What Makes a Great Resume?

In such a competitive job market, it’s important to try your best to get a leg up on other applicants. So what makes a standout resume? Here are a few tips.

Quantify your accomplishments.
We’ve said this about a million times throughout our other articles, and so the fact that I’m repeating it yet again shows just how important it is to provide metrics to measure your success in your resume bullet points. It’s important for many reasons, the first of which is it simply sounds more impressive than a generalized job description. More importantly, though, quantifying your accomplishments provides a way for you to clearly show and explain your accomplishments to a recruiter.

For example, if someone told you they “successfully managed a social media marketing program,” that sounds fine. But can you really tell how good they were at doing so, or how successful that program was? It can be as simple as saying you “managed a social media marketing program that resulted in a 23% increase in clicks and a 12% increase in online sales.” With the second bullet point, a recruiter reads that and says “Okay, I can see that this person did some of the right things with this marketing program, I’m interested to know how that worked. Let’s bring them in for an interview.”

Focus on what makes you unique.
I don’t mean that in some abstract, I love my quirks kind of way, I mean that more in an analytical, retrospective way. Essentially what it boils down to is this question - What did you do that other employees didn’t do, and what made you different from the other employees? I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea for you to outright say you worked harder or simply did better work, but there are ways to portray that in a more professional way. It might be a good idea to really think about what you did compared to people who had your same job title.

Think about it first in terms of tasks or projects. Did your boss or firm have you on any special projects or did you work closely with an executive? Did you have an integral role on a team that led to a project’s success? Think of similar situations, and if they apply to you, absolutely talk about them on your resume. In all likelihood, people who held similar jobs to you will be applying to the positions that you apply to. Thus, you’ll have similar job descriptions and will have worked on similar things. So, differentiate yourself by touching on what you did differently in your past experience. That being said, don’t list unrelated stuff. That brings up my next point.

Focus on past experiences that are relevant to the job you’re applying to.
Target your resume. This only really applies if you have a lot of past job or student group experience and have the ability to target your resume to specific jobs. You should try to touch on qualities that you think are most relevant to the job you’re applying to, but have a breadth of experiences that show those qualities. For example, if you’re applying to a quantitative, analytical job, you should emphasize that ability by listing your experiences as, say, an analyst but you should within those roles describe other aspects of your personality that recruiters like to see - leadership, communication skills, drive, and so on. Conversely, you can also try to explain those qualities recruiters like to see across many jobs. For example, you can show leadership through many different job titles or experiences. You might have been the director of a student group in college, maybe an analyst at a bank who happened to take the lead on a project, and so on. Diversify your experiences and skills, but keep them on track towards being relevant to the job you’re applying to.

Pay close attention to the details. There’s nothing that turns recruiters off more than formatting, spelling, or grammar mistakes on your resume. When I’m reviewing resumes, the first thing I look for - or maybe the first thing that catches my eye - is small mistakes in formatting, spelling, or grammar. And yes you can call me out on it but I still use the Oxford comma because I think it makes sense. Anyway, I have heard a ton of stories about recruiters or professionals giving feedback to people on their resumes saying very minor mistakes - like a misplaced period or italicized letter - detracted a lot from a resume.

Keep in mind that you want people who look at your resume to judge you as an applicant based on the content on your resume, not based on the fact that you had a few mistakes here and there. Basically, don’t give a recruiter the opportunity to call you out on having poor attention to detail. You want them to be blown away by your experiences, not putting your resume down saying that you “only had one or two mistakes.”

Tell a story.
The best resumes out there make the reader feel like they truly grasp what a person is all about after reading their resume from top to bottom. Recruiters want to be able to take a step back once they read your resume and be able to confidently say that they understand why you’re applying to work at their firm. From start to finish, your resume should lead you down a narrowing path that ends at the job you’re applying to. Whether it be your past work experiences, dialing in your skill set, or finding your purpose in life - point it towards the job you’re applying to.

At the end of the day, those things mentioned above are what separates the best from the rest. To have a good foundation, you need to have great content on your resume. That happens long before you write your resume and long before the things mentioned above actually make a significant difference. Here at Backlight, we use artificial intelligence paired with resume experts to build, edit, and optimize your resume. We understand that there are a lot of resources out there to learn how to write a great resume, but it’s a lot easier said than done. We’re trying to bring professional quality at a bargain price to the resume writing industry, so check out the rest of our site here!