At 3.7 percent, the US unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in 50 years, giving those looking for work an advantage. But competition is always fierce for the most coveted roles at the hottest organizations. Before you submit your application, here are eight tips to help ensure your resume will get noticed.

How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

1. Your Online Profile May Matter Most


If you play your cards right, recruiters will come to you. To make that happen, almost more important than a resume is a solid LinkedIn or online profile. Be sure your profile (and resume) tell a story about what you’ve done in your career, why you’ve done it, and the results you achieved. Use clear and simple language, and carefully sprinkle in keywords that are important for the role you desire and field you’re pursuing.

2. Use Keywords and Optimize Your Profile for Search


We live in a Google-centric world, and machines do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to screening applicants. According to CNBC, 75 percent of resumes are never reviewed by a human. To guarantee that yours is part of the other 25 percent, you should ensure that:

  • Recruiters who are sourcing candidates on job boards find you
  • Your resume makes it through the machine filtering software the majority of companies use to track applicants

Optimize your LinkedIn and online profiles for job sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, and bolster your resume using keywords commonly used in your field. Buzzwords, specific applications you use, and certifications you’ve earned can all help you rise to the top.

3. Show Your Creativity


You absolutely need to have a text-only version of your resume for uploading to company sites, but since most jobs come through networking, your actual resume and profile should show off your personality. Be sure that the PDF version you send to a personal contact within a company or bring to an interview is visually appealing. 

Make yours stand out by using a modern (but not too funky) font, layout, color palette, and punchy copy. A unique twist or fresh look and feel on your resume could be what catches the hiring manager’s eye.

4. Action Speaks Louder than Words


Strong job candidates show, rather than just tell. Delivering a clear story about what you did in your previous roles is a start, but it’s more important to share the results of your actions and prove the impact you had on a project or at a company. Whenever possible, demonstrate your success with numbers that show efficiency, money saved or secured for a business, or goals exceeded.

For some jobs—like software developer, content developer, or social media expert—showing your proficiency may be critical to capturing a recruiter’s attention. You can tease your results on your resume, but actually directing readers to your personal website, social media channels, or developer proficiency site, like GitHub, can really bring your capabilities to life.

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5. Tailor for the Job


It’s great to have a summary at the top of your resume that captures what you’re seeking in your next role, along with your core competencies and achievements. Equally important is tailoring your profile for each job. If you’re in the communications field, for example, you might play up your PR experience when it’s specifically called out in the position’s requirements. But if the title is Social Media Manager, Content Creator, or Internal Communications Specialist, the emphasis needs to be on the skills for those particular roles.

Related: How to Land Your Dream Job in 9 Steps

6. Less is More


In today’s tight talent market, HR professionals are short on time. A survey by Ladders says that most recruiters spend less than six seconds reviewing a resume. For that reason, keep your resume short. Limit it to one page if you have less than 10 years of professional work experience, and use succinct bullet points to make it easy to skim.

7. No Typos Allowed


Typos or grammatical errors on your resume can land it in the trash. A sloppy resume can potentially signal that you’re not serious about the role, or simply not buttoned-up and professional. When you’ve stared at your document a million times, however, it can be hard to spot errors. That’s why you should always have someone else proofread your work. Fresh eyes can zero in on mistakes more easily, so ask your most detail-oriented friend to be your editor.

8. Focus on Qualities and Skills


For many jobs, distinguishing qualities like teamwork, attention to detail, and ability to juggle multiple priorities are often considered more important than where you went to school or your GPA. Highlighting those competencies and how you learned and demonstrated them through summer jobs, community service, extracurricular activities, or even group projects at school matters. It doesn’t necessarily require years of professional experience to develop the skills required for certain roles.

Related: Tips for Transitioning from College to Your Career

Achieving Job Search Success

When you’re looking for work, keep in mind that there are many qualified candidates vying for the same job. Like a competitive sport, you need to bring you’re “A game” to your resume and make sure you’re primed for success.

Are you interested in advancing your career? Explore our catalog of online courses, and learn how you can gain the confidence and skills to succeed in business. And be sure to check out our other career development content, such as “6 Tips to Prepare for Your Next Salary Negotiation” and “How to Properly Follow Up After a Job Interview.”

Michele Reynolds

About the Author

Michele Reynolds handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to HBS Online, she led communications for TripAdvisor and Gazelle and has been widely quoted in national media outlets, including CBS News, Reuters, and The New York Times. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. Outside work, she spends time with her teenage daughter, plays tennis, and visits her enormous extended family.