How to write a CV that stands out

Have you heard of the so-called resume black hole? It is real. Human resource and hiring managers receive tons of resumes for each job opening and they cannot afford the luxury of reading all of the CVs thoroughly. Consequently, they frequently skim them over or, even worse, skip and toss some of them. Here are some tips that will help you avoid the black hole.


Many job seekers think that recruiters spend 4 to 5 minutes per resume. However, a study shows that they actually spend 6 seconds on your CV before they decide if you are a good fit. Therefore, making a good first impression will be crucial to your success. Your resume design is like a wrapping paper of a product. If it is not appealing, your chances of being noticed drastically decrease. A beautiful design can make you stand out in the crowd. If you have taken care to present your CV the recruiter will definitely read your CV.

When you do not have much time to impress someone, user experience is of great importance as well. Being pressed by time, recruiters are looking for keywords, i.e. experience and skills, that match their requirements. Your resume should be easy to read and key information should be highlighted. Use whitespace to improve readability. Crowding a page with blocks of text affects the ease of reading whereas whitespace may be used to showcase what is truly important.

Do not worry if you do not have a knack for design. You can find an infinite number of ideas on the Internet or use a free online resume builder.


Now that you have attracted the recruiters’ attention, you have to sell yourself. In sales, potential customers have a clear idea of what features they are looking for in a particular product. Likewise, in recruitment prospective employers have certain expectations and requirements from applicants. Fortunately, their requirements are listed in their job ad. Tailor you CV to suit the job description; add experience and skills that are pertinent to the position and delete those that are irrelevant.

Never copy-paste whole resumes or large chunks of texts from the Internet. Recruiters have read them all many times. Have mercy on them. Can you imagine what it is like to read one and same page over and over again? They will definitely reject you for this.

Keep your resume short! Even if you are a great storyteller, keep in mind that nobody has time to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace any more. Recruiters and hiring managers are busy. “Ideally, your resume should be one to two pages long, because recruiters and managers have short attention spans. It’s your ad; it doesn’t have to be comprehensive,” says Jennifer Brooks, a career counsellor. Although shorter is better, you may need more space to list your extensive experience and numerous skills. In this case, two pages are okay, but three or more are too much, according to experts.

To make your resume more user friendly, you may include a short career summary statement. On the one hand, you can use it to bring into the spotlight your most sought-after professional experience, skills and accomplishments; on the other, this will enable the prospective employer to quickly get an impression of your career path and skills.

Recruiters and applicant tracking systems rely on keywords to extract information. They may refer to skills, experience and responsibilities. You can find the keywords you need to include in your CV in the job posting. Do not use black hat SEO techniques. If you overstuff your resume with keywords, you will be penalized; ultimately, your CV will end up in the black hole.

The skills required for the job you are applying for can be industry-specific and soft skills. Do not undervalue the importance of soft skills. Nowadays, they are in high demand. In a study of the assessment company Wonderlic, 99% of employers rate soft skills as an important, very important or essential factor in hiring decisions.

However, using buzzwords alone will not help. Unless you have proof. Everybody is a great leader and team player, who is capable of multi-tasking, works hard and is loyal to the company. A much better strategy to gain employer’s trust is to give an example of what you have achieved by applying your soft skills.

You can also add a touch of personality. This is especially useful when you do not have much experience to fill in a whole page. You can point out your professional interests, personal achievements or hobbies. You may also include trainee or graduate programs, volunteer work or freelance projects you were involved in. Thus, you will provide a deeper insight into what motivates and inspires you to work.

Apart from your education, list any additional qualifications and certificates that are relevant to the position. Any seminar, training or course you have ever attended is more eloquent than clichés like “eager to learn” or “willing to acquire new knowledge”.


A report of the World Economic Forum states that creativity will be the third most important work skill by 2020. However, it is not enough to write down that you are creative. You have to show it. Creativity can be expressed in many different ways and forms. You can impress your potential employer by your writing, design or technical skills.

For instance, Robby Leonardy has come up with an interactive resume. You can play his CV as a computer game. Mark Leruste’s resume looks like a video ad. An-Ni Wang’s animated resume titled “A Day in the Life of a Front-End Developer” is a real cartoon with its own plot. You do not need to search for Chris Liu’s CV because it is a Google search itself. When you check Phillipe Dubost’s Amazon webpage resume, you will probably ask for a price quote.

Humour is a great tool to impress people. However, when it comes to serious things like a job, you should use it with caution. Some people may like it, others may think it is unprofessional. Either way, it should be extremely balanced. If it is too much, it may seem that you are not taking the application process seriously.

There is no right or wrong way to write a resume as long as it is relevant to the job you apply for. You should also take into consideration what is appropriate in the industry you work in. You can also test different types of CVs until you find your own formula of success.

Just remember that the more tailored and unique your resume is, the greater your chances of being noticed and invited to an interview are, even if you are not the perfect match or do not have enough experience. You have to shine to get your CV on the top of the pile.