Sure, you want your resume to be get noticed, but uniqueness can become a distraction. Read on for 3 things you’re overthinking in order to make your resume stand out.

By: Daniel Lorenzo | Blog Manager at Let’s Eat, Grandma


Hacks. Tips. Tweaks. Our culture is obsessed with small changes that add up to make big differences.

There’s a strand of advice in the job search world that recommends hacks to maximize all of the factors that will make you stand out to employers. You’ve heard this in little tidbits like “Wear a brightly colored tie to the interview!” or “Send in a shoebox as a resume!”

The spirit of this advice is true: you do want to use psychological principles to grab a hiring manager’s (or technological principles to grab a robot’s) attention with your resume.

However, tweaks can’t replace quality. Spending too much effort on attempts to make your resume stand out can distract you from writing a truly great resume.

Here are 3 things you’re overthinking to make your resume stand out – and 3 more effective things to spend time on instead!

FONT

Don’t get me wrong – finding a good resume font is important. (We even wrote a whole ‘nother blog about it). However, it’s not worth agonizing over.

You want to make sure your font is readable and attractive.

But that’s it. Don’t waste any more time thinking about your font. You can contemplate the complexities of a serif, or you can spend that time improving something that truly matters on your resume (like your bullet points).

Sure, a particularly ~beautiful~ or *wacky* font might get you some attention points. But – just like wearing that brightly colored tie – it won’t compensate for anything.

Worse yet, choosing a font that is too, erm…creative… will look tacky and distasteful.

A screenshot of a pink, frilly cursive font used for a header on the author's resume - an example of how not to use font to make your resume stand out.
This is…memorable, alright.

Instead, worry about: FILE FORMAT

You can invest time to earn some bonus points by determining the best file format to use for your resume if you’re submitting it online.

There are pros and cons for different file formats that you can hear about in this video.

A bit of discernment about whether a Word Doc or PDF best applies to your situation can go a long way. It will help you make sure your resume can both beat the ATS and display properly on a recruiter’s computer.

CREATIVITY

You’ve likely also heard examples of people standing out by getting radically creative with their resumes, utilizing graphics and conversational tones, or even wacky physical formats.

While it’s tempting to do something like this:

An example of a radically creative graphic on a resume - another example ofbeing desperate to make a resume stand out.

…you really don’t need to.

Unless you’re in a creative profession and/or applying to a very casual company where examples like these make sense, don’t sweat about finding creative resume elements.

If you have a crazy good idea for an unorthodox resume that you’re confident in (like this one), I certainly won’t stop you. But in the majority of cases, going out-of-the-box won’t improve your resume quality. You’ll even risk falling flat or coming off unprofessional.

Instead, worry about: READABILITY

Instead of cheap thrills, aim for clarity and ease of reading. Think of ideas to creatively organize the content on your resume, rather than ideas to go out-of-the-box with it.

Some ideas include:

Think of it like a date: renting a fancy car to impress the guy/girl won’t increase your chances of a second date. Being sincere, being charming, and being yourself will.

Making your resume into a shoebox is the fancy car; having a clearly organized structure for ease-of-reading is being yourself.

QUANTITY OF KEYWORDS

ATS keywords are a hot topic in the resume world right now. If you decide to work with one of our resume writers, you’ll definitely hear about why including keywords in your resume is vital. We’re about it.

Here’s what we’re not about: keyword stuffing.

Job seekers who are in the know about keywords tend to freak out about them a little, and often try to include as many as they can, no matter the cost.

There’s even a dangerous trend called “white fonting”, in which job seekers include tiny keywords written in white all over the resume so that the ATS would prioritize the resume without the hiring manager noticing… like digital invisible ink! (Needless to say, this is a terrible idea that recruiters can easily catch.)

Don’t obsess over keyword quantity like this. Getting past an ATS is important, but it’s not so difficult that you have to compromise your integrity and risk getting your resume thrown out for it.

Instead, worry about: QUALITY OF KEYWORDS

Our resume writers have a motto: “Don’t write for the robot!”

Rather than desperately jamming keywords into your resume in hopes of getting noticed by an ATS, they strive to naturally integrate those keywords into your skills and experiences, getting you both noticed and appreciated by employers.

Writing a resume with only the ATS in mind is dangerous. It makes you sound…well…robotic! There’s no magic number of keywords that will get you through the system, but there is a standard of writing quality that a hiring manager will notice. 

The right way to make your resume stand out

I once met a guy in college who spent an hour changing all of his punctuation on a paper to one font size higher, so that he would hit a page limit with fewer words without his professor noticing.

Though this hack was admittedly clever (and funny), it revealed something sad. This guy wasn’t confident in his ability to write a good, lengthy essay, so he spent time on a shortcut to get the result he wanted.

Don’t be like this guy! Don’t waste time and stress on tweaks to make your resume stand out. Instead, be confident in your qualifications and work hard to write a quality resume. I believe in you!


If you enjoyed learning about this topic, be sure to listen to Episode 12 of our Career Warrior Podcast!