How to Take Your Resume From “Blah” to “Wow”

Job SearchPersonal Branding

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? After all, who better knows where you’ve been and what you’ve done than you?  Open up your Word file and dump all that information into a pleasing format, forward it to a prospective employer or two, then sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

Before you hit “send” on your resume, there are a few things you may want to consider, or you may be waiting a very long time.

1. Ask: “Would I Hire Me?”

First, take a hard look at the document you’ve created and ask yourself this question: “Would I hire this person?” Before you answer, remember, there is a very good chance you are not the only person applying for this position. With that in mind, repeat the question. If your answer is anything other than a resounding “Yes,” you may want to hold off hitting that send button.

2. Be the Red Balloon in a Field of Yellow Ones

The resume is so much more than just a “data dump,” if you will, yet it is treated thusly all too often. This happens much to the chagrin of the sender as well as the recipient.

It is vital to the success of this document that it sets you apart from the competition. You are likely rivaling candidates whose qualifications are similar to your own. So, you must be the red balloon in the field of yellow ones if you want to get noticed.

Give the reader something to get excited about that can’t be duplicated on any other resume they may encounter. It simply does not matter that you spent X years in X position and accomplished X goals during your tenure. Your competition has probably done similar things. While this information is important, don’t stop there. Dig a little deeper to mine the career gold that only you possess.

Were the goals you reached achievable by anyone who may have held that position? Or, is there something unique about the way you go about getting things done that gave life to them? Did you have a differentiating way of coalescing disparate teams, shortening processes or clarifying complexity? Did your distinctive voice offer a value-add that set you apart from peers?

3. Exploit Your Uniqueness

If it is the latter, then it is imperative to exploit that uniqueness. When you add this third dimension to an otherwise two-dimensional document, you give it a certain texture that will get you noticed at the very least, and hired at the very most.

Look for any opportunity to do this throughout the resume.

4. Create an Appealing, Navigable Format

Formatting is another important aspect of the resume you should staunchly focus upon. While there are many pre-set formats across hundreds of websites and within your own Microsoft software, these often wreak “template” and should only be used as a starting point, if at all.

Be certain that you create a design that authentically reflects your value proposition mapped to the needs of the prospective employer. Your choice should be easy to navigate and interesting to the eye. The font you choose and the colors for them should be indicative of your professionalism. If what you choose would excite a high school cheerleading team, it is probably not proper for your resume.

When appropriate, don’t shy away from the use of charts and graphs. When used properly, these visual aids can go a long way to increasing the readability of your resume by breaking up long sections of text that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Lastly, be sure to proofread your document for spelling and grammatical errors. Knowing the difference between “their,” “they’re” and “there” is one thing. Writing these words properly is another and if done improperly may keep the phone from ringing.  Also, ensure your voice comes through loud and clear on this document. Being someone different on paper than the person you really are will show itself during the interview. That rarely ends well.

Following these tips will help give you a resume you can be proud to “send” and get you the results you need for success.


Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. An intuitive researcher, she helps professionals unearth compelling career story details to help best present their unique experience, skillset and interests in resumes and other career positioning documents as well as through social media profiles. In addition to being interviewed for television and radio stories, Jacqui has written for the Career Management Alliance Connection monthly newsletter and blog, ExecuNet’s Career Smart Advisor, The Kansas City Star, The Business Journal and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, she and her husband, “Sailor Rob,” host a lively careers-focused blog over at Jacqui also is a power Twitter user listed on several “Best People to Follow” lists for job seekers.