6 Tips For Stepping Up Your Resume Game

To stand out from the job hunting crowd, your resume needs to be better than your average.

Workin' Girl

While LinkedIn seems to be where all the action is, the resume is still an important part of your job search. Whether you are applying for jobs online or in person, the first piece of information that is typically requested is a copy of your resume. But nowadays when recruiters spend only about 7 seconds reviewing a resume, how do you ensure that yours stands out from the pack?

The average job opening attracts 250 resumes, but only 4-6 people will be interviewed for the position. This means that you have got to step your game up to not only get noticed, but selected for the interview you want. So here are a few quick tips to help you level up that resume:

1.Select an attractive design. 

When deciding on a design, it is important to first consider the role and industry you are applying to as some are more conservative (finance, consulting, legal) than others (marketing, graphic design). However, you still want to ensure your resume quickly catches the eye of the reader, regardless of industry. This doesn't mean an overly complicated or busy design. Choose one that is modern, simple and easy to follow, with clear section headers and visible white space. We are so used to plain black-and-white resumes, but adding in a hint of color can give your resume a fresh look and attract the recruiter's attention. Show a little creativity!

2.Switch up the font.

Getty Images

I beg you to step away from Times New Roman, known as the "grey sweatpants" of resume fonts. Technically, there is nothing wrong with Times New Roman, but it is overused and can cause your resume to blend in with all the other resumes in the pile. Try using another font that may help your resume stand out, but can still scan and read well. If you like the style of Times New Roman, try a close alternative like Georgia or Garamond. If you want to go in a more modern direction, try Calibri, Helvetica, or even Arial Narrow.

3.Nix the outdated resume sections.

In 2019, if an employer knows they need your references, they'll simply ask for them. Therefore, "references upon request" is not required and is just taking up valuable space on your resume. The same thing goes for objective statements. If you still have the vague objective statement that reads "to find a position where I can apply my experience", it's not giving the reader any useful information. Let it go. Opt for a professional summary/career profile section instead to provide a better preview of your skills and expertise to intrigue the recruiter.

4.Avoid generic summary statements. 

Speaking of your professional summary, the top of your resume offers prime real estate for you to sell yourself. Don't waste it on broad statements or describe yourself with generic buzzwords such as "self-starter" or "strategic thinker". Utilize that space to share unique and meaningful highlights about you and your expertise that will prompt someone to read further to get the details.

5.Amplify your accomplishments and use action verbs. 

No one wants to read a list of job tasks that they could easily find on Indeed or Monster on their own. In writing your resume, the focus should be on your major contributions and accomplishments, quantifying wherever possible. If you have brought in new business, surpassed sales goals, or saved your company money, put it out there! This is one time where you are expected to toot your own horn, so take advantage! Recruiters don't want to just hear about what you did, but also the value and results you delivered. In addition, as you describe your contributions, incorporate action words. Phrases like "Responsible for" come across as passive and leave no impact.

6.Target your resume.

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We saved the best (and most important tip) for last:

While design and format are essential for your resume to stand out, substance will always be king. Recruiters are looking for resumes that are optimized for the specific industry and position, telling a clear story about your experience and why you are the right fit.

Your resume should not be all things to all people, but rather someone should be able to pick it up and immediately understand what you are looking for. So eliminate old or irrelevant positions, and outline the areas of your experience that most align with the job you're applying to. The main point to remember here is, recruiters spend just a few seconds reading your resume, so if it takes longer than that to discern what kind of position you are seeking, and more importantly, what you're qualified for, you've already lost their attention.

Pro Tip: Be sure to incorporate keywords from the job description to make your resume more searchable.

BONUS: Add in a Skills section!

Besides showcasing specific areas of your expertise, this is also another great opportunity to include some of the keywords from the posted job description to help you move up in the applicant search rankings. Incorporating a skills or key competencies section also allows the recruiter to quickly assess whether or not your skill-set matches what they are searching for.

While updating your resume can seem tedious, keep in mind that it is not just a written version of your work history. It is a targeted marketing document, a sales pitch designed to sell the recruiter on selecting you as the right candidate for the interview. And who likes a dry, boring sales pitch?

These tips can help you breathe new life into your resume and create something that is appealing and will get you real results in scoring your dream job!

For more information about Julia Rock, check out Rock Career Development or follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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