Remember that scene from “Legally Blonde” when Elle Woods hands her puzzled professor a resume with the follow-up “It’s pink and it’s scented, I think it gives it a little something extra, don’t you?” He was left speechless, and we were left in true admiration.
While you don’t have to go as far as spraying your resume with your favorite perfume (or dying it pink), there is something to be said about having wow-worthy components to take your resume from overlooked to overbooked.
Whatever your desired job may be, the chances are your potential employer is probably receiving hundreds of applications for it. Now that most jobs are applied for online, it narrows down the physical components that could make your resume pop out from the pile. So what works in today's digital landscape? What can you do to make your resume trump the others and land you an interview? Read to find out.
1. Make It Aesthetically Attractive
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is that’s exactly what happens. The look of your resume won’t necessarily be judged, but it will certainly become the determining factor that has your potential employer halting the shuffle to read further. Having a standout resume is like a foot in the door – before anyone even reads what’s on it you need to grab their attention first.
With most resumes, putting the right content in isn’t really the issue, but the way the information is presented. Having an aesthetically pleasing or visually interesting layout helps makes the content readable and engaging (just don’t go overboard).
Break your resume into sections. The most common ones are your contact information, experience, education, and accomplishments. The example below from Enhancv also has a “My Time” section to show how you spend your time – both at work and outside it – to make your resume more personal. Use different fonts, sizes, and colors to add visual interest while helping to distinguish between different pieces of information. Just make sure everything is still easy to read and no single element is too distracting.
If you’re looking for free resume and cover letter design templates, check out sites like FreePik or Freesumes which have a large variety of options. Or use the fill-in-the-blanks free template for the resume example above. If you have a little room in your budget, Canva Resume Maker is always an excellent option as well. You can download and customize to fit your specific needs! Just be sure to take note of the commercial and personal use licenses in whichever you choose to download.
2. Keep Your Information Short, Sweet, and to the Point
Gone are the days when anyone has the time to sit down and read through several pages to find out what makes you remarkable. This is a scroll and swipe-happy society we live in, meaning attention spans are short. Recruiters spend an average of a mere 7 seconds screening a resume!
To get recognized right away and make a good first impression, be sure the first page of your resume is an aesthetically pleasing map of comprehensible bullet points. All of the information in each section needs to be condensed into digestible statements, so take your skills or accomplishments and distill them down into one short sentence each. Make sure you include keywords that show you’re a good fit for the position you’re applying for. Be sure to organize your experience and education in reverse chronological order, so they see your most recent work first. Ideally, your entire resume will fit on one page.
Include keywords that show you’re a good fit for the position you’re applying for.
We recommend you don’t include a picture of yourself – keep your resume solely focused on your professional accomplishments.
Remember, the goal is for your potential employer to be able to pick up your resume and know exactly why you’d be a great asset to their team just from this simple, yet clear overview.
3. Send a PDF
Between Apple, Microsoft, and Google Docs, there are so many different word processing programs now. To make sure your resume appears the way you intended it to when the recruiter opens it, save and send your resume as a PDF. There’s nothing worse than spending all this time on a stellar resume just for your potential employer to open it and see a jumbled mess. We can pretty much guarantee you that no one will attempt to read it in that state.
4. The Cover Letter: It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
Now that you really have your employer’s attention to make it all the way to page 2, you want to have this part be compelling. Most cover letters tend to be a dry, black and white summary of what they already read on the resume. That’s not why they flipped to page 2. Here is where they want to know more about you – your personality, your passions, your experiences, etc. This is your chance to infuse your uniqueness into a concise summary that will have them jumping out of their seats to schedule an interview with you.
The important pieces to focus on here are why you believe your expertise makes you the perfect fit, how your experiences can enhance the point of view of this position, and what makes your passion unmatched in comparison. Translating these ideas in a story-like way that embodies emotion as opposed to a laundry list of robotic talking points is what will take your resume to the top.
Many people are uncomfortable writing a cover letter because it feels like bragging, but this is not the time to be modest.
We know many people are uncomfortable writing a cover letter because it feels like bragging, but this is not the time to hold back or be modest. This is the time to sell the idea of yourself. Let them see you in your fullest expression – the vibrancy of your words will become the equivalent of “pink and scented”!
To keep continuity between your resume and cover letter, use the same fonts as you did on your resume. Again, just make sure everything is easily legible and no single creative choice is too distracting.
5. Hire a Creative Professional
We recommend you try to do most of this process on your own because no one is more you than you. However, if you want to be absolutely sure it’s perfect before sending, hiring an expert is always a good idea to become an extra set of eyes. Look for a creative professional who will work with you to make your resume distinctive and authentic. Be clear about your goals and desires when it comes to content and aesthetic.
Doing the research here is vital, but generally speaking, working with an individual servicer versus a company tends to yield a more personalized experience. Make it a point to be involved in the process and have most of the work done before seeking mentorship. This will initiate a good starting point and give the mentor a pulse on what your style is.
After implementing these points into your next resume, prepare to toss your hat in the air with an ear-to-ear smile saying, “We did it!”
Believe me, I know it’s easy to hear the words “resume writing” and instantly shut down, but challenge yourself to make this an exciting, creative experience. The more fun you have writing it, the more that will be reflected in your resume. Be intentional, do the work, and let it be satisfying. There’s a job out there waiting for you to fill it!
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