Standing out from other candidates requires a resume that looks as solid as the experience it’s presenting.
By Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Without a reviewer-friendly resume, even the most talented professional might be passed over for a competitor. By encasing your experience in an eye-catching design, you’ll receive more than just a glance from reviewers.
Place your strongest selling points near the top of your resume, though not in explicit detail. If you fail to grab the reviewer’s attention in the first few lines, she’ll probably stop reading.
New York-based certified resume writer Ann Baehr, recommends starting off with an attention-grabbing headline, written in all caps and boldface type, centered just below your name and address.
"I call it a branding statement," says Baehr. "It’s a concise, hard hitting statement about who you are."
Baehr recommends following the branding statement with several centered tag lines, also in boldface type. These enhance your branding statement by providing examples of your most relevant experience.
If you’ve earned a number of technical certifications, mention it in a tag line, then include the specifics at the bottom of your resume.
When creating the experience section, strategically use bullets and boldface to draw the reviewer toward the points you want to highlight. "A reviewer is 20 percent more likely to read a bulleted statement," explains Marie Plett, CPRW, president of AspirationsResume.com.
Plett recommends creating category headings in boldface, as well as the first achievement statement under each position in your experience summary. Typical job duties should be discussed in paragraph format, not bullets, since they won’t distinguish you from other candidates. No achievement statement should be longer than six or seven lines. More than that, and you risk losing the reviewer’s attention.
While the use of boldface draws attention to specific words, don’t use the technique randomly. "Too much can become distracting," says Plett. "And if you attempt to emphasize everything, you end up emphasizing nothing."
As an example, Baehr boldfaces job titles or company names like GOOGLE, spelling them in capital letters, especially if the candidate has worked for prestigious firms that will attract other employers. She’ll opt to boldface different words – like coaching and mentoring – if they tell a story about the evolution of the candidate’s career. Don’t bold job description key words, since they’ll be picked up automatically by the resume scanner. And, don’t bold action verbs or clichÃ©s. Doing that often denotes canned resume content.
Reviewers want to read more about your experience when information is presented in a clear, organized format. As an example, consider the layout of a newspaper’s front page as an example of the use of space and font. Separate major categories by one and a half spaces, and don’t go below an 11-point font. That makes the resume is easy on the eye. Edit your content so the information isn’t crowded, but completely fills each page. Another hint from Plett: Include additional keywords, without taking up valuable space, by listing them in the property section of Microsoft Word documents. Find it under the file drop-down menu.
While a classic, professional resume design is best for most positions, incorporate tasteful, artistic flair if you work in a creative field like Web design. But proceed carefully: Don’t distract the reviewer from your resume’s content.
Finally, consider listing your technical capabilities in borderless boxes, broken down by major categories, as a way to set those skills apart, suggests Baehr. Also consider importing a graph or excel table demonstrating actual project expenditures versus budget.
"Reviewers don’t have the patience to read every word," says Baehr. "Break things up visually, so your resume interests the reviewer. If nothing stands out, they won’t be impressed."
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a writer in California.