Looking For A New Job This Year? Here’s How To Make Your Resume Stand Out

Well, we’ve almost made it through January, and you know what that means: ‘Tis the season to tear down the Christmas tree you’ve had up since Thanksgiving, install the heavy-duty snow tires you’ve been putting off all winter, and revisit those New Year’s resolutions you latched on to during a burst of mirthful motivation at your last holiday party. 

If you sacrificed your bank account to your local gym manager but have yet to set foot in the locker room, don’t fret — the gym is a cesspool of coronavirus right now, anyway. But if one of your fervent resolutions was to go after that new job you’ve been eyeing shyly for a while, now is the perfect time to shoot your shot.

You’re certainly not alone. According to a recent survey of American workers, one in four said they were planning to find a new job once the threat of the pandemic subsided. And in a widespread effort that economists have called the Great Resignation, more than 20 million people have already quit their jobs in the second half of 2021. 

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What does this mean for you? On the one hand, the world is practically your oyster, because everywhere from the mom-and-pop pub down the street to the fancy Fortune 500 franchise downtown is enthusiastically hiring. On the other hand, since everyone and her mother is also primed to pounce on the next great job opportunity, the competition out there is fierce — so you may want to blow the dust off your resume and give it that long-overdue “New Year, New You” makeover.

Yep, it’s time to refresh that resume, and to learn how to make your resume stand out from the hundreds.

If even the thought of glancing at your old CV makes you wince or shudder in agony, you’re not alone — we all have that summer job from the ‘90s that we’re embarrassed about showcasing on ours for too long. (For me, it was a month-long stint at T.C.B.Y., where my claim to fame was breaking the milkshake blender not once, but twice, in a single week.)

But you can do it! Take a deep breath, dig up the dusty doc, maybe even build some new soft skills, and resolve to give that resume a royal refresh this season.

We hit up some top HR pros for their best advice for job seekers. Here are their tips and tricks to recharge your resume and nab the new job of your dreams.

Keep It Short And Sweet

Remember you’re not writing a novel — your resume should only be about a page or two.

“Keep it short, snappy, and sweet,” says Chara Yadav, press and HR director at AskAnyDifference. “Prospective employers don’t want to know your life story; they just want to know your educational background, a little personal information, and the relevant and professional experience that makes you qualified for the position. Less is more.”

Tailor To The Job Description

Unless it’s relevant to the position you’re targeting, you probably don’t need to list that summer job from a decade ago — tailor your resume to the description at hand.

“It’s worth rewriting your CV or resume for specific positions to highlight and emphasize your suitability for a particular position before you send it off,” Yadav advises. “Read the vacancy, re-re-read it and then read it again and make sure your CV is a perfect fit for it by adjusting, resizing, and reshaping it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure your resume knocks your would-be employer off their feet when they read it.”

Write A Solid Summary 

A summary statement is a short paragraph at the top of your resume that highlights your skills and experience.

“Since the summary is the first section that a hiring manager sees, you want it to make the most positive impression possible,” says Matthew Warzel, president of MJW Careers, a resume-writing firm. “This is a major part of your messaging — WOW them!”

“The summary should be made of 3-5 sentences, written in one paragraph, that capture the best of what you have to offer an employer,” Warzel explains. “Consider it your elevator pitch, or what you would say if you had 30 seconds to sell yourself for a job.”

Use The Right Keywords

Buzzwords may seem like a bore, but they’re essential to boost your resume. “Use good keywords that match up with what the company is looking for,” emphasizes Erica Nall, an HR director and hiring manager.

“I’m not talking about stuffing your resume full of every single word in the dictionary like some people do (that doesn’t work), but rather using important words and phrases that are relevant to this position. Showing up on good search results for good keywords shows that you are good at what you do.”

“You should pick words that will describe skills and achievements, so it’s easier for someone looking at your resume to see what kind of role you’d be right for,” Nall advises. “But don’t use cliches or words that don’t fit what you have actually done. Don’t even think about using big, long industry terms unless you are really sure they will be understood by the person reading your resume.”

Choose Action Verbs

If you want your resume to pop from the applicant pool, harness the power of action verbs. “The way you word your experiences and skill set is important, so begin each statement with an impactful action verb to make your resume stand out to employers,” says Eva Chan, a professional resume writer and career coach at Resume Genius.

“While passive words like ‘responsible for’ or ‘tasked with’ merely show that you’ve completed a task, impactful action verbs like ‘managed,’ ‘facilitated,’ ‘designed,’ and ‘produced’ show that you’re a confident applicant and illustrate what you’ve accomplished in your role.”

Show Off Measurable Results

Prospective employers want to see accomplishments that are measurable, so deliver the data and hard facts.

“Hiring managers only spend a few seconds looking at each resume, so remember to add hard numbers and relevant details to give them a clear picture of your achievements and present the positive results of your work,” Chan advises. “Hard numbers include percentages, dollar amounts, time worked, and people you assisted or managed.”

Highlight Soft Skills, Too

If the competition has comparable hard skills, set yourself apart with your stunning soft skills. “Soft skills are things like teamwork or communication. These are important, too!” emphasizes Nall. “These could help someone looking at your resume decide whether they want to interview you, so make sure these are included in your bullet points.”

“Many people don’t think of these as hard skills, but there is a lot that goes into them, such as communication, teamwork, leadership, planning, and problem solving,” Nall explains. “In fact, many companies actually list this as one of the main qualifications they look for when hiring new employees.”

Skip The Objectives 

Despite what we were told in the olden days, objectives are outdated in today’s job market.

“Objectives are generally not needed on a resume. It is more important to have the skills and knowledge that you can bring to the company, instead of telling them what they should be looking for in an employee,” Nall says. “This is a commonly skipped section in the scanning process, as hiring managers want to get to the meat of your resume, which is your summary, job history, skills, and education.”

Add Remote Work Skills

Another key component to keep your resume up with the times is to relay how you work remotely.

“After COVID forced many offices to close, remote job skills have become more desirable,” explains Ryan Yount, CEO of LuckLuckGo, a software company. “When updating your CV, it’s a good idea to include any work-from-home skills and be on the lookout for mentions on any remote-work collaboration tools like Google Docs, Asana, and Skype, among others, in a company’s job description.”

Don’t Ignore Appearance

Part of making a powerful first impression is in your resume’s presentation. “Make sure that first impression is memorable by making sure the layout of your resume looks clean and that it’s easy to read,” Nall advises. “You want to make sure you are grabbing most people’s attention, so it has clear headings and white space. Use subtitles for different sections if necessary, bullet point what experiences you have had, don’t forget good grammar and spelling.”

“Make sure you use concise bullet points, not lists,” Nall continues. “Bullet points are easier on the eyes and give a better overview for hiring managers who might not have time to go through everything word by word on your resume.”

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

And speaking of spelling and grammar, you want to make sure yours is superb.

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“Proofreading has been a mainstay of effective resume writing for years now, and it still is,” says Thomas Hawkins, head of HR at Electrician Apprentice HQ. “Proofread it yourself, have a friend proofread it, then proofread it again. Believe it or not, even one single grammatical error could potentially cost you a job offer. That’s just how the job market is right now.”

Include A Cover Letter

The consensus on the cover letter can be controversial, but err on the side of attaching it. “It’s easy to focus on your resume, but don’t skip over that separate piece of paper altogether,” emphasizes Nall. “A good resume is no substitute for an excellent cover letter.”

“Think of it as your advertisement — you are presenting yourself in the best possible light and trying to be sure [the employer] wants to interview you! You want them excited about meeting with you, so don’t leave it out,” Nall says. “This is a great way to show the company that you understand what they are looking for and why you would be a good fit. You can also include information about your resume in this letter, if needed — but don’t repeat it verbatim!”

Ready, set, sell yourself! And you never know: you just might meet new colleagues who can help you tackle your gym resolution, too.


Have you recently resigned from your pre-pandemic job? Do you have any of your own tips and tricks for new job seekers? Share in the comments!

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