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How to Make Your Resume Stand out

You've tweaked and crafted your resume, spell-checked it at least twice. But have you included a 'QR code'?

Those are the bar codes that are popping up in newspapers, on consumer products and elsewhere, that can be scanned by smartphones. Some people are adding these to their resumes to direct employers to online portfolios, contact information and other application materials.


'People are definitely getting creative,' says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at jobs site CareerBuilder.com. 'Individuals can create a code and link it to other information about their background.'

Other creative strategies to make a rresume stand out include using infographics and videos, which highlight job seekers' accomplishments and communication and technical skills.

Several months ago, an applicant's video resume for a human-resources role at CareerBuilder caught Ms. Haefner's eye. While the applicant didn't win the position, Ms. Haefner says she was impressed

'It's great that somebody was trying to do something different,' Ms. Haefner says.

However, applicants need to know their audience and should think carefully before submitting a resume that some employers may view as hokey. Furthermore, many employers spend less than a minute reviewing a resume-they won't have time for or interest in videos and charts.

Indeed, unusual content and formatting can backfire.
'If you put your resume on a watermelon, that won't get [positive] attention. The substance of a resume is what matters. People who do serious work don't have to puff it up,' says Charles Wardell, chief executive of Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm based in Oak Brook, Ill.

Job seekers also should avoid focusing too much on a resume and too little on networking. In many cases, networking will get an applicant an interview, and a resume is needed only to remind an employer about a job-seeker's background.
Here are two other strategies to make a resume stand out in a competitive job market.

1. Go Retro

Some experts recommend job seekers take a page from the past: Send in a basic application that includes a well-crafted cover letter with a rresume that highlights career progression.

A cover letter can be a separate document, or included in the body of an email.

Glenn Shagena, director of manufacturing human resources at Chrysler Group, says it's common to receive 10 to 50 resumes for an open spot. He appreciates conciseness and precision.

'It's surprising how many resumes you'll see with misspelled words, poor grammar,' Mr. Shagena says. 'There really is a war for talent, and a resume that looks good and looks crisp and well-written will absolutely get somebody in the door.'

Larry Maier, president of Peerless Precision, a small Westfield, Mass., manufacturer of parts for the aerospace, defense, and medical-devices industries, says he wants resume from technical applicants that highlight training and relevant work experience-and that's it.

When it comes to reviewing resumes, 30 seconds is enough for Mr. Maier.

'I really don't care what their hobbies are and their personal life. What I want to see is if they went to a legitimate school and they have some training and experience,' Mr. Maier says.

2. Focus on recent accomplishments

To stand out, a resume should concentrate on an applicant's most important work experience-accomplishments within the past five to 10 years-rather than treating all listed positions equally, says John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago.

'Companies are interested in what you did today, and what you've accomplished over the last five years is going to be key in how they look at your candidacy,' says Mr. Challenger.

Joanne Pokaski, director of workforce development at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says job seekers who face competition from a large pool of applicants with similar or identical technical backgrounds should highlight specific accomplishments, such as improving an employer's operations.