It’s become increasingly difficult for job applicants to rise above the noise of today’s digital talent pool. On average, we receive hundreds of resumes per week and only thirteen percent land an interview with a recruiter therefore, job applicants need to think about what will make them stand out.
The first, and easiest way to stand out in my mind, is with a cover letter. Many recruiters—in fact, two-thirds, according to a survey from Jobvite -- say not to worry about writing a cover letter but I personally believe a cover letter sends an automatic signal to the organization that you’ve spent extra time doing your homework and are genuinely excited about the opportunity. This sends a powerful and important message before the recruiter even opens your resume.
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Next, when writing a resume, answering these three questions can help any candidate stand out from the competition:
1. Does your resume show you embody the culture of the organization?
Before submitting your resume, take a step back and ask yourself if your resume highlights the company’s cultural values. For example, startups or other fast-growing tech companies often look for hungry individuals who are self-motivated and self-starters. When founders are really trying to boost their startups’ growth, they can't have employees who just wait for someone to tell them what to do.
In your resume, highlight how you have strived to better yourself and grown as a person. Have you participated and completed learning and development programs? Do you run competitively or volunteer outside of work? Is there an example of a time you saw a problem as an opportunity and took it upon yourself to address it? Showing you are thriving both in work and outside of work is critical. Recruiters recruit for the company culture, so if they see an applicant with the right mentality on a resume, they can easily check “culture fit” off their checklist.
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2. Does your resume portray what makes you unique?
When looking at resumes, we look for candidates who have something unique to bring to the table. Were you the first to build out your company’s partner program and doubled revenue? Did you bring a new creative concept to the table that was bought into by leadership? Were you brought into an organization to build and develop an entire user research process or training module?
An example that recently stood out to me was a box that I received in the mail from a Human Resources professional. It creatively included their resume and several items that represented the company’s values, a key pillar and driving principle in the PeopleOps and HR function and a company imperative across our organization. This immediately exhibited that this candidate did their homework, understands and aligns with our values, is willing to take a risk and is certainly creative.
3. Does your resume demonstrate excellence?
I believe each new hire should raise the bar for their desired role, and be more invested in the role than their predecessor. With this, look at your resume and see if it shows that whatever you've done, you've done really well and that you’re passionate about your field of work. This means you have gone above and beyond in your current role, and that you’re hungry to better yourself.
In my own resume, I always made sure there are distinctive elements like being a self-starter or highlighting a fast succession of promotions. Some examples include, “member of a small skunkworks team to build the company’s second product” to illustrate entrepreneurial drive and “selected to spearhead” or “chosen to solve ” to depict growth and roles that stretched me.
There’s a good reason why your drive should be on display: your future employer wants to know you are self-motivated to achieve goals because of your own enthusiasm or interest, without needing pressure from others. Does your resume prove to the recruiter you have applied creative tactics to proactively improve the way job processes worked? Did you reach or surpass a quota or goal? Go out and highlight projects you’ve worked on that demanded a lot of initiative, like digging into specific books, taking online classes, going back to school, or networking.
With the odds of making it through to an interview at two percent, a strong resume, one that answers each question above, will help you stand out from the crowd. Set yourself apart with a resume that reflects your culture, evidence of excellence and what makes you unique. This is your key to making it to the interview.