Your résumé is, for better or worse, your one shot at wedging the door of hiring opportunity open using the figurative shoe of your employment history. Here are ten tips for what you can do to make yours stand out from all the others:
1. Remove your name, address, phone number and any personal information. This creates an air of mystery that hiring professionals find intriguing. They'll be anxious to start digging deep to learn more about you.
2. One page is preferred. The easiest way to do this is to keep reducing your page margins to eliminate useless "white space". The whole point of your résumé is to promote yourself as the best candidate for the job for which you are applying -- white space just provides an opening for whoever is reviewing your qualifications to reflect and mentally compare you to other candidates, which you want to avoid since the odds are most other candidates are more qualified. (Alternate suggestion: Set up your template to print out on 11" x 17" paper.)
3. If multiple pages are required... whether to document extensive work experience or due to your choice of a monstrous font size, print each page on a different-colored paper. It's a unique and distinctive approach and also implies your familiarity with the "color wheel".
4. An "Objective" is passé. Today's candidates in the know include a "Subjective". Unlike an Objective, listing the qualities of an "ideal position" that doesn't exist, a subjective statement provides an honest assessment of what you hope an average work day will be like at your new company. EXAMPLE: "Seeking a comfortable position with responsibilities similar to but less taxing than what I've done before, and with better pay and additional vacation days than my last job. Lax attendance policies, free soda/coffee, and attractive co-workers are a bonus."
5. Be specific with your accomplishments. Include quantitative measurements of what you've achieved. Replace a vague "Responsible for creating Excel spreadsheets" with the more precise "Responsible for creating Excel spreadsheets containing up to 65,536 rows".
6. "References available upon request". Here's a secret top hiring managers won't tell you -- no one checks references, ever. There are too many legal restrictions around what your previous employers can say about you, and employers are concerned with potential liability if they offer a negative (i.e., honest) assessment. The only questions the EEOC permits to be asked regarding previous employment are: "What did you say your name was again?" and "Are you hiring? I hear there's about to be an opening at your company." If you are asked for references (which should be done with formality, since the standard is "upon request"), provide names that will impress your new employer but are impossible to verify: Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Carl Sagan.
7. List your hobbies and outside interests. Since you'll be spending three-fourths of your time at work using your employer's resources to pursue them, it's important to make them known so the new company's IT department can adequately plan for bandwidth requirements.
8. Be flexible about your education. Every job out there requires an MBA, so be sure to include that degree on your résumé. While there is great debate regarding the merits of public vs. private universities, there is no question that people think their school is the greatest. Leave enough room on your résumé so you can quickly write in the name of your new boss's alma mater once you discover it during the interview process.
9. Bullet point or narrative style? Neither -- both have been done to death. Make creative use of the "Tab" key to set random indents. You can also highlight your individuality by switching from left to right justification mid-way through the page. However, avoid full justification unless you have time to count the number of letters in each line to make sure they match.
10. Over-promise and under-deliver. For example, I said I'd provide ten tips but have only included nine.
Good luck! If you follow these guidelines, you'll certainly need it.