How to Make Your Resume Stand Out (Part 1)

Time to stand out from the competition! That’s how your resume gets to the top of the pile. One way to accomplish this is to clearly illustrate your skills—both hard and soft. Sometimes, it’s not easy to show in writing, but that’s why it’s lacking in the resumes of your competition. Put in the work to make your resume “show” instead of “tell.” The result? Interview requests!

Let’s start with the basics

This blog actually gave me a kick-start with my own resume to see how I stack up. Sadly, my resume was not competitive! So as we get down to the nitty gritty here, I can assure you I gave my own resume the same critical eye.

Word choice matters

When listing languages, computer skills, etc., which words do you use to demonstrate your knowledge? Often, we’ll see things like “familiar with Excel” or “proficient in French.” However, those words really don’t demonstrate your level of fluency or proficiency. One could claim familiarity with Excel simply by virtue of the fact that they know it’s the spreadsheet software in the Office suite. At a literal level, that individual is familiar with Excel.

Proficiency in French could simply mean one can order a chocolate croissant in a Parisian bakery. Personally, I would never undervalue the benefits of ordering French pastry. Be that as it may, an employer who needs someone fluent in reading, writing, and speaking Canadian French needs a clearer idea of your skills.

Beware the fluffed-up resume (because your readers certainly will)

And now, I’ll get right to the other side of the coin. If using vague words is one’s way to fluff the resume by implying skills that may not fully exist, this is the time to change one’s approach. Initially, it may seem like a great idea. But at some point, the truth will come out. My rule of thumb is to assume you’re going to be tested in some way on each skill listed. If a skill can’t stand up to an assessment (or series of questions), it’s best left off. But if you’re able to test, then by all means include the skill.

A Specific Example that “shows” versus “tells”

From there, specifically express your skills. For Excel, maybe you’re advanced. In this case, list some specific advanced functions that you’re fluent in (ex. Pivot tables, v-lookups, etc.). Now you’re “showing” more than “telling.”

If you don’t know your level, check online for assessments or other tools that will rate your skills. You can then use that information as a guideline for your resume and for interview conversations. If you can’t specifically express your level of proficiency, that skill won’t really stand out because readers can’t gauge your skill level.

For next time

In part 2, we’re going to dig into some examples of soft skills that can really help your resume shine—simply by using examples of what you’ve already done! Check back to make sure your resume truly stands out from all the rest.