How to write a resume that stands out

Once your job application has an employer’s attention, you need to stun them with your resume. Here’s how to use your best weapon: honesty.

Recently I wrote a post about how to catch an employer’s attention with your job application. I even called the post “part 1”, intending to write a part 2.

This is it.

You got your application into the correct inbox. Now, how do you make your resume stand out?

Having recently read 110 of these monsters (did I mention that?), I can give you the definitive answer.

Be honest.

Everyone sends in a resume saying how dedicated and skilled they are and listing dozens of boring qualifications and previous jobs. Snore.

Don’t be that guy. Stand out by telling the unvarnished truth, and I guarantee you will get the job.

Now, let me walk you through the sections you should include in your resume and give you some hints on how best to tackle each.

Personal statement

Always start out by saying a bit about who you are and what you’re looking for in a job.

Boring: I’m a keen recent graduate with a drive to learn more about the finance industry. I would love to work at your esteemed company because it would give me valuable experience in doing worthwhile things with other people’s money.

Honest: I’m a skilled procrastinator who somehow made it through a whole sociology degree without turning up for any lectures. I don’t want a job, but unless I get one I won’t be able to afford pizza, so I’m looking for something that will give me the most money for the least effort. And an office that has air conditioning and free coffee.

Key skills

List your talents so the employer will know you can handle the job.

Boring:

  • Communication and negotiation
  • Time management
  • Typing (99.9% accurate at 500 wpm)

Honest:

  • Able to spend all day in an office surrounded by people without saying one word to anyone.
  • Once managed to refill the water cooler without getting water all over the floor.
  • Highly skilled at making plunger coffee.
  • Talented at staring out the window for hours on end and totally losing track of the Twitter conversation I was having.
  • Experienced at sleeping until lunchtime, even though the bedroom gets bright at 8am.

If you have experience using software, you can list the packages you know in this section as well.

Software skills: I can type in Word, but it hates me and the smart quote marks always turn the wrong way. I tried to use Excel once to track my queries, but after a while it got too confusing (and the rejections too depressing) so I gave up.

Education

Boring: University of South Nowhere, 2005-2008, B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics. First in class, “Why Einstein was wrong”, 2007.

Honest: University of South Nowhere, 2005-2017, B.A. in a bit of everything (incomplete). I once stayed awake for a whole lecture (but it wasn’t worth it, so I decided not to repeat the experience).

Work experience

Your resume should list your jobs in reverse chronological order, and state your main responsibilities and accomplishments in each.

Boring:

Top secret government research laboratory: Biological weapons consultant, 2008-present

  • Main responsibility: Conducting secret tests of biological weapons on the other staff.
  • Other responsibilities: Convincing deadly viruses to move from cohabitation to procreation, thus creating even deadlier offspring; handling the PR crisis every time a deadly pathogen escaped into the general population.
  • Greatest accomplishment: Achieving a 96% fatality rate among other staff with a biological weapon (and not dying myself).
  • Other accomplishments: Talking a mob out of burning down the main building on thirteen occasions.

Resume: virus

Honest:

Happy Waffles: Waiting staff, 2011-present, but only when they were desperately short-staffed

  • Main responsibility: Writing down orders illegibly, forgetting to pass the orders on to the kitchen, and tripping while carrying food slowly to the wrong tables.
  • Other responsibilities: Answering the phone using a range of humorous voices; wiping bird droppings off the tables; sneezing on the food.
  • Greatest accomplishment: Almost quitting eight times.
  • Other accomplishments: Not getting fired; turning up for work even when it was cold (sometimes); being crowned queen of kitchen gossip; ducking the raw potatoes thrown by the chef.

A few final resume tips

You will get bonus points if you slip into your resume the fact that you really hope to work for Backwards Automotive, especially if the job you’re applying for is with Snazzy Cars, their competitors.

At the very top, always use the main heading “resume” or “curriculum vitae”, never your name. How else will the employer know it’s a resume they’re looking at?

It’s an excellent idea to include some references at the bottom. These are well-briefed friends who have agreed to lie on your behalf and pretend they used to employ you and you were pretty great. Note this doesn’t violate the “absolute truth” rule because it’s not you doing the lying. This is called outsourcing, and it’s another talent you can add to the skills section.

Include a photo. Make sure you’re scowling because it will make you look like a serious applicant. If you don’t like the way you photograph, include a picture of your cat instead. Everyone likes cute cat photos.

I hope this helpful guide has prepared you for the big wide world of job applications. Good luck finding the perfect air-conditioned office!

Do you have any resume tips to add?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

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