How To Make Your Resume Stand Out in 2024

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Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

11 min read

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Finding a new job can be tough, tedious, and frustrating, especially in today’s job market. Most job openings attract hundreds of applications. These applications flood the desks and inboxes of employers, who are then tasked with sorting through those hundreds of resumes to locate the best candidates for the position. As a job candidate, you need to know how to make a resume stand out from the competition.

Fortunately, the ZipJob team of career experts has compiled some tips you can use today to make your resume really stand out and increase your chances of landing an interview opportunity.

How to make a resume stand out from the crowd

To ease the burden on hiring managers, most companies now use some type of applicant tracking system or ATS. These systems are meant to weed out weak or unqualified resumes before they reach the employer’s desk. You need to get your resume past the ATS if you want it to be seen by human eyes. The good news is that there are things you can do to ensure that your resume passes that screening process.

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The key to resume success

The secret to getting your resume noticed is to write for two audiences. Resumes need to stand out not only to humans but to those ATS scans as well. Granted, learning how to make a resume stand out in today’s job market is a lot tougher than it was in the days when humans were the first line of applicant screening, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

To ensure that your resume stands out from the crowd, it’s important to tailor it to both your audiences. Not only should it be easy to read for the human eye, but it should also have the keywords an ATS is scanning for.

Let’s go over some of the “can’t miss tricks” to getting your resume past the screening systems while keeping it attractive enough to warrant attention after it reaches the hiring manager’s desk.

Your two audiences

To best understand how to make a resume stand out to human employers and ensure that it passes the ATS, it’s important to understand what each one is looking for.

Fortunately, applicant tracking systems were created with human practicality in mind, so there are many areas in which best practices for selection overlap.

Even after your resume makes it through the applicant tracking system, most employers spend only a few seconds reviewing each resume. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to make your most valuable information as prominent as possible. Use clear formatting, bullet points, and maximize your use of space on the page.

Six things that will stand out on your resume

The following are a few important steps you should take to help ensure that your potential employer will see all the information you want them to see without compromising your resume’s chances of passing the ATS scan.

1. Divide your resume into clear sections

You may have, by far, the best resume for the position you are seeking. However, if your information isn’t easy to sort through, then it won’t be noticed and will be tossed aside. For this reason, how you organize information is incredibly important.

Split up your resume into clearly labeled sections so your potential employer will know exactly where to find the information that’s most important to them. Each section will have its own heading. Those headers will help employers easily scan your resume. In addition, remember that many ATS scans rely on section headings to parse your information.

To simplify things, you should use headings that present a clear and concise structure. Those headings and sections can include:

  • Your contact information

  • The job title of the position you’re seeking

  • A summary statement

  • Your core competencies or skills

  • Professional experience

  • Education

2. Choose the right font

Your resume’s font is incredibly important because it is the very first thing that the reader will notice. It sets the tone for the resume and is used to convey the purpose of your application. Think about it: do you read comic books and textbooks in the same way, in the same tone? Of course not! So why would it be a wise idea to use comic-style, silly fonts on a professional document?

We have a whole article devoted to the best fonts for resumes, but here are the highlights.

  • Use a professional-looking font

  • Use a font that will be easy for a machine to read

As you can see, a problem arises in which fonts that may be easy for humans to read are not always the best fonts for an ATS.

To ensure that most ATS tools can read your resume, it’s important to use a basic font. Keep the color dark and avoid any special characters such as fancy bullet points or ampersands in your vital information.

For human readers, always keep the font size above 11 and try not to go any bigger than 14 except for headers.

It’s also important to note that, while some fonts are professional-looking and great for an ATS, they may fail to help your resume stand out. For example, Times New Roman is easily scanned by ATS and looks simple and professional. Yet, it’s incredibly common and may look stale to a hiring manager who’s just looked through fifteen other resumes with the same font.

Using a font like Verdana or Arial will maintain the professional feel and automated readability but will also give your resume a unique look that stands out from the rest.

3. Include the right skills

The skill section may sound easy – you’re just making a list of things that you’re able to do particularly well. Everyone knows what they’re good at, right? Not quite.

It’s especially important to note that skills can be categorized into more specific skills or hard skills (computer programming, mechanical engineering, languages) or less specific skills or soft skills (communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution). One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to differentiate between their skill sets and including too many of one or the other.

Pay attention to job listings and adjust your skills to better match the listing you’re applying to. If the role is particularly technical, weigh your skill section towards your applicable hard skills. If the role is something like sales or account management, make sure to include key soft skills like communication or organization.

Your skills section is the best place to make sure you match your resume’s keywords with the keywords required by the ATS. For ideas on what skills employers are looking for, check out this post on the best skills to put on your resume.

Focus on keywords

Look at the skills mentioned in the job description; if you have any of them and left them out of this section, get them in there. This is critical for getting past the applicant tracking system. It’s also important to show the employer that you have the basic skills necessary to be successful. Make sure that any prominent keywords from the job post are inserted into your resume.

For human readers, make sure your skills are organized by category, even though you don’t need to label or separate those categories. For example, begin by listing all your computer skills and then continue the list with your known computer languages. If you have many technical skills, you’ll want to read this article on how to write a technical skill section.

There are certain professions where it’s best to put the skill section at the top. For example, if a job requires extensive technical skills, it’s best to put your strengths pertaining to those skills at the top of your resume.

4. Write a two-page resume

There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the importance of the length of your resume. Traditionally, resumes were supposed to be one page, no exceptions. Whether you were a fresh college graduate or a seasoned CEO, you were expected to limit your resume to one page.

With the advent of ATS systems, you need two pages to include all the relevant keywords they’re scanning for. Whether you’re over or under that target, this article on resume length will help you adjust your content.

5. Simplify your resume

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager: if you had limited time to sort through large piles of resumes, what would make it easier for you? Simple formatting, concise sentences, bullet points, and cutting out the clichés are all incredibly good starts.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an employer who is going to sit there and read an entire paragraph on a resume, so you should get to the point quickly.

A few sentences to summarize your experience can be effective, but only if kept very brief and only if they immediately make it clear who you are as a professional. Be specific about your most important skills and avoid cliché terms like “team player” or “hard worker.” Hiring managers don’t like buzzwords! Make every word attention-grabbing to ensure the reader is compelled to move on to the rest of your resume.

6. Know your audience

You’re already writing for an ATS and a human, but you can really make your resume stand out if you know the company you’re applying to. Read the job description thoroughly, peruse the company website, and look at what it’s been up to in the news.

Then, edit your resume to best reflect the skills and qualities the company values and you possess. This will help your resume match the keywords required by the ATS. In addition, it will also help you stand out to the employer as a good fit for the company culture.

A great way to keep your resume flexible and easy to tailor for each company is to include a “Core Competencies” section. This section lists some of the skills and abilities you’ve used throughout your work history. That way, you can reword your skills or add relevant competencies that best match the description for each specific job.

For example, a software engineer may include the competency “software development life cycle.” This is something central to jobs in the industry and is likely to be in many job descriptions. This is an indication that it is important to bypass the ATS filters. Include 9 to 12 of these in your Core Competencies section and adapt them to best match the specific job description.

Let’s summarize the key points!

Getting your resume noticed is tougher than ever

Solution: balance the content and aesthetic appeal of your resume to delight both the ATS scan and the hiring manager.

You need to maximize your resume’s skill section

Use this section to match your skills exactly to the job description, with a balance of hard and soft skills.

The look of your resume matters

Good organization makes it easier for ATS and humans to locate relevant information quickly. If they can’t locate it in 6 seconds, it might as well not be included.

  • Use a common resume format, preferably the reverse chronological format.

  • Use traditional titles for your sections. 

  • Use a font like Arial or Verdana; both are professional fonts that are not overused.

The length of your resume matters

Keep your information relevant and tailored to the job post, but don’t miss keyword opportunities. Two pages are standard in 2024, but a one-page resume can be suitable for entry-level applicants.

Get to the point quickly

Make your resume easy to read and make it obvious that you are the right applicant for each job.

Today’s job market is more competitive and more complicated than ever. The combination of high-volume listings, Applicant Tracking Systems, and a highly competitive market makes it important to use every trick in the book to get your resume noticed. 

For job search success, learn how to make a resume stand out!

Learning how to make a resume stand out is more complicated than it’s ever been. We must write to impress both a computer and a human. Luckily, with the right tools, techniques, and resources, we can bypass these systems and give ourselves the best chance of landing that dream job.

Good luck with your job search!

Not sure how to make a resume stand out to employers? Get your free resume review from our team of experts today and supercharge your job search efforts!

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Written by

Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.

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