Writing a Resume that Stands Out

Looking Good on Paper: A Detailed Resume Breakdown

23 January 2015 By Emily Hohf

resumeHigh-quality college education, like that at Pioneer Pacific, sets students on the path toward a successful career.  But that path isn’t without its challenges, and one of the biggest challenges facing college graduates is getting an interview.  Writing a skillful resume could get you in the door and face-to-face with your potential dream job.

No matter which field you have graduated from or are still pursuing, it’s always a good time to improve your resume.  Start with these tips from Pioneer Pacific:

 

  1. Customize to the Job – Long gone are the days of writing one resume to deliver by hand to several very different companies around your city.  Now, it’s expected that applicants will customize a resume to fit each job they apply for.  Customization might mean refocusing on different applicable aspects of past job might apply to one job while being completely superfluous to others.
  2. Utilize Keywords – Many organizations now automate the first steps of the hiring process.  In other words, your well-written resume may not even be read by human eyes before being tossed out of the running!  Computers designed to pass or fail a series of resumes are typically programmed to search for specific keywords.  The best way to ensure that your resume passes the first round is to focus on using keywords included in the job description.
  3. Highlight Important Terms – A job description may not always be written by the same person who chooses the keywords to search for, automated or by hand.  It’s beneficial to repeat important terms more than once in slightly different variations.  For instance, if you have a certificate that the job description named by its acronym, include the full name of the certificate as well.  Or if a job requires experience with Microsoft Office, consider naming specific Microsoft Office programs that you are experienced in, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Outlook.
  4. Chronological or Combination – There are three main resume types: chronological (most common), functional, and combination.  A functional resume has previously been used by applicants with a spotty job history (ie one with time gaps between jobs) or very little job history.  Unfortunately, this type of resume can send up red flags for many job reviewers, no matter how many skills and how much experience you have in the correct field.  It’s better to lay your cards out on the table, so to speak.  Showcase the jobs you’ve held in the standard chronological format and consider adding a section to the top to explain your goal summary in obtaining the job and the most relevant skills and experience you want to highlight.  This is the combination resume style.
  5. Avoid Graphic Elements – Borders, outlines, and any fancy graphic additions may seem professional and even make certain sections of your resume stand out.  However, graphics also make a resume difficult to “digest” by humans and computers alike.  Software may balk at dark lines across a page and skip important keywords.  And things like underlining can also confuse people, especially in the age of hyperlinks.
  6. Errors Count, Bullet Points Don’t – A spelling or grammatical error will really stand out on a resume, especially in the titles and headers.  Recruiters often toss resumes with mistakes automatically, assuming a lack effort to spell check or self-edit.  You might think that spending more time on bullet points would be more useful, but those who review resumes spend less than 20% of the time looking at those painstakingly-written points.  The mention of a keyword might be enough.  So don’t stress over the details, but keep it error-free.

Conclusion:

This detailed resume breakdown should give you an idea of where to start, which format is best, the features to focus on, and what to avoid – all adding up to being noticed by the right recruiter and getting an interview.  Most of these tips amount to one central idea: simplicity with specificity.  If you can keep your resume straight-forward, honest, and directed toward the job, that’s all you need to be noticed.  Your focus, determination, and other parts of your personality will come out in the interview.

If you need help with your resume, Pioneer Pacific College’s Career Services department can work with you to help formalize a resume that will help you stand out above the other candidates!

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