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7 Essential Elements to Create a Standout Resume

gold trophy in blue box for when you create a standout resumeIn a sea of competing applications, how do you create a standout resume? I entertained this question when a job seeker recently asked me what makes a resume exceptional. Here are seven key elements that can transform your resume from a run-of-the-mill document (“My resume is ‘fine.’”) to one that demands attention (“Wow! I look great on paper!”).

Seven Essential Elements to Create a Standout Resume

Element #1: Design That Delivers

Your resume is the first impression you make on a potential employer. Its design should be sleek, professional, and easy to read, for both human eyes and the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that many companies use to filter application documents. A clean and well-structured design ensures that your accomplishments and qualifications are apparent.

Element #2: Specific Accomplishments Over General Tasks

Employers are interested in what you’ve achieved, not just a list of your tasks and responsibilities. Focus on specific accomplishments and include quantifiable data wherever possible—percentages, dollar amounts, or numbers that reflect the scope of your achievements. Be specific!  For example, “streamlined the ordering process, reducing delivery time by 15%” is much more effective than “handled orders.”

Element #3: Intentional Use of Keywords

The use of keywords is essential, especially for ATS scanning. But be wary of “keyword vomit”— stuffing your resume with every industry- or skill-related term you can think of without the context to support its inclusion. Weave keywords into your achievements and experience and ensure that your resume and keywords are tailored to the role you’re applying for.

Element #4: Clear Profile Statement

Your resume should begin with a succinct profile statement or summary that gives employers an immediate understanding of who you are and what you bring to the table. This statement should highlight your unique value proposition and differentiate you from other candidates. It’s a chance to hook the reader and make them want to learn more about you.

Element #5: Self-Awareness Around Strengths

In addition to technical skills, employers look for skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork. Showcasing these strengths can set you apart. Include examples that illustrate how you’ve used these skills to solve problems or achieve goals to provide tangible evidence of your abilities.

Element #6: Examples of Success and Excellence

Create a standout resume by demonstrating that you stand out and excel at what you do. Show how you went above and beyond in your current and past roles. This could be through achievements, projects, or initiatives you’ve led or contributed to. Highlighting your successes makes you a more attractive candidate.

Element #7: Something Memorable about You as a Person

Lastly, adding a personal touch can make you memorable. This could be a small section about your interests or hobbies, a quirky fact about yourself, or even a personal anecdote related to your career; just make sure this section is not too long or unrelated to your professional goals. In resumes I’ve worked on, I’ve included information about marathons, photography, backpacking, and more. Adding something personal can help employers connect with you on a human level.

Takeaway

Your resume is your first chance to make an impression on a potential employer. By ensuring it’s easy to read, specific in its accomplishments, intentional in its keyword use, and showcases both your technical and soft skills, you’ll create a standout resume that sets you apart from the competition. Adding a personal touch can make you even more memorable. Remember, your resume is a personal marketing document—make sure it reflects the best of what you have to offer.

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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