How to make your resume stand out

“A good resume outlines what’s been done.  A great resume outlines what’s possible.”

Make your resume a living, breathing reflection of the great potential that you have.  People will notice. 

If you want to be extraordinary, you’ve got to go beyond the traditional resume.  Since many companies require the resume during the job application process, I’m going to teach you how to build an amazing one.

I’ve seen a lot of resumes in my time.  It typically goes something like this: name, contact information, objective, work experience by chronological order, education, achievements and interests.


Sound familiar?


Here’s the thing – there are key elements you need to learn to avoid so that you don’t end up with a resume that gets tossed aside.  Lucky for you, there is a set of secret tips I will personally share with you to help you shine above and beyond the crowd.


Let’s start with the mistakes you want to avoid:


Misspelling – Double check your resume for spelling errors.  You’d be amazed at some of the spelling errors interviewers have seen on resumes.  It looks sloppy if you have spelling errors, so take the time to make it perfect!  Are you double checking your spelling?


Grammar – Ditto on the grammar.


Have style done tastefully – If you choose to have a uniquely designed resume, make sure you’re either great at graphic design and editing or hire someone who is.  There are a multitude of designers out there on and!


Vague language – Be specific in your accomplishments and your work experience – otherwise it’ll look like you’re hiding something.  Are you specific in your messaging?


Don’t lie - Always be honest, you may not have the work experience or educational background they’re looking for right off the bat, but that’s ok.  It’s better to be honest at the end of the day.   Let me give you an example of why.  Let’s say you lie about your experience and your skill sets and they believe you and hire you for the job.  Chances are, at some point your weaknesses and lack of experience will most likely be exposed, and now you’ve officially burned a bridge with that employer.  By the way, each vertical is typically a much smaller network of contacts and companies than you might think, especially if they’re successful.  So don’t lie – you could very well end up blacklisting yourself.  Ask yourself - are you being honest at the end of the day?


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff.  Here’s a set of secret tips that can help your resume grab the attention of the interviewer:


Sharpen your objective:  All too often I see vague objectives like this:  “Looking for a professional career in the field of sales”


So what’s the problem with that?  Let’s break it down.


·      It’s not specific to the company – Heck, not only did the person not mention the company, he didn’t even mention what industry he was aiming for!  Talk about lack of customization (and in the interviewer’s eye, a lack of effort).  If you’re blasting out a generic objective to 50 companies, that’s exactly how your resume will come across to them – generic.  Are you customizing your objective to the company?


·      It doesn’t explain how you’re going to help the company – It just talks about YOU, YOU, YOU.  Stop talking about your needs and start to take the perspective of the interviewer / company hiring you.  What are they looking for in a hire that will help THEIR business?  I’ll give you an example of a better way to write an objective:  To drive net new customer relationships and to cultivate existing ones resulting in a large impact on sales at Cloud Computing Inc. as a sales professional.  Always ask yourself this question – “If I were in their shoes, what would I want to see?”  So – are you writing about how you’re going to help them?


Highlight business and organizational impact, don’t just highlight a list of tasks - When it comes down to the real heart of the resume, the majority of interviewers spend a good amount of their time discussing your work experience.   So let’s talk about how we make your work experience showcase your best characteristics!


Here’s an example of a vanilla flavored description of someone’s work experience:


Acme Inc.   January 2010 - Present

Account Manager

·               Provided Fortune 1000 clients with technology solutions

·               Drove revenue by consultative selling to customers

·               Won numerous awards throughout the year

·               Collaborated with other teammates on numerous projects

·               Trained and enabled channel partners to sell our solutions


Guess what?  These work experiences are a DIME a dozen.  These descriptions are so vague, you could literally pull these descriptions from a job listing, so how do you expect it to stand out to the interviewer?


Here’s the RIGHT way to showcase business and organizational impact through your work experience:


·      Give details (think names of companies, names of people, specific solutions you offered, specific business metrics)


·      Always think of and present the business impact you’ve made on the company


·      Use metrics to show the impact


Here’s an example of a revamped resume:


·               Consulted 5 Fortune 1000 clients including GE, Amgen, Wal-Mart, Genentech, Exxon on technology solutions such as Video Conferencing, Wireless, and Voice over IP.

·               Drove revenue and achieved 150% of plan on a $40M quota

·               Won numerous awards including “Leadership award for sharing best practices with teammates” and “Operational excellence award”

·               Collaborated with the Video Conferencing business unit to give feedback on potential product improvements to ultimately help drive higher customer satisfaction

·               Trained and enabled 100 of the top solution providers through live, in person trainings and online Webex trainings, helping to drive 40% YoY partner revenue growth


Read both examples again. 


Who seems like the rockstar hire to you?


Which potential hire seems to be more accountable for their work?


Which potential hire seems to exhibit a true passion for their work?


But here’s the reality, at the end of the day, bragging about how great you are just isn’t that credible.  You’ve got to take it a step further. 


CREDIBILITY – Build credibility and the trust will build itself.  Just make sure you do it through the words of others.


I’ll give you an example.


Let’s say you’re strolling down the street and you see a Cafe that says “Best Coffee in California” on its sign.  This despite the fact that the coffee beans looks like they’ve been sitting on the shelf for years and the dust on the counter is nearly an inch thick.  And it also happens to be empty without any customers in there. 


Does the self-proclaiming sign that states it’s the best coffee out there in the state automatically make you believe it really is the best out there?  Chances are you’re still skeptical because of the details you’ve noticed in the store.


This day and age, doesn’t it feel like everyone will say whatever it takes in order to get the sale?


BUT – what if – you logged into your smart phone, looked up reviews by OTHER peers on the restaurant and found they truly enjoyed the cafe and then gave it the highest rating possible.  In fact, they were downright raving about how this coffee was unlike any other.  “This place is amazing!  You have to try it at least once.  But trust me, you’ll want to come back!”  We call this the “Yelping” phenomenon.   


Would that potentially get you to go to that cafe now?


Thought so.


Let me give you another example, you’re at a wine and cheese party and everyone’s introducing their friends to each other.  You walk up to someone and you begin to tell them how you’re the best customer service representative in the company and how you just won the top customer service award from the company. 


Most people would call this – you guessed it – bragging.


BUT if your friend introduces you, and begins to talk about this great story of how you had a really rude customer chewing you out over the price of a product, and how you handled it with complete calm and care and even referred them to a competing business so that they could get what they wanted, well gosh, now you look like a customer service champion. 


It’s the combination of a great story and a reference from someone else that makes for building great credibility.  By the way, if you haven’t tried this, give it a shot.  Introduce your friends to others by raving about their accomplishments and you’ll see the difference in the way they’re perceived.


So let’s bring it back to the world of interviewing.


Most people tend to talk about their top attributes and how great they are and their achievements and so forth…


Which is good, but wouldn’t it be that much more effective if someone else was in that room speaking praises on your behalf?


Of course it would!  Why do you think customer testimonials are so effective?


Okay – with that said, I get it – you usually can’t bring in a reference into the interview with you.  But what you can do is get their reference written down or filmed on video. 


These references came come in many different forms:


·      A reference letter – this is the most formal version where the person writes a letter recommending you.  Effective, yes, but often tedious for the interviewer to read multiple letters.


·      A one page collection of quotes and snippets – this is the less formal version that showcases many different references (usually one to a few sentences) from many different sources so that people get a broader scope of references. 


·      Recommendations on LinkedIn


·      Film video testimonials and upload them onto or your website


Here are some examples:


“Jim was instrumental in coordinating the engineering team and the sales team to collaborate on the newest product design.  This resulted in faster product development for us which allowed us to be the first producer in the marketplace.” – John Smith – CEO of ACME Inc.


“Jim is a true leader in the organization – his ideas, ability to manage large teams and willingness to take on the challenging business tasks has made a huge impact on this company” – Paul Wilson, VP of ACME Inc.


So who should you get references from?   Here’s a list below:


·      Upper management (Think CXOs, VPs, Directors, and Managers that you have interacted with in the past) – Upper management references carry a lot of weight.  Period.  It shows that your work was good enough to warrant their praise and attention!


·      Peers – sometimes these can be the best references for you – remember they’ve been in the trenches with you side by side and can often give the most detailed references / quotes


·      Employees you’ve managed – This is great way to see if you’re an effective leader


·      Charities you’ve supported / volunteered for – This also shows you care about giving back to the community


·      Mentors – If you have professional and personal mentors, leverage them as references


·      Professors – If you don’t have work experience, reach out to the professors you’ve got a strong relationship with to get references from them.  If you don’t have any, start to be more proactive in building out those relationships!  Go to their office hours!




1.     Build your network of references today – Ask at least 10 people for a recommendation (video or written).  And then sit back, relax and watch as your interviewers come away impressed with the number of people who will vouch for your work. 

2.     Revamp your work experience – Go through each line item description of your work experience and ask yourself, how does this showcase my ability and the results of my great work?  Rewrite it so that it does. 


Telling someone how good you are is good, but having someone else say it on your behalf is better.


Old School:  “But my job role doesn’t allow me to impact the organization in any meaningful way.”

New School:  “I will find a way in my current job role to truly impact the organization in a way that creates value.”


Old School:  “I don’t have any great stories to tell.”

New School:  “I may not have great stories yet, but I’ll start to create success stories and document them as they occur”

Old School:  “I don’t have any references to pull quotes from to vouch for me.”

New School:  “I will reach out to my network of contacts to ask them to be my references.”

Nelson WangComment