Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Make My Résumé Stand Out?

When it comes to applying for jobs, job seekers can sometimes be their own worst enemies. It all seems to boil down to one, easy to overcome obstacle: assumed laziness. Are you unknowingly making cardinal job seeker mistakes? How can you break free of the lazy job seeker stigma and begin to help—not hinder—your own career search? Here are top tips from real recruiters on how to conscientiously fine tune and make your résumé stand out.

The Devil Is in the Details

“While it may seem superficial, typos on a résumé are often a ‘game over’ reaction for many employers,” says Andrew Maguire, founder and CEO of Looksharp, the largest, online internship and entry-­level jobs marketplace. “In addition, résumés that are ill­-formatted, unclear and disorganized can say a lot about a person and his or her attention to detail. Recruiters can extrapolate a lot from seemingly simple, but critical, errors.”

Typos and formatting—these basic résumé blunders can be easily fixed by ambitiously proofreading it, reading your résumé aloud, and “getting someone else to review your résumé for you,” advises Jeff Calvin , senior manager of university and diversity recruiting for Acxiom. If hiring a certified résumé writer to help you craft or critique is not in your budget, consider asking a friend, or your university or alumni career services team to serve as your second pair of eyes.

Tweet This: The devil is in the details. Don’t let your #resume get tossed for typos! @ElevatedCareers @shannonsmedstad

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many companies require a completed, online employment application. It’s just how things are done these days.

“The biggest mistake a job seeker can make when filling out our online application is writing ‘See Resume’ in the online application fields,” remarks Marie Artim , vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise Holdings. “Recruiters are not necessarily looking first at the résumé file; they are reading the application. Not filling in fields makes applicants appear lazy.”

Though these online applications may seem like black holes, they are an unavoidable part of an often painful hiring process. In addition to making you appear lazy, not filling in fields can exclude your résumé from showing up when recruiters search their application systems. Also, what many recruiters will not tell you is when you input or upload your résumé into application systems, it can go from well­formatted to gobbledygook.

“When a job seeker I was working with uploaded his résumé, the formatting must have been corrupted,” shares Jo Weech, founder and president of Exemplary Consultants. “It was so disorganized, it was barely legible. I always advise candidates to save the fancy formatting when emailing, but use a very generic, plain text résumé for uploading.” Since different systems and communications often require different formats, you should consider having several file versions of your résumé, including:

  1. PDF for printing and emailing
  2. Google Doc or emailing or linking to from your LinkedIn profile, and
  3. A Word document in plain text (sans formatting) for uploading online

Become a Conscientious Résumé Writer

The best way to avoid résumé lethargy is to take each step of your job search seriously and enthusiastically, including your résumé. (It is, afterall, your number one marketing tool and a key to landing interviews!) “Using the same résumé for multiple jobs is huge mistake that I see many job seekers make,” asserts Tracie Waecker, director of university relations for NetSuite.

To overcome perceived laziness and stand out amidst a sea of homogeneous résumés, tailor yours specifically to roles and companies. “Read the job, make sure you are a fit,” recommends Mark Broadfoot , recruiting manager at Direct Energy. “Make sure your résumé reflects the job you are applying to.” By going above and beyond to research the opportunity first, you can craft a compelling résumé. Consider these four tips:

  1. Review the company’s career site to learn about their culture and then include how you are a fit within your objective or summary section.
  2. Understand the role by reading what current employees (in the same position) are saying on LinkedIn, and then highlight your relevant achievements.
  3. Research the company’s products and services a nd include how you’ve used them (if applicable).
  4. Discover what technologies, tools, and/or skills are critical to the business, and highlight your level of expertise.

And then read your résumé, proofread it, and then read it again. And then have someone else read it. Yes, this takes time and work. But when done well, it is the best way to have your résumé stand out.


Have a question? Ask a recruiter.

When it comes to job searching, work-life balance, and on-­the­-job success everyone seems to have questions. Elevated Careers by eHarmony is here to answer them, and help you land your next gig and unlock your career potential. So, don’t be shy—tweet us your most pressing question and we may answer it as part of our “Ask a Recruiter” column written by Shannon

Smedstad, a workplace consultant with more than 15 years of recruiting and branding experience.

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