How to get your resume to the top of the stack
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Photo Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

When you are competing with hundreds of qualified applicants for the same job, you must think outside the box to get noticed – however, there is a fine line between standing out and going overboard.


Do I need a video resume? How about an infographic resume? Perhaps an eBook-style resume? Drawing attention to one’s credentials is important and we’d like to offer tips and ideas on how to make your resume stand out.

When you are competing with hundreds of qualified applicants for the same job, you must think outside the box to get noticed. However, there is a fine line between standing out and going overboard.

Crafting your resume

You need to consider your field and the type of company you want to work for. There are several styles of resumes you can choose from – a sleek executive or professional style (my top recommendation for everyone to have), a graphical PDF file (for hand delivering your resume or to use at job fairs, but not for online applications), personal websites or portfolios, and even creative video introductions on YouTube or Vimeo. Larger companies that use standard or customized HRIS software like Peoplesoft (known as Applicant Tracking Systems) in the Recruiting and HR world require that your resume be in a Microsoft Word document with no pictures, columns, or graphics.

This is for several reasons. Programs parse your resume and pick up key words and add this to a page that recruiters can glance at without having to open a document. When a recruiter has 1,000 applicants and chooses 15 key words to search from, you want to make sure your name pops up. The best way to do this is with a 2-3 page – yes 2-3 pages, 1 page resumes are a thing of the past – Word document that has accomplishment-based bullets and key words in each section.

During my recruiting career, I have had numerous Hiring Authorities tell me that they will not even consider a graphics-based, “pretty” resume. They feel the candidate was trying to overcompensate for lack of achievements or experience by using a colorful resume. This is usually not the case. I once had to decline a Chief Technical Officer an interview with our panel due to the format of his resume because he had all the qualifications and interviewed perfectly with me, but his resume was just not presented in an executive manner. Even new graduates with no experience have accomplishments from school, including projects, community work, clubs, and activities.

Resumes are a list of accomplishments. Remember that, and you will land interviews!

When to get creative

If you are attending a job fair, a one page graphical resume with a professionally taken photo on it is a good idea. Photos are not usually included on standard resumes, but can be included in job fair submissions so employers remember you. To impress the recruiter even more, offer the graphical resume as an introduction, with your 2-3 page executive style resume attached. It is all about showing initiative.

If you are planning on applying to a startup with less than 100–300 people, and if the job posting just asks you to email your resume to [email protected] (not using a database), you can push the creative boundaries more. This is when more of a graphic layout can stand out, but only for specific jobs. Make sure that if you use a graphic format, you still have exceptional, proofread content in accomplishment format. Do not list just duties, but rather show how your contributions improved a project or company.

If you are in a creative field like Digital Marketing, Social Media, or Public Relations, you can take it a step further. Although I always recommend the standard resume in addition to these, I will never forget when I sent a director a video resume that a candidate sent to me – finding me via LinkedIn, another tool you should use. Although the candidate was not qualified, the excitement and personality he exuded in the video gained him an interview. I would not recommend this for all types of positions, but it can help. This is a great idea to use when you have the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s direct contact information. A referral is even better.

You can also create a simple website that has your resume, a portfolio (depending on your career), client list, and even a bit about your personal life. I always recommend including both volunteer work and hobbies and interests. I cannot tell you how many times as a Recruiter I would choose one candidate over another with identical skills due to their interests or community work that was in line with the mission of the company. Personalized websites show the complete picture of who you are, which can be a determining factor for a company that hires with an eye towards fostering company culture, which is more and more common due to huge retention issues in every market.

Summing up

You first need a keyword-rich, professional resume (2-3 pages, even for new graduates). From there, you can add on graphics, videos, websites, and even power point slides. Just be sure that when applying online you use a Word document, not a PDF. Also, continue to network to find out who you can email a follow up message to. The follow up email is your chance to wow them with additional videos or graphics. Most applicant tracking systems will allow you to attach multiple files, so make sure the first is your Word resume. Later on, add on a video, PDF, and cover letter.

Remember: a resume is a list of accomplishments, not a list of duties and tasks. Rephrase every bullet to demonstrate how you made a positive impact, not just what you did.

This post was originally published on Fiverr‘s blog. 

Featured Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

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About Boomsa

Boomsa is a recruiter with over 15 years of experience. A Super Seller, she has helped thousands of people get hired with her resume writing and consulting.

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