10 tips to making a resume that will stand out in the pile

10 tips to making a resume that will stand out in the pile

I have a lot of thoughts about resumes – I mean, a lot of thoughts – and I wanted to share a roundup of the best resume tips I have for anyone getting their resume in tip-top shape for the upcoming internship hiring season.

1. Keep it simple, stupid.

This is my number one tip when it comes to resume tips.

If you are not a graphic designer or applying to a creative job, you do not need a creative resume. If you are looking to work in a creative field or a field where having Creative Cloud skills is necessary, then a more creative resume makes sense.

Your resume should be informative and easy to read. Yes, it should stand out, but you don’t want it to be distracting. That’s the difference.

Some other basics to get you started when it comes to simplicity…

  • Get out Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Word and put it together.
  • Use one or two fonts, max. A combo of one serif and one sans serif font works well and stands out.
  • Utilize different font sizes, bolding and italicizing.
  • Avoid script fonts.
  • If you want to add color to your resume, aim for one accent color that makes sense. Have a black & white version.
  • Always save it as a PDF.
  • You don’t need cute icons.

2. Customize your resume.

Remember when Paris Gellar and Rory Gilmore are getting ready to graduate, and Paris talks about the different versions of her resume? She isn’t completely crazy. I know.

You should have more than one version of your resume. Reorganize and reword your resume for each and every job you apply to, or have a few versions of your resume for specific jobs. If you’re just submitting resumes left and right to 100 companies, you aren’t going to have as much as luck as you would if you made a personalized version of your resume for 10 jobs.

Consider what experience is most relevant. For example, I have experience in sales and marketing and experience in audience growth and engagement. Those experiences complement each other, but different jobs will value that experience differently.

Another example: Say you’re in communications and you’re applying for a job within the government or a very corporate company and also a job with a startup marketing firm. Those two hiring managers are looking for very different skills and work experiences, and you shouldn’t expect one resume to fit both jobs.

3. Pay attention to your tenses.

This is literally so small, so so so small, but if you remember my last post, consistency matters.

I am a big believer that your work experience should be ordered chronologically — meaning the positions you currently hold are at the top, followed by positions you no longer hold in chronological order. You should distinguish between jobs you are doing now and jobs you are not doing anymore by changing the verb tense for each position. This is a small detail that means a lot to me, as a person who hires.

Note: Also make sure you list when you started a position and when you stopped (or that you’re still doing it.)

4. Quantify your work.

This is one of the most important things anyone has ever told me. Every time I asked for resume help in college, my advisors and mentors emphasized the importance of quantifying my work.

So that means instead of saying I edited stories for The Daily Tar Heel, I said that I edited between 10 and 15 stories a day, five days a week, for The Daily Tar Heel, which had a print circulation of 14,000 copies a day and reached 25,000+ people every day online.

5. Don’t waste space with the skills everyone has.

Everyone knows how to use PowerPoint. Sorry, but it’s true. Remove it — it’s a waste of space.

Not everybody knows the Adobe Creative Suite or is fluent in Spanish or can use a DSLR like a pro. Include the skills that make you different and valuable.

Similarly: If you show through your work experience that you are a strong editor or writer, you don’t need to say that you are a strong editor under your skills section. Your work experience shows it.

6. Don’t include things from high school.

Unless you have been in college for no more than 30 seconds, leave it off.

If you’re including it because you don’t have any or nearly enough college or post-college experience to fill a page … Stop what you’re doing and reevaluate. Join a club or something.

7. Use powerful verbs.

Too often, people start every sentence with “Responsible for,” “handled,” “led” or “managed.” Use powerful verbs that convey what you did and give more value and importance to your tasks. It’s very similar to quantifying your work. A powerful verb makes you stand out from the hundreds of other candidates who have also been responsible for menial tasks as an intern at some company or another. It’s all about standing out.

I am literally linking to a list of 185 powerful verbs to use instead.

8. Skip the content that feels and looks compulsory.

That includes things like “references upon request” and an “objective” sentence. It is a waste of space, y’all. It just is.

Something else that seems compulsory but isn’t necessary: Your home address.

My opinion: Include your cell phone number, email, website and LinkedIn profile. Maybe your Twitter if that would be appropriate for your industry.

No one is mailing you anything anymore, and if you include a home address that isn’t in the area of the job you’re applying for, it could put you out of the running — even if you are 100 percent willing to relocate or move to the moon for a job.

Also, you may think your college GPA is important … but it’s really not. Unless the job you’re applying for asks for a GPA or has a GPA requirement or your GPA is above a 3.5, I would leave it out.

9. Put your most pertinent experiences at the top.

Sometimes, I’ve seen sections called “JOURNALISM (or industry you’re applying for specifically) EXPERIENCE” and “OTHER EXPERIENCE.” That way, you don’t have to be restricted to chronological order — put your most relevant work at the top in a different section from the experience you want to include but isn’t the most relevant.

For example, if you have experience in both marketing, public relations and digital marketing and are applying for a digital marketing position, it makes sense to have a DIGITAL MARKETING EXPERIENCE section and an OTHER EXPERIENCE section.

But please stick with chronological order within those categories because otherwise, it does get messy and confusing.

10. List your honors but only if they’re things people might recognize.

Winning a scholarship or award is great, but if you don’t have room to explain what it is or why you received it, it’s probably not worth including. You don’t want people to have to guess how big of a deal it is that you won a scholarship in your first year of college three years ago.

But if you, say, were a Morehead Cain Scholar at UNC (a big deal and well-known in North Carolina, at least) then you would’t need to break that down. If you win an award that has somewhat of an explanation in the title (like a community journalism award I won last year), that probably will also suffice.


And there you have it! My resume tips for anyone looking to polish their resume and make sure it stands out in the pile this internship season.

Do you have any resume tips to share?

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