5 Easy Ways to Make Your Résumé Stand Out Online, According to a Hiring Expert

published Jun 1, 2021
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Elle Woods’ pink, scented paper in “Legally Blonde” is a great illustration of personalizing a résumé, but convincing a hiring manager you’re the right person for the job will take a bit more strategy than a spritz of fragrance. 

For one thing, your potential future boss will also want to know you’ve got the skills and experience to excel at the job you’re applying for. Another important consideration? In the two decades since Legally Blonde, job applications have largely moved online. That’s a win for the environment (and, potentially, those last few drops of your fave perfume). But filling out an online job application also means you’ll have to work a lot harder at creating a convincing and compelling case for hiring you.

In the market for a job? Here’s how to make your résumé stand out in an online portal so you can put your best foot forward in your career.

Understand how companies process your résumé.

Tweaking your job application starts with understanding how, exactly, online job portals work. Sasha Yablonovsky, the president of job-listing website CareerBuilder, says two sources scan your résumé when you apply: an applicant tracking system (ATS) and a recruiter. “The ATS is the program looking for keywords and how closely your résumé matches the job description,” Yablonovsky says. “Don’t hesitate to use the same words and phrases as you see in the job description.” 

If your résumé makes it past the ATS, it reaches a human, who will further evaluate your skills and experience, along with your fit with the team. “So include your flair and personality and plenty of specific examples of working with teams,” she adds. For example, rather than simply listing out accomplishments, tell short, compelling stories about how you’ve conquered challenges and conflicts in the workplace. 

Customize your résumé for each role you apply for.

You may have one template résumé, but every job you’ll apply for will require specific skills and experience. So for each potential position, Yablonovsky says you should take the time to tailor your résumé accordingly, and highlight the skills that are most relevant to that particular role. “This can make you a more desirable candidate for that role and it shows the recruiter that you have done your research on the company and the position,” she notes.

Credit: Sandra Rojo

Lead with your transferable skills.

The future of hiring, Yablonovsky says,  is based on transferable skills — the idea that the skills you’ve gained throughout your career can be applied to multiple roles and industries. ”Your résumé should serve as a highlight reel or overview of your skills and successes, rather than the timeline of your professional history,” she says.

Showcasing your skills can make you a valuable candidate to in-demand roles right now. For example, a displaced flight attendant may have interpersonal skills, the ability to manage multiple projects concurrently, and the ability to work both independently and as a member of a team. Those skills line up with positions in sales and even customer service — both of which Yablonovskys says are constantly in-demand jobs. “As for other in-demand industries, health care employers are looking for skills like empathy, attention to detail, and flexibility; delivery services are looking for skills such as time management, organization, and customer care,” she says.  

Rebrand your unemployment.

“If you have experienced unemployment this year due to pandemic-related closures, you are not alone. In your résumé and your cover letter, tell the potential employer if you lost a job due to COVID-19, and show off the skills, experience, and knowledge you have gained during your period of unemployment,” Yablonovsky suggests. For example, if you developed skills as a caretaker, gained experience volunteering in your community, or completed online coursework, make sure to include that in your application so the hiring manager knows you learned and grew during your unemployed period.    

Help recruiters learn more about you with hyperlinks.

Whenever possible, create more access points for recruiters to understand you as a person, your skills and experience, and what only you could bring to the job. One way to do that, Yablonovsky says, is hyperlinking recruiters to areas that show off your work, like a personal website that shows off your tech or design skills. “You can even create and link to a digital portfolio, video, or presentation saved to the cloud that showcases your past work,” she says. “These tools demonstrate your skills and ambition and position you to stand out among the other applications and phone screenings.”