The Three Golden Rules to Creating a Stand-Out Resume

Stand-Out Resumes

With no real end to the pandemic in sight, and with unemployment at record highs, now more than ever people looking for work need to stand out from the crowd. Especially since as career expert, Marlene Delanghe points out in her recent Wise Money Talks session, “only 2% to 3% of submitted resumes ever to make it out of the pile and land job seekers an interview.”

Marlene, who is the Founder and Principal of Career Solutions, has seen many highly qualified applicants get overlooked because of poorly written, and badly researched, resumes. From her experience in human resources and as an educator, Marlene has seen over 10,000 resumes in the last five years alone and as a result, knows first-hand what works and what does not. Eager to share her insights on how to leverage value within a targeted job market, Marlene focused on three key resume writing principles in her Wise Money Talks webinar called Your New Career: Stand-Out Resumes for Any Economy.

“It is all about creating your own narrative,” says Marlene, “and communicating your brand.” She suggests that because your brand is something that exists in the minds of others, you can shape and form how people see you by effectively telling your story through your resume. This is where you get to shine and highlight all of your accomplishments and achievements based on the where, when, how and with what education. “It is a story based on data. However, try not to focus too much on the smaller details,” cautions Marlene, “because then you lose sight of the broader picture.”

The main message that you want to communicate through your resume, according to Marlene, is “to show how you are aligned with what they are looking for and show what your impact has been by being targeted, showcasing your accomplishments and having a resume that is inviting to read (i.e., pretty).” This is all part of the story that you want to create (i.e., your brand) and the narrative that you communicate through your resume.

Marlene has summarized these key principles into what she calls her three “golden rules” to writing a stand-out resume that will help applicants get the interview and be one step closer to reaching their financial goals: Resumes should be targeted, accomplished, and pretty.

Writing stand-out resumes:

  1. Targeted

  • Do your Homework. You need to look at the job description and go deeper into it. Check out the company’s website and LinkedIn profile, get a sense of what they do and how they do it. What is the company’s culture, what do they value, and are you in alignment?
  • Target. You want to make sure that you target your resume to that role and to that employer. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the skills or attributes posted. Marlene suggests that the rule of thumb is “If you have 60% of the job requirements, you will at least be competitive for that position.” The trick is finding out which of the listed skills and attributes are most important to them.
  • Show them that you are a great fit. You want the potential employer to see that you understand what they are looking for and quickly show them why you are a great candidate. Remember, you only have 8 to 10 seconds to catch their attention.
  • Language. Use descriptive words and verbs that clearly demonstrate your impact. You also want to highlight your soft skills, relating back to what they outlined in the posting. Keep in mind that it is also important to avoid clichés. Don’t just say you have excellent communication skills, but rather go deeper and be specific to the job posting.
  1. Accomplished

  • Work Experience. This is the section of your resume under work experience where you show your value and impact with strong, evidence-based sentences. For example, implemented a new sales strategy that increased sales by 50% over six months.
  • Metrics. Make sure there are numbers to support what you have accomplished, and the higher the job you are going for, the more you have to do that. Recruiters measure your performance by how you made a difference or improved things. That is, did you save them money, did you make customers happy, did you implement something that made a difference, or did you solve a problem that had been plaguing them?
  1. Pretty

  • Design. Make sure your resume is inviting to read. Typically, experience goes first and then education shows up near the bottom. Hit them where it counts. Resumes are generally two pages in length in Canada. In terms of layout, many people use resume design templates (e.g., Canva). Just be mindful that not all designs will work for you. Choose a layout that fits the type of position for which you are applying.
  • Photos. Rule of thumb is that photos are not recommended on resumes. Photos can lead towards potential discrimination. However, it is acceptable to have a photo on your LinkedIn profile (It is not necessary to have a profile, but it sometimes does help).
  • Interests. Avoid what Marlene calls “fluffy words.” Keep proving your value and don’t dismiss or devalue other activities (e.g., passion projects) as people look at this to get an idea as to your interests and what matters to you. This will help round out your resume and add to your narrative. Recruiters look at the whole story. They want great people, and overall they really do want to like you.

For more resume tips and strategies, listen to Marlene’s complete Wise Money Talks webinar.

Some of Marlene’s Recommended Resources

SFU Curated Career Resources

Canva Resume Templates

Monster Career Advice

My Perfect Resume (see free tips)