Six Strategies to Make Employers Read Your Résumé


I am stuck trying to write a résumé and worried it won’t stand out with the hundreds of résumés I’m sure the employer is receiving. Do you have any suggestions for how I can make mine stand out? — Tara from Albuquerque, NM


Dear Tara:

You are not alone in your worries about your résumé. Did you know 90 percent of all résumés are screened out in the first 30 seconds? If hiring managers can’t find the experience and skills they’re looking for immediately, you’ve probably lost their interest.

The following six strategies can help you write a résumé worth reading:

1.   Look at samples. Ask your colleagues, friends, and family members — especially those already employed in a position you want to secure — to share their cover letter and résumé with you. If their résumé was the first contact with the employer and it helped them get an interview, it might just work for you. You can also look at Best Sample Résumés for a list of résumés for specific types of positions.

2.   Pick a résumé style that showcases your skills. The most common résumé is chronological, listed by employer and position, with the most recent one first. If you have periods of unemployment, you may want to develop a functional résumé (learn more [PDF]), which is organized by your roles or skills. Sample functional résumé headings might include program coordination, administrative support, computer skills, customer service, or sales development. This allows you to include your skills and achievements from all of your experiences – employment, volunteer work and unpaid work experience.

3.   Organize your résumé into clear sections. There are a number of sections you may want to consider using: contact information, employment goal or objective, expertise or highlights of qualifications, skills, job history, education/certificates/ training, volunteer or community service, interests, and references. Think about your greatest strengths and qualifications for a specific job opening, and highlight them first. If you have the perfect certificate or degree, you might want to lead with your education.

4.   Keep your résumé clean and visually appealing. Be aware of how white space, highlighting, headings and other formatting decisions can impact the overall look of your résumé. Stay away from cute or hard to read fonts, but do try to find ways to use the functions of your word program to make your résumé stand out – such as tables, lines, bullets and more.

5.   Focus what you can achieve for the employer. The employer wants a reason to hire you – what difference can you make? Don’t oversell your impact, but don’t undersell yourself either. Words like improved, enhanced, achieved, developed, trained, saved, and fixed are great words to start listing your achievements.

6.   Review, review, review. Run spell check on your résumé and have your friends review it to make sure it is well-written and there are no words used incorrectly. Ask people in the profession you are seeking review your résumé and ask for their suggestions to improve it. CutePDF has a free conversion program allowing you to convert your word document into a PDF, locking your résumé so your fonts and formatting are not changed by the employer’s system.

Looking for more tips? Check out additional Goodwill suggestions for writing a great résumé at any age.

And don’t forget – Goodwill has career centers in communities in the U.S. and Canada to help you with résumé writing, job searches, and other skills for a successful job search.

Locate Your Nearest Goodwill

Good luck, and here’s hoping you are résumé-proud very soon!