Job seekers: 3 creative ways to make your résumé stand out

Monday, October 16th, 2017 - Resume

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Earlier this week I came home to find my 15-year-old son preparing his first résumé. As he was walking around a shopping centre earlier that day, he saw a sign on a watch shop window, advertising a vacancy. As a watch enthusiast, this was a golden opportunity for him! However, as a year 9 student, his professional experience and education are limited, so he had to find other ways to demonstrate his value.

Unlike many teenage boys, this one actually asked for my opinion. Chuffed, I gave him some pointers on formatting, consistency of fonts, delivering a message which immediately pops out, and some other useful tips. I let him craft his own message, and describe himself in the best way he could. I reminded him that this isn’t the time to be humble and modest about his activities and achievements.

Yet as we were going through the exercise, I didn’t mention anything about his competition, and the fact that there are likely to be many others fighting for the same position. I wanted him to not worry about others, and focus on bringing out his own best.

Making your first résumé is hard work. For many people, it doesn’t get much easier, even as they climb up the ladder.

Every time you update your résumé, you do so applying for a new position, possibly with a new company, with a new hiring manager or recruiter. It’s like starting from scratch, isn’t it? It’s not that different from putting together your first résumé.

As you progress in your career, the value you need to demonstrate will be different, and unlike my 15-year-old son, you need to keep your competition in mind. Think about how others are likely to submit their résumés (frankly, it’s the same as you’ve done yourself so far, isn’t it?), and do something different.

So how can you stand out on your résumé?

1. The document

Most résumés in Australia will have the following attributes: A4 size (1+ pages), white background, portrait layout, word (or PDF) format and 12-16pt. Arial / Calibri font text, Times New Roman headings. I guesstimate that 99.9% of submitted résumés have these attributes. Why? Because this is the default, and people are inherently lazy.

How do you stand out in such a bland world? It’s quite obvious, right? Change something small, and you’re already ahead.

2. The content

Résumés are sequential in nature. There are “standard” formats, which include your professional experience, education, skills, and interests/hobbies. Some include their volunteer’s experience too, proudly presenting themselves as contributing members of our society. That’s great! I agree that the information should be there. Most of it, anyway.

But if you think of the reader, being a recruiter or a hiring manager, what do you think they want to see? What are they looking for, and how can they see it immediately when reading your document?

a) Title

Imagine you submit your résumé, with a tagline/title, which is closely aligned with the advertised position. Think of an email’s subject line or a newspaper headline. They are designed to make people stop wandering around, and read on, right? Most people make their name as the title of their résumé. How effective do you think that is?

b) Media

Most résumés are text-based, so how about you spice it up a bit? If you can showcase examples of work with images or illustrations, it will certainly stand out. If you’re reading this post, I assume you’re creative and work in a creative environment — use your skills to show your value on your résumé too! You can also include a link or a QR Code, linking to a video or online portfolio with additional information or examples of your work. 

3. The delivery

It’s too damn easy to click on “Easy Apply” in LinkedIn. If you do that, all you’re really doing is submitting your text-based LinkedIn profile to a searchable database, which your name will show up if you have the right keywords in the right density in your text. Not promising, is it? On the same note, if you just upload your résumé, with or without a cover letter, the chances that your submission will get lost among the other hundreds of applications is quite high.

So how do you make sure the recruiter/hiring manager reads your résumé or is even looking for it?

a) Print and send

It’s very easy to upload a doc from your computer, and hit “submit”. Too many people are doing that, hoping that the recruiter/hiring manager will read their application. “Hope” is not a strategy. So don’t rely on it. If you want to make sure your résumé is received and read, print and mail it. Yes, with a stamp and envelope and everything. I can promise you recruiters don’t receive many handwritten, personalised envelopes these days.

b) Lump it

Just in case they do, you can use a technique called “the lump”. Put a small pack of jellybeans, or find another way of packing an envelope with a lump inside. No one can resist the temptation to see what’s inside.

c) Follow up

An email/phone call/LinkedIn message will increase your chances of getting noticed.

Your résumé is your own branding exercise. Make sure it delivers the right message, stands out, and gets noticed.

If you’ve already done any of the above or have tried different ways to successfully stand out, please tell me in the comments below.

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