60% of your resume as white space (this includes the margins, of course!)
No. More. Summaries.
I know you’re lovely. The resume reviewer probably thinks you’re lovely. However, a personal summary of where you’re taking your career is unnecessary. It takes up space (see above for that precious, precious white space) and can come off as unauthentic.
Remove the about me, who I am, my career section, and you’re one step ahead of thousands of candidates.
Are you feeling tense? Sorry! Bad joke.
Tense on your resume matters, especially when you’re describing your job role duties. Your current role should be present tense. While your previous roles should be past tense.
- Work with
- Worked with
The biggest key to this section, besides current position vs. old positions, is consistency. For your current job, every verb needs to be present tense. For previous positions, every verb needs to be past tense.
Breaking tense is just as bad as not utilizing tense. You look sloppy. A proper application of storytelling tense makes your resume look polished compared to others.
Ready, Set, Action!
In the section where you describe the roles and successes of your current and previous positions, you want to start with an action word. Let’s look at the examples below.
- I manage a team of 5 analysts and help in their career development.
- Manage a team of 5 analysts and aid in their career development.
Which one do you prefer? While both share the same ideas of managing a team of 5 and developing said members, #2 is to the point compared to #1. Using short, concise sentences that start with actions gives the reader insight into your immediate impact. After all, you’re describing what you do in your current role. You want to explain your whats with action.
Just to point out in the example above, using I on your resume is more than redundant- it’s insulting. This entire piece of paper is about you. There is no need to write the word “I” anywhere!
The Scale from White to Black is Your Friend
I’m sure you’ve seen those hip, new resumes that are bright, colorful, and don’t follow the traditional layout. And, like all things in life, there’s a time and a place for them. However, don’t be fooled, the standard black and white resume still reigns.
But, you can still use color scaling to prove your point.
For example, one of my personal favorites is to make your headers black and the rest of the font on your resume a slightly lighter black. This creates enough distinction to the human eye, but not enough to make it evident. The difference should be so minimal the interviewer does not consciously notice it. But subconsciously, your resume is easier to read.
My other favorite implementation of black to white scaling is in your skills area. For skills that you are most proficient in, use a deep black for the text. The skills you have less experience in, use a grey that is still dark enough to show up. Pick 3 shades to create a sliding scale of your abilities. This is exemplified here:
Finally, put the dates that you were at a role or education facility in a mid-tone grey. Breaking out years in this way is a more natural way for the resume reviewer to follow your education and career path.
Remember, with your greys, they still need to print so they can be read!
Your resume is your ticket in the door. People are only going to let you in if they can easily interpret your resume. Whether they internalize it or not, their bias is that you can communicate who you are on one piece of paper. You better make sure that piece of paper is compelling and transparent as to who you are.
If you are concerned about your resume appearance, read more resume articles here. Or, reach out to me and let’s work together to ramp up your career confidence.