Resume Fundamentals

Making Your Resume Stand Out

The ONeil Search Group gets hundreds of resumes each day. When recruiting for a particular position, the first thing we do is scan the resumes to weed out any that do not seem to be a good fit. We review the remaining resumes more closely, eliminating even more candidates as we try to hone in on the best candidates for the position.

If you have the right educational and experiential background and feel you are a good fit for the position, how do you make sure your resume stands out? How do you ensure that you make it to the next level: the interview?

Using key words that indicate that you would do the job well is extremely important. As is applying style to your presentation, but not so much as to make it cluttered or illegible.

  • It is not necessary and often it is detrimental to include a career objective at the top of your resume. If you have a clear career objective, by all means, include one. However, if you have cobbled one together just so you can put it on your resume, or if it is confusing, long or convoluted, it is better to leave it off.
  • Make sure the most important information is prominently displayed. Put your name and contact information at the top. Directly below that should be the experience, skill or accomplishment that is most relevant to the job you are applying for (preferably this would be a job experience).
  • Use words (or synonyms for words) the employer used in the job description. Make sure you use the words strategically by putting them in key areas throughout your resume (for instance in descriptions of your relevant experience). When scanning a resume, we (and employers) use the job description as a guideline and always have an eye out for key words and phrases.
    In the body of your resume, give concrete examples of your achievements. Use engaging statistics and descriptors. For instance: “Developed social media campaign that resulted in 10 percent increase in sales.” This type of wording demonstrates your value to potential employers.
  • Use dynamic action verbs such as: adapted, analyzed, designed, developed, devised, evaluated, identified, implemented and improved. The following verbs are acceptable, but are used very often: assisted, coordinated, demonstrated, maintained, monitored, organized, performed and provided. Stay away from: did, made, utilized and worked.
  • Remember: You are trying to communicate that you are the best person for the position with your resume. So design your resume in order to get that point across. Images, colors and funny quotes will undermine your overall message and will quickly get you eliminated from consideration. Strive for an organized look. Make the content neat and easy to read.
  • These days, resumes are often emailed. Make sure you have your resume in several formats (such as Microsoft Word and PDF). Sometimes employers will not accept attachments, so you should also have a version that can be pasted seamlessly into an email, without compromising spacing and style.
  • Most importantly, show your resume to someone else before sending it out. A fresh set of eyes will catch mistakes that you and a spell-checker may miss.


Keep an eye on the format of your entire resume as you change smaller sections. Some programs will apply format changes to an entire document, even if only a small section is highlighted.