How to make a resume that gets you noticed

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It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s never been so much competition for your average job vacancy – hiring managers are often confronted with hundreds of resumes for each open position.

While that’s great for them, it means that it can be difficult for candidates to stand out from the literal crowd. If you’re one of those candidates, it’s never been more important to make sure your resume is perfect and that it’s eye-catching in all the right ways.

We’ve explored some of the best ways to get your resume noticed, from subtle tweaks to wholesale changes, so keep reading if your applications need a leg-up.

There’s plenty more application advice elsewhere on the site, too: we’ve explored the best resume building software and our favorite US job sites.

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Kick off with a bang

Your resume needs to immediately impress – recruiters will decide within seconds if they’re going to keep reading.

At the top of the document, consider including a short summary paragraph that says, concisely, exactly why you’re right for the job, and follow that with a handful of bullet points that list your key skills and achievements. If you do this right, it’ll immediately capture the recruiter’s attention.

Make sure that the header used on the document is sleek and easy to read – if you use the same layout and font on your cover letter, too, you’ll impress with your consistency.

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Show off your working life

A resume is not the place to be modest. When you’re explaining your professional achievements, you should highlight your achievements rather than your day-to-day duties. If possible, use data to quantify your achievements – it’s proof that you have a positive impact.

Your career history section needs to show how you can benefit your employer, so concentrate on outcomes that improved your previous workplaces.

It’s important to show your leadership skills in this section, too, even if you’re not applying for a management position – those abilities always come in handy. Similarly, highlight your versatility, because recruiters always like that in any new hire.

If you’ve mentioned your LinkedIn page anywhere on your resume, make sure it matches what’s included on the resume.

We’ve got a couple of more unusual suggestions, too. If you’ve got relevant skills that you’ve gained outside of work, don’t be afraid to mention them – they’re still valuable. And if you’ve had negative experiences at work and learned something important, don’t be afraid to mention those too – it can show good character.

Reflect the job description

Lots of people will have a resume that they use for every job application. If you can tailor your resume to individual jobs, then you’ll instantly get a leg up on loads of candidates.

Make sure the skills listed on your resume match the skills that the company has mentioned in its job listing so that recruiters know you’re ready to perform the role.

Also remember that loads of big companies use automated systems to sift through resumes. You’ll find more success if you take that into account and tailor your resume accordingly. If you use acronyms to describe concepts, companies or technical details, write the full names out too so automated systems will definitely catch the reference.

Also make sure to take notice of the key words use in the job listing. Automated systems are usually programmed to notice those same words, so if you can mention the same tools, processes and industry-specific language then you’re more likely to get noticed.

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Delete irrelevant information

Most resumes have plenty of information that just isn’t necessary in 2022. You don’t need to mention your high school education – it’s just not relevant. Most of the time you can bump your whole education section to the bottom of the document unless you’re applying for an academic role.

You can safely remove part-time positions from your youth and any jobs from more than fifteen years ago unless they’re still relevant today, and consider ditching information on your hobbies and personal life as it’s probably not important for the job listing.

Don’t bother including a line to say that “references are available on request,” either – companies know that already, and they’ll ask if they want to see your references.

Language and layout

Use a simple, straightforward layout for your resume – it’s tempting to try and stand out with a creative design, but they’re annoying for recruiters and tricky for automated systems to read. If you do want to show off your creativity, link to an online portfolio instead.

Pair a simple layout with a popular font to keep the text easy to read. Increase line spacing to make your resume more readable, and reduce your margins if you need room. You can even remove lines that hold single words – getting rid of those can save plenty of space.

You should pay lots of attention to the language you’ve used. Scour the document: swap dull verbs and adjectives for more interesting alternatives. Avoid cliches, because recruiters will skim over those, and use numerical numbers rather than written numbers – they stand out more.

Finally, read your resume out loud to spot sentences that sound awkward and clunky – it’s a trick that novelists use to tidy up their prose. Make sure your layout is consistent, and check for spelling and grammatical errors.

When you’re ready to send the document, save the file as a PDF unless you’re instructed otherwise. You should also use your name in the file name so it’ll stand out in a sea of files that are just called “Resume.PDF”.

There’s a fine art to putting together a winning resume, and it’s even trickier now that automation is so popular – but if you follow these tips and use these tricks, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.

Don’t forget soft skills 

It goes without saying that you’ll include all of the relevant hard skills on your resume. From technical knowledge to legal know-how, you need to show off that you can handle the job’s everyday responsibilities.

It’s crucial to show off your soft skills, too. They’re all too easy to miss when you’re putting together a resume, but they’re just as important as hard skills.

You might not have a certificate to show it, for instance, but your resume needs to demonstrate that you’re a great communicator. Whether you’re applying for a management role or an entry-level position, if you can communicate well verbally and in written forms, you’re going to have a better time at work and have a greater chance of progressing up the career ladder.

If you can prove that you’re a capable and effective leader, you’ll be more likely to secure the new job, and teamwork is a critical soft skill that any recruiter will be pleased to see on a resume. Similarly, you can use your resume’s career history or your personal interests section to demonstrate your creativity. The document can also show off your problem-solving skills to ensure that the recruiters know you can tackle workplace issues when they arise.

Finally, use your resume to indicate that you’re organized, level-headed and great at managing your time. That’s critical in any job where you’re going to have to juggle multiple tasks, and it gives hiring managers confidence that you can cope with stressful and rapidly-changing situations.

There’s no one best approach when it comes to showing off soft skills. It’ll often be possible to use data and quantifiable results to support your claims of great leadership, while other soft skills are harder to nail down and you’ll have to mention them in other areas of the document – and bolster those inclusions verbally with anecdotal evidence.

Regardless of your approach, though, it’s crucial to make sure soft skills aren’t forgotten – when a recruiter is weighing up several well-qualified candidates, those skills can make a difference. 

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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.