Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to write a resume that stands out

Krista Morris
March 21, 2022

Congrats on your upcoming graduation! As a professional resume writer at Virtuoso Resumes, the biggest question I hear time and again is “How do I write a resume that stands out from other recent graduates?” The great news is that the job market is hot right now and unemployment is low. Jobs are simply falling out of the sky. In fact, I’d say that my clients’ average job search right now is 1-8 weeks. Your prospects are bright. Now all you need is to get your resume noticed (preferably before G-day)!

Resume Basics Recent Graduates Need to Know

It is likely that there will be some sort of software involved in the job application process, and unfortunately, we have zero visibility into what that looks like on the company side. Yes, there are actual humans on the employer’s side (thank goodness!), but how much they rely on software to sort through applicants is impossible to predict. They might manually review every resume, or they might have the software give you a score based on your resume. There is just no way to know.

What this means for you is that there are formatting constraints. Some of this software uses the latest and greatest in AI and machine learning and some is just…well…old and stupid. In practical terms, your resume should be designed so that all versions of ATS software, even the old ones, can scan the content. Because, above all – you need all the words to be visible on the other side. In the right order.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell.

  1. Most ATS software (as of 2022) cannot read columns, text boxes, or tables. So…if you download a pretty format from Etsy or Canva, know that you run the risk of all your keywords (and content) being invisible.
  2. If you hire a resume writer because their formats are amazing, make sure that what you are buying is ATS scannable. (Again, columns are not a good idea despite how trendy and easy-to-read they are. The exception is if you can network and completely bypass the traditional “upload, click, apply” approach. If that’s the case, then go for it!)

Resume Formatting Advice for Recent Graduates

The resume formatting fix? A single column from top to bottom, just like you did in school for papers.

The bright spot is that we can use color, lines, bold, capitals, icons, and even graphics. Just don’t put any critical keywords or data within those graphics that you would like the software to recognize. If you stick to phrases or data points that are unlikely to be keywords, those graphics will really help you stand out. Here are some additional formatting considerations:

  1. Header should contain your name, phone number, LinkedIn URL, city, state, and zip code.
  2. Write an executive summary, not the “objective” statement your university career center probably told you to craft. I’ve written more about this here.
  3. Add a dedicated keyword section under the summary and tweak this every time you apply for a job. (No shortcuts.) Read about identifying keywords here.
  4. Education should be front and center. If you are in a technical field, highlight some of the upper-level classes you took. It’s an opportunity to weave in additional keywords!
  5. Professional history should highlight your accomplishments and not be a laundry list of job duties. I don’t care what you were supposed to do. I only care about what you did.
  6. Omit your hobbies. No one cares. (Unless you are an Olympic athlete, DI baller, or hold a Guinness record.)
  7. Omit “References Available Upon Request.” It takes up a valuable resume real estate you could use for impactful content.
  8. One page is better than two, but two really is okay. Also, stick with true type fonts such as Calibri, Garamond, Arial, or Times New Roman. Under no circumstances should you use Comic Sans.

Now get to work and land that job! I’m happy to answer questions. Just fill out the contact page on my website.

With multiple awards including Top 10 Resume Writer in Phoenix and Tucson and Top 8 Legal Resume Writer, Krista Morris began writing resumes more than 15 years ago. She launched her company, Virtuoso Resumes, in 2011, and quickly tapped into her inner entrepreneur. (It turns out that she really enjoys being in charge.) Typically forging her own path, what sets Krista apart is her unique grasp of strategy and refusal to follow convention. In her own words, “Your resume isn’t about what you do. It’s about what you’ve DONE.”

Krista’s career has included working with clients at Am Law 100 firms as well as many Fortune 100 companies including Intel, Amazon, SAP, Capital One, and Exelon. She has been a featured speaker at American Express and taught resume writing to Women in eDiscovery, Washington DC Bar Association, American Association of Professional Coders, and Maricopa County Workforce Connection.

Above all, Krista believes that just as snowflakes are one-of-a-kind, so are people’s careers (and their resumes should reflect that.) 

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