Want your resume to stand out? (spoiler: you do)
A standout resume—one that speaks to exactly what a potential employer wants—is the first step to creating a connection between you and the person who can hire you. Done right, it only takes a quick skim to grab their attention and start linking you with everything they want in a job candidate. And when the average resume is reviewed for only 5-7 seconds, a second glance and a couple more seconds can be all that’s standing between you and an interview!
But how exactly do you accomplish that, create a connection? I mean, it’s hard enough to get the hiring manager’s name. It’s not like you can become their best friend, learn their favorite color and font, and then casually slip your resume over during your Sunday bestie brunch.
But do you want the best news ever? You don’t need to do all that. Instead, I’m going to show you step-by-step how to make those connections. Without the lowkey stalking. And—BONUS—it also connects with employers’ online applicant tracking software, helping make sure your resume gets to the front of the line.
What is this magic? You just need to be willing to tweak your resume in a few subtle ways before you submit it. That’s it. But it can be the difference between getting no response (again) and getting the interview. Said a recent client when I tweaked hers:
“I applied for no less than 10 state jobs and never got a call for an interview before today!”
First, Find the Most Important Keywords
Job postings are your secret weapon for resumes that stand out. Re-read the post and identify items that are important to the hiring manager and that you do well or are fully qualified for. Highlight a hard copy or pdf of the job post to make it easy to identify the right keywords and job requirements you need for steps 2 & 3.
How do you know what matters to your potential new boss?
Important parts of a job posting are often mentioned more than once, might have a brief paragraph with added details on the subject, or are specific to the position or role itself. Important points are generally not basic job skills, general company information, or tasks less experienced people could do without any training.
Tailor Your Resume
Have you ever had a blazer or suit coat tailored? When you put it on, it just glides smoothly into place on your body. The sleeves are the perfect length, the waist sits exactly where it should, and your arms have a full range of motion without the buttons straining. All of the tailor’s small adjustments come together to create an experience that even a quality off-the-rack blazer can never duplicate.
Your high-quality resume is off-the-rack, but you are the tailor—making small changes and tweaks until your resume fits the job position (and hiring manager) perfectly. You’re going to take the keywords you found in step 1 and strategically use them to build connection.
And the three must-haves that you absolutely need to pin down? Here they are.
Your Job Title (i.e., Role, Specialty)
Usually just above or below your name at the top of your resume, the job title naturally stands out, so make sure it matches what was used in the job posting. If the posting uses a very specific name, like Midwest Manager of Widget Production and Sales, simplify it down to 2-3 words. Widget Production & Sales, maybe. Or Widget Production/Sales Manager.
Is this a new position for you, something you can’t legitimately claim to be (yet)? Use the title from the job posting and add “applicant” or “candidate” after it. This is especially important for entry-level positions. If the job is for a customer service representative and your resume says “cashier” or “bartender” at the top, you’ve missed a chance to connect yourself to the job. The same goes for changing industries, too. You might not be able to match the new industry, but you can tweak or remove the previous industry to make for a smoother fit.
Your Resume Summary
You want a resume summary, not an objective. Why? Resume summaries highlight what you bring to the job and act like a 30-second elevator pitch, selling the hiring manager on you. Objectives are similar except they focus on what you want. And, frankly my dear, they don’t give a damn about that. It’s just another reason to pass you by and can cost you opportunities.
On the other hand, a strong resume summary stands out, shows you understand what the position requires, and sets you up as the solution to their problem. Review your original summary and see where you can add keywords or shuffle the order of existing text to better align with the position.
Your Previous Job Titles & Bullet Points
For your previous job titles, repeat as much of the potential job’s title as you can, just like you did with your resume title. Pay attention to both the department name and the position/role name. Are you an Administrative Assistant in Sales, but the job post calls that same role a “Business Development Associate?” You know what to do!
Do the same for your bullet points. Move the ones that match the job posting the best to the top. Swap in keywords and phrases when possible. Add bullets about important points when you can and delete less relevant ones so everything fits.
Before and After: Which Resume Stands Out to You
Let’s check out a client’s actual results from this process. Christine’s standard resume (left) is for loan processor positions but she’s interested in a position as a disability examiner. Even though the two positions seem completely unrelated, the skills they require are almost identical. The disability examiner post emphasized compliance, data gathering, customer service, and managing a fast-paced work cycle.
Each sample shows the job title, summary, and a condensed version of a previous job and bullet points. Look closely and you’ll see that none of the changes are complete rewrites, just tweaks and adjustments. If you were the hiring manager for the disability examiner job, which resume would get your attention?
SENIOR LOAN PROCESSOR
TWENTY YEARS OF MORTGAGE AND LOAN EXPERIENCE, with a focus on conventional and government loans for residential properties. Offering outstanding documentation and compliance skills together with customer service and communication skills, all with the goal of managing client expectations, understanding, and satisfaction.
Senior Loan Processor
- Process up to 200 complex mortgages and managed pipeline for 150+ bankers annually.
- Instruct bankers and peers on compliance issues, including RESPA, CEMA, HARP, and general underwriting guidelines.
- Collaborate with local title company representatives, attorneys and paralegals to communicate mortgage closing instructions and provide loan closing documentation, title research, property tax information.
DISABILITY EXAMINER CANDIDATE
TWENTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE providing consistent data gathering and assessment with a focus on meeting all federal and state regulations for conventional and government loans for residential properties. Offering outstanding documentation and compliance skills together with customer service and communication skills, all with the goal of managing client expectations, understanding, and satisfaction.
Senior Loan Processor
- Provide guidance and oversight on compliance issues, including RESPA, CEMA, and HARP for bankers and peers.
- Process up to 200 complex mortgages and manage pipeline for 150+ bankers annually.
- Prioritize customer service and communication, keeping customers updated on their mortgages’ requirements, status, and final decision.
Know what? Christine messaged this morning to say she got an interview for the disability examiner position! They read her resume on Monday and requested an interview the next morning. Now THAT is an effective resume!
The most effective job searches require action to establish a human connection between you and the person who can hire you. Unfortunately, with the prevalence of online job boards, it’s easy to find yourself clicking the submit button over and over. Instead, take the time to tailor your resume and show you are the right candidate.
Start building that connection. It will give you a huge advantage, help you stand out from all the submit-button-clickers, and capture the hiring manager’s attention.
Queasy at the thought of pulling this all together yourself? Click the button below and set up your free Jumpstart call with me!