5 Qualities that Always Show Up In Job-Scoring Resumes

Have you ever wondered what sets a successful resume apart from the crowd? It isn’t just a matter of following all the rules. If a job seeker simply follows all the “rules” to the letter, her resume may be adequate—it may be acceptable—but that’s not really the primary objective for a job seeker who wants to stand out.

How can job seekers create a document that’s correct, professional, recognizable and inline with standard business practice, but also unique and exceptional? What makes a good resume (as in adequate, fine, acceptable) cross the line into a show-stopping resume that actually lands a competitive job? Here are five qualities that appear in almost every standout resume.

1. They apply to one candidate…and only one candidate.

A great resume isn’t transferable. Every claim, every stated accomplishment, every listed personal trait, and every declared ambition applies to one person and one person only—the applicant. Check your resume and make sure your claims are specific to you, not generic and applicable to anyone.

2. They start with a strong summary.

Note that we said summary, not objective. Launch your resume with a four- or five-line statement about what you can do, what you’ve done in the past, and what you have to offer to potential hiring managers. Try not to turn your summary into a list of all the things you want in a job and all the opportunities and exposure you’re looking to gain from your next employer. In a previous job-search era, a statement of demands and desires came off as a sign of ambition. But these days, discussing only what you want can alienate employers and represent a missed opportunity.

3. They’re articulate and complete.

In a good resume, each phrase makes sense. There are no confusing statements or claims that can be interpreted in multiple ways.

In a great resume, this goes a step further. Not only is every claim clear, articulate, and meaningful, but it also contributes something essential to the core argument: why this candidate is a perfect match for this specific job.

4. They show that this candidate cares about the job…a lot.

Most candidates use templates and shortcuts to streamline the job-search process, and no single job application should take days to complete. Employers don’t expect candidates to write each resume and cover letter they submit on a given day from the ground up. But still, employers like to feel special. A great resume somehow manages to convey the idea that this is only job the candidate really wants, and this is the only company the candidate really cares about. 

5. They reveal something about the candidate’s personality.

Adequate resumes present their writers as consummate professionals—true corporate soldiers who put the good of their employers ahead of their own. But some of the traits that apply to go-to workers with can-do attitudes also apply to robots.  While it might be pleasant to work side by side with one of these (at least for a while), the most compelling and interesting resumes are the ones submitted by human beings.

And human beings sometimes have personal interests, radical transitions in their job histories, unusual skill sets, unique writing styles, and even—heaven forbid—quirks. These aren’t always resume killers. In fact, they sometimes score the final point that wins the game.  

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