Making your resume stand out has become extremely important when applying for a job. With countless applicants the goal is to submit a resume that is guaranteed to capture the attention of the recruiter and include the common keywords that will automatically select you as a match for the role. Follow these steps to maximize your chances of making your resume stand out from the crowd.

Why format your resume? 

According to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 39% of hiring managers spend less than one minute looking at a resume. Further, 23% claimed spending less than 30 seconds reviewing a resume. This highlights the importance of making your resume stand out. 

Should my resume be visually appealing? 

No. Most applications get sent through a database before a hiring manager sees it. Heavy on graphics will make it hard for the system to read, and less likely that you will be highlighted as a promising candidate.

Our Advice: Make your resume stand out strategically using the tips below and save the visual resume for the interview (where applicable). 

Here are some easy ways to format your resume when applying for a job: 

  1. Reflect keywords from job description
  2. Remove tables from resume
  3. Limit your resume to 2 pages maximum
  4. Maximize space
  5. Use action and affect format
  6. Remove “references available upon request”
  7. Include unpaid work if relevant
  8. Proofread your resume numerous times
  9. Use a professional email address
  10. Upload in an accessible format

Steps to Format Your Resume

Here are 10 ways you can format your resume to make it easy to read and professional. 

Reflect keywords from job description

According to CareerBuilder, 18% of applicants do not customize their resume when applying. In other words, by customizing your resume you’re already 18% ahead. When formatting your resume remember that the job description is an instruction list from the hiring manager. Leveraging the keywords and phrasing from the description is an easy way to stand out from the crowd. 

Remove tables from resume

To maximize chances of getting through to the hiring manager, your resume needs to play nicely with the applicant system. Remove any visuals and any tables from your resume to make it as scannable as possible. This will boost your chances of being suggested as a top fit for the role. 

Limit your resume to 2 pages maximum

Being able to make an impact by saying less is an extremely powerful skill, however in this case it also makes your resume easier to read. A resume longer than two pages is sure to be skimmed, missing many valuable points. The shorter your resume, the more likely the hiring manager is to absorb the content.   

Maximize space to make your resume stand out

Shrinking the columns of your resume, decreasing indentation, and shrinking the font size of breaks between paragraphs. All very important formatting tips when you only have two pages to work with. This can sometimes give you enough room to include another job in your work history, or another volunteer opportunity to set you apart. 

Use action and affect format

34% of resumes do not include quantifiable results. Remember, it’s not about what tasks your performed at your last role. Instead, it’s about how you made your workplace better. The best way to accomplish this is to adopt an action and affect method of each bullet point. So rather than “I performed this task well” change it up to “I did (action) which led to (affect).” This still highlights what you did but takes it a step further to how it helped the company. 

Remove “references available upon request”

References are always a part of the interview process however it is assumed that if you make it through the interview process, you will be willing to provide references. Save the valuable room on your resume and remove references or the “references available upon request” line. 

Include unpaid work if relevant

Many applicants leave out volunteer or unpaid work from their resume however this can further speak to character, drive, and overall wellbeing. If you think the volunteer experience is relevant to the job, it can be the item that sets you apart from other applicants. 

Proofread your resume numerous times

77% of rejected resumes are due to typos. With tools like Grammarly, or simply spell check, there’s no excuse for typos. To avoid this error, make sure you take advantage of the tools available, and have someone buddy check your resume for any typos you miss from re-reading your resume multiple times. 

Use a professional email address

35% of applicants include an unprofessional email address when applying for a job. Now is the time to ditch your childhood email and ensure your email reflects professionalism. This should include your name and a reputable email provider (ex. Outlook, Gmail, etc.) 

Upload in an accessible format

Resumes should always be uploaded in either PDF or Word Document form. These are the best documents for applicant systems to read and will maximize your chances of your resume reaching the hiring manager. 

When formatting your resume, the end goal is to make it easy for both the applicant system and the hiring manager to read. Making a resume that delivers concise points and removes any visuals that distract from the format will maximize your chances of getting the interview when you apply


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Top Quality Recruitment is a leading provider of staffing and recruiting services in the consumer packaged goods, engineering, medical industries.

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