Is your resume boring? Perhaps it checks all the boxes in terms of getting the right information on the page, but it simply feels empty. While having the right facts on your resume is critical, it also needs to get noticed. If you’re feeling that your resume is a tad too generic to stand out, then you may be tempted to add some pizzazz.
That being said, stepping too far outside of the box can be a huge risk, and one that may not be worth taking. This article will help you think through a few unusual additions that can give your resume that stand out edge that you are looking for, without detracting from your overall message that you are a qualified professional.
Yes, your resume does need to be a reflection of your ability to showcase your professional skills, qualifications, and attributes. However, many people make the mistake of confusing “professional” with “robot.” Hiring managers, who are likely to read hundreds of resumes for a single position, are not interested in hiring a robot. They are looking for a human being with the right skillset, but just as importantly, the right personality to fit in with their team.
Here are a few ways to introduce a little bit of personality back into your resume:
- Include a “stand out moment” for each job in your work history section. This can be a one or two sentence story that demonstrates a meaningful moment when you came up with a creative solution to a problem, learned from a mistake, or took on a project that was a tremendous success.
- Make sure that your resume communicates the passion and enthusiasm that you bring to the table. Look for a few opportunities to use emotive verbs such as “spearheaded,” “inspired,” or “motivated” instead of the boring and dull verbs such as “led” or “supervised.”
- Use a few stylistic design elements to go beyond a basic bullet point resume. This will help you make the most of the space on your resume while also showing some attention to your personal style through a consistent visual theme.
While it was once considered a bad idea to include links on your resume, the modern employment landscape has changed. Sometimes links can be a way to introduce additional information about your qualifications, passions, or the details of your professional life that do not necessarily fit on your resume.
Of course, you will want to be selective about including links on your resume. Be thoughtful about whether or not your link goes to a well curated collection of information, images, or videos about you that your employer will find relevant. Avoid links to personal social media sites, for example, that are not likely to bring anything helpful to the table in terms of your candidacy.
A few examples of links you may choose to include on your resume include:
- Your professional profile on a professional networking site, such as LinkedIn. Be sure that your profile is up to date and complete before linking it on a resume.
- Online portfolio sites have made it easy to curate a visual presentation of your success working through specific past projects both on and off the job. Showing your work in action can be a tremendous benefit when trying to stand out against other candidates.
- A personal website, blog, or vlog can sometimes add some extra punch to your resume. In order to qualify for addition, however, you should ask if your content, presentation, or audience attracting skills are relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, even if the subject of your blog is about your hobby, being able to show an engaged readership and substantial audience might be relevant to a marketing job.
Volunteer work that you have or are doing can sometimes be a value added to your resume. It can demonstrate personality, character, and passion. However, it can also have the appearance of “fluff” which can detract from your overall message of being the best candidate for a job.
How you list volunteer work is the first thing to consider. It should not just be a title. Include a brief statement about the kind of work you do or did in a given role, highlighting accomplishments. In addition, make sure that your service is in some way relevant to the job you are applying for, or it might be a waste of space.
Here are a few quick tips on how and when volunteer work is an asset on your resume:
- DO include volunteer work if you sense that the mission aligns with the company’s values and culture.
- DO include volunteer work if it gives you an opportunity to showcase skills relevant to the position you are applying for that you can’t demonstrate through paid work experiences.
- DO include volunteer work if you are new to the workforce and have a short list of previous jobs.
- DO include volunteer work if the context of that work matches some aspect of the job you are applying for in terms of dealing with certain groups of people, coordinating with a specific industry or sector, or touching on similar issues. For example, if you volunteered at a dog shelter and are applying for a job as a vet tech, it is definitely worth including this on your resume.
- DON’T include volunteer work on your resume if it isn’t doing double duty, such as in the cases above. Listing volunteer work just to add it for no reason rarely adds value to a resume.
You can add projects that you have worked on at past jobs to give the hiring manager a more fine-grained sense of how you operate in the context of unique challenges.
Projects can be added to your resume in several ways. One way is to add a “Project Highlight” section under each of your past jobs that simply highlights a single project that you are most proud of. Another way is to add a “Special Projects” section under the work history section that walks the reader through a more detailed view of your role in a few specific projects that most demonstrate the kinds of skills and qualifications most relevant to the job you are applying for.
A third way is to build an online portfolio of several professional projects that you have worked on, and simply provide a link to that profile where appropriate on your resume.
Side projects, that is, those you have done outside of your professional life, can also sometimes be an asset on your resume. They can show initiative to learn and improve your skills in your off time. However, unless the project has some relation to your professional work, it may be simply perceived as “filler” on your resume and would be better avoided.
Finally, if you are well traveled, it can be worth adding a small section on your resume to showcase this fact. While this is particularly true if the job you are applying for will make use of your national or international travel savvy, it may also be true in other cases as well.
Showcasing that you have made travel a priority can communicate desirable qualities to a potential employer. For example, it shows a passion for new experiences, a zest for life, a positive outlook, and an interest in getting to know more about people and places different from your own. If you are worldly, don’t be afraid to drop that on your resume. It may communicate a great deal while taking up very little space, and that is a win-win.