7 Strategies to Make Your Resume Stand Out in a Downturn

Woman in hijab working on laptop with a notebook

While not as dismal as all the layoff announcements imply, the job market is shifting and in some areas becoming increasingly competitive. It can be a struggle to make your resume stand out in a downturn, especially if you find yourself out of a job and under pressure to find a new one. While it may seem like there are fewer opportunities available, there are still ways you can shine and set yourself apart from the competition.

The best time to update your resume is before you need it.

Here are some tips for making your resume stand out in a tough job market:

1. Tailor your resume to the job

Yep, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s important to tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for. Especially when the job market is tight, you need to show employers that you are the solution to their problem. This means targeting keywords, such as relevant skills and experiences that are specifically mentioned in the job description.

TEST IT: Have a friend look at 3-4 similar job postings and
see if they can match your resume to the right posting.

2. Show the employer your value

This is all about showing you are the solution to their problem. You want your resume to clearly show what you offer them and the benefits they will get when they hire you. Use a summary statement at the top of your resume and be sure to tie everything to keywords from the job description.

The hiring manager should be able to go down your resume and
mentally check off all the skills they are looking for.

3. Highlight your achievements

Go beyond just listing your job responsibilities on your resume; call out your main accomplishments and the results you achieved! Any time you saved your company time and money, be sure to mention it. It doesn’t even have to be something huge as long as you can quantify it. For example, let’s say the company implemented your method of organizing project folders for everyone in your department. You estimate the new method saves you 10-15 minutes every workday. An estimated 12 minutes each day times 5 days a week times 52 weeks each year equals 3,120 minutes or 52 HOURS! And if 7 employees are now using your method and the average hourly rate for these positions is, say, $37.50, you have saved your company an estimated $13,650 each year!

Little improvements can save big money when viewed through a company lens.

4. Use action verbs

Your resume needs to have an impact, and using action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements does exactly that. Words like “implemented,” “led,” and “developed” are more effective than passive phrases like “was responsible for.” If you aren’t sure how to do this, Google “action verbs for resumes.”  

Don’t go overboard on fancy words. You’re looking for that sweet spot
where you represent your skills both accurately and  in the best way possible.

5. Keep it concise

Focus on information that’s relevant to the job at hand. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to include every job you ever had. Pick the best three or four. Keep it concise and to the point, focusing on the most important information.

If you’re worried about showing employment gaps, you can add
“full employment record available upon request” at the end of that section.

6. Use a clean, professional layout

A cluttered or poorly designed resume can be a turn-off for hiring managers because they infer your work for them will be the same. Use a clean, professional layout that’s easy to read and navigate and that’s appropriate for your industry. While you’re at it, make sure your email address is professional too, and that it clearly lines up with your name. If your preferred email address is unavailable, for instance, “bobsmith@gmail.com,” try including your industry or specialty, such as “bobsmith_engineer@gmail.com,” or “bobsmith_bridgedesigner@gmail.com.”

IN REAL LIFE: In 2019, I reviewed a candidate’s resume whose email address
started with “1989hotlips.” If you want to be taken seriously, don’t do that.

7. Be strategic about job titles

You want your job titles to give hiring managers an idea of the level of responsibility you’ve had in the past. Be strategic about them. Use titles that reflect the job you are after whenever possible. For example, let’s say you are applying for a manager position. You have never held a manager job title, but you were responsible for managing three junior-level employees at your last job. It might be appropriate to add “Junior Manager” or “Manager-in-Training” to your job title.

Were you a Copywriter or were you really a Copywriter/Junior Manager
who trained, led, and provided critical feedback for three junior copywriters.

In summary, it’s important to tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for and highlight your achievements and show how you can solve the employer’s problem. Using action verbs and a clean, professional layout gives your resume more impact and makes it easier to read. And being strategic about your job titles and including relevant information can help showcase your experience and increase your chances of getting noticed by hiring managers. 

Remember, it’s not just about what you’ve done in the past;
it’s about how you can benefit a potential employer in the future.

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out trying to pull your resume together? Reeling from a job loss? Just click the button below to book a free consult. You don’t have to do it alone!

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