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How to Make Your Resume Undeniable

Now that you have the essentials on your resume, take a moment to smooth it out and polish your writing. When your resume is competing against dozens of others, you know you need it to stand out. Decision-makers throughout Columbia College shared what they look for in applications. 

  • Eliminate mistakes in punctuation, spelling and grammar.

    No one is immune to sneaky typos and slip-ups in the first draft. Pull in a friend to help proofread, or several friends to be sure. A useful proofreading technique is to carefully read the resume aloud to catch grammar mistakes or missing words, then read the resume to yourself backward to catch spelling errors. Several managers emphasized how essential this part is, and that if they see words misused or misspelled, the resume goes right into the "no" pile.
  • Choose clear and consistent formatting.

    Ann Merrifield, director of Alumni Relations, notices when a resume has been well-designed. "I really believe that if people don't take the time to make their resume look nice then they may not be worth considering," she shared. The format of a resume is up to you, but the trick is to keep it professional and consistent. That means simple fonts, few colors if any (if you use color, make sure that your resume still looks good if printed grayscale), and treating like elements the same way. For example, if you bold the word "Education" as the title to your education section, you need to bold the titles to all your sections. It is a good idea to make the titles of your sections stand out so that your resume is easy to scan.
  • Be specific and tailor to the position.

    "I am looking for someone that wants to do this job, at my organization, not someone who wants a job, at any organization," Director of Columbia College-Crystal Lake Debra Hartman said. The cover letter is a powerful way to explain why you're a great fit for the position and the company culture. Suzanne Rothwell, Executive Director of Advancement said, "Those that don't make the effort to provide a cover letter make me feel like they are not trying very hard. And if you don't have the initiative to try at the point of hire, then that leaves a negative impression on me." An easy way to customize your cover letter is to identify the specific qualifications that the job posting is asking the right candidate to have, and your use cover letter to answer those.
  • Show accomplishments that speak to your character.

    "I am looking for written materials that focus on action and results. If an applicant cannot tell me what he/she has accomplished, they are not likely a fit for the dynamics of my team," said Hartman. Hiring managers are skilled at reading between the lines to see soft-skills of candidates. Mike Lederle, director of Columbia College-Rolla, said, "If I do not get the sense from the resume that the individual understands the importance of a team, I move their resume to the 'maybe' pile instead of the 'interview' pile."

Related content:

Resume and Business Card Design Tips

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Answering the Tough Interview Questions

Resume, Columbia College, Job Search

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