September 20, 2016
Whether you’re a brand new international student or a seasoned professional looking for a career change, a well-crafted resume is one of the most useful tools in your job search. But how can you make yours stand out in a sea of other resumes? Before you grab the neon-colored paper and your megaphone, try these approaches to show you’re a stand-out candidate for the job.
It’s easy to spot a generic resume. Although it’s time-consuming to tailor your resume to each company you apply to, employers will notice that you’ve done your homework on the job requirements and know how to make important details pop. Some companies even use resume-scanning robots to search for job-specific phrases — just another reason to customize.
Look at your resume as if it were a stranger’s. It it too busy? Is the font big enough to gather the basics at a glance? Does it look modern or outdated? Try to see through the hiring manager’s eyes and make the visual layout of your resume clean and inviting.
You can only do so much to illustrate your qualifications with descriptions of your job duties. Begin your descriptions with active verbs like “oversaw,” “led,” or “taught” to illustrate your competencies. Try using hard data to back up your statements. Include whatever numerical values best describe your projects and their impacts, and your potential employer will see that you’re driven when it comes to accomplishing goals.
Specificity is always a great trait in a resume. Rather than saying you are “proficient with sales software,” for example, you might name the exact programs you’ve used. Not only is this more memorable for the reader — it also shows you’re an industry insider who will grasp the job quickly.
Were you part of a student group in college, a trade-based professional organization, or even a hobby group that has to do with the job you’re applying for? This is a great way to show your passion for your field and let employers get to know you a bit as a person in a professional way.
Too much of an educational focus on a resume can make applicants look inexperienced. Make sure to include your educational institutions, but leave that section for after your work experience unless you are applying for a role within academia.
Figure out what makes you shine as a global citizen working in the U.S. The flexibility, courage, and problem-solving skills necessary to thrive in a new country are huge assets on the job and can make your resume stand out. If you’ve had an optional practical training (OPT) job, for example, it will demonstrate that a previous employer saw special value in your skillset.
Some jobs require professional references, but these don’t belong on your resume. If they’re there, your references could be contacted too often during an intense job search — and you want to stay on their good sides, of course! Ask your references if they are willing to be contacted and what their preferred channels of communication are. Then give this information to any employer who asks for it in a separate document, and remember to follow up with thank-you notes to your references.
Most jobs are looking for a simple paper or PDF resume, but some fields that embrace creativity call for a bit more innovation. One way to really make an impression is to record a short, professional video resume to send along with your traditional one. It takes tact to know what sorts of employers would react well to this unconventional approach, so proceed with caution. Make sure to leverage technology with presentable social media and LinkedIn profiles, too.
Check out the viral resume of Nina Mufleh, that hit half a million views and landed her interviews with top companies, at nina4airbnb for some inspiration. Or create a template that highlights your best skills, and personality traits.
No matter how much experience you have, your resume should never go longer than a page or two. So how do you distill a wealth of education and employment into such a small space? Think in terms of bullet points, and include only the key information that will showcase you as the best candidate for the job. If coming up with a compelling bullet point is a stretch, consider whether or not it’s of enough importance to be included on your resume. After all, the point is to showcase best of the specific skills and accomplishments that make you the outstanding professional you are.
Writing the perfect resume is a lifelong project, and you’ll likely go through dozens of iterations throughout your career. While you do everything you can to land your dream job, it’s helpful to stay connected to helpful resources. Join the ModernLend communities on Facebook and Twitter for other useful tips, and subscribe to our blog for more insights to help you make the most of your unique skills. Remember, you got this. Good luck!