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Let’s face it, looking for a job is stressful. And for many people, like myself, the stress already begins when I think of just one word: resumé. Why? Because recruiters and hiring managers spend on average only SIX seconds reviewing each resumé! That’s intimidating!

Fresh out of graduate school and not a lot professional experience under my belt, I recently went through the nail-biting application process myself. Through trial, error and feedback from others, I narrowed my success factor down to these five things.

1. Style and Format

Resumés come in all shapes, sizes and formats. Depending on the type of position you are applying for, your resumé may require some major out of the box thinking.


If you are applying to a creative agency, you may need a more dynamic, catchy format than an A4. Here’s one of my favorite examples of an interactive resume.  But if on the other hand, you are applying for a position in finance, an interactive resumé may not be the right fit. An A4 word style resumé may be better.

My point? Consider the position and company and choose a format that will fit best into the “mindset” of your hiring manager. Don’t be lured in by cool tools just to create a “wow” effect. Choose a style format that fits the position. This doesn’t mean you need to be boring, you can add your own flair, such as color. Just be appropriate!

A note to color:

Color may not be something we all think about when it comes to resumés, but a little color goes a long way in leaving a good impression. But don’t just pick any color — pick a color that reflects your personality– your personal brand.


Once you have chosen the style that will fit the company and position you are applying for, format is the next thing to think about:

  • Chronological Resumé – In this Resumé, you will highlight your Work Experience, starting by the latest job you’ve held and continuing in reverse chronological order.
  • Combination Resumé – This type of Resumé will help you set the spotlight mainly on your skills going over Work Experience and Work History afterwards.
  • Targeted Resumé – You will use a Targeted Resumé when you want to focus on some specific skills and experience for a particular job.

My goal was to convey a “straight forward communication” style, highlighting only some specific job experiences that related to the position. I chose a Targeted Resumé and listed the information I thought most relevant to a hiring manager in my sector.

I also wanted whomever read my Resumé to get to know a bit more of how I see myself professionally rather than just listing abilities, which is why I included a “Summary” area above my Experience.

2. Your Website and social profiles

The recruiter or hiring manager will most certainly do a quick search to see what comes up under your name. Make it easy for them. Set up your website and make sure it talks about you, your achievements and expertise. Using this business name generator you can pick a domain name for you as well as have your logo created as well:

Add the profile information for the platforms you feel represent you best to your Resumé. You probably don’t need to list them all. Focus on the one or two that represent you best. They will appreciate not needing to search you out themselves.

If you are using LinkedIn or another professional platform to highlight career achievements, take time to sync your professional information with what is on your Resumé. You’ll want to avoid conflicting data and dates.

Tip! If you can afford an upgrade to LinkedIn premium, consider the option while you are job searching. The extra features can help you target and reach larger audiences.

Lastly, think about your overall social presence. A Resumé is the first foot in the door. If a hiring manager is serious about you they will do their research.

Make sure all of your other profiles reflect your best side and use social networks and profiles to your advantage to catch the eye of your targeted companies. (Read about success stories at the bottom of this post.)

3. Grammar and spelling

While presentation is half the battle, the importance of grammar and spelling can’t be stressed enough. Good spelling and proper grammar is more than just a courtesy, both are “must haves”, signaling intelligence and good education.

In today’s world of online helpers and apps, there really isn’t a good excuse for spelling errors but some English words could be tricky to spell. I feel my command of the English language is fairly good, English isn’t my mother tongue so I keep sites and services such as Grammarly, Grammar Girl, Dictionary.com, and perhaps one of the most fun, Howjsay, bookmarked in my favorites menu.

Before I send out my Resumé I always pass it on to two or three trusted people to proofread it. A second, or third opinion never hurts.

4. Be honest, be authentic

Honesty is not to be taken for granted, especially when it comes to your career.

If you’re feeling compelled to stretch the truth into falsehood, you may want to think twice.

More than fifty percent of resumes contain falsifications. Hiring managers are short on time and considering how quickly facts can be validated today, honesty is truly the best strategy.

Having said that, a little creativity is okay. One way I like to keep myself honest is with the “Pass” test.

The Pass test is pretty simple. Stand in front of the mirror and read out loud each bullet included or activity description you have listed.  If you can give an answer for each point within 30 seconds, without stammering, then you probably haven’t exaggerated too extensively. Why? It takes us longer to create truths than to speak them.

If you can’t come up with a clear and concise answer, then “Pass” on it and rework that skill or description your Resumé.

There are honest ways to make your Resumé work even if you have insecurities. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you’re worried you don’t have too much experience try focusing your message on your education and highlight class projects you worked on and specific skill-sets learned.
  • If you have a lot of practical work experience but didn’t get complete a higher education degree, highlight your abilities and accomplishments.
  • Have you participated in any trainings or attended any conferences lately? Include them. They count towards your ongoing education.
  • Add a hobby or characteristic that you feel distinguishes you from the rest. Sheep farmer, drag racer, master chef, magician…it’s all interesting and makes for great a great ice breaker in an interview.

Creativity counts (just don’t lie).

5. Make different editions of it and include a cover letter

Ok, so most people just have ONE go-to Resumé that they send everyone – I recommend against that. Take a bit more time and try to match your Resumé with a job description, highlighting different experiences or education will help for different positions.

So, along with including a Cover Letter, you should also make different editions of your Resumé. This is especially important if you have a very diverse career where many positions apply to your skills.

Getting your Resumé to the top of the list is a combination of factors: good story telling in summary on your cover letter to get you noticed, an appealing format that guides the eye and a little creativity.

Image source: Be yourself