How to Make Your Resume Stand Out as an Adult
Updated: Jul 4
Looking for a job? Here are some resume tips that will help you get ahead.
First things first, get the formatting right
Generally, this is the format you want to follow for your resume:
Your name, followed by your email address, location, phone number, and potentially your LinkedIn or portfolio on the next line.
Your Major and GPA (if over 3.5), current or expected graduation date, and student leadership or awards if they relate to the job you’re going for.
"Relevant Experience & Projects" section
Any previous professional experience relevant to the role (most recent to oldest) or relevant projects with tangible results.
"Professional Experience" section
Any other experience you may have, even if it’s student admissions representative or McDonalds crew member.
"Technical Skills" section
Any technical skills you may have, like the types of programming languages you know.
Note: Some people prefer to put their education after their experience. For examples of resumes that got people the job they were going for, check out this Reddit thread.
Use the right font
Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Verdana work well. Never use more than two fonts and set the font size to 10 or 12.
Tip: Use a different color for section headings to differentiate sections.
Recruiters and managers see a lot of generic resumes. To stand out from the crowd, tailor your resume to the role and the company specifically and make sure you use the same wording as the job ad. Many companies use applicant tracking systems to filter job applicants, so if your resume doesn’t include specific keywords, it might not even ever get read by a human. There are exceptions to this, of course. For example, if you’re applying for an entry-level retail job, you probably don’t need to tailor your resume as the role is unlikely to differ too vastly from one store to the next. Tip: Keep a "master list" resume that you constantly update with every single new skill you learn or project you complete. It'll make tailoring your resume much easier because all you'll need to do is copy and paste relevant sections into a document with your "new" resume.
Rather than just including your duties from your past roles, describe how well you performed them and how they helped the organization grow. If you can, include numbers.
Make it digestible
No one is going to read your resume in detail. A hiring manager is just going to skim it at best, so don’t overcrowd it with irrelevant information. Think of your resume as a highlight reel — you want the recruiter to see the key details at a glance. With that in mind, keep it to one page.
Talk about your interests
It’ll help set you apart from other applicants and potentially give you and the hiring manager something to connect over during the interview.
Include a cover letter
Or, if you’re applying via email, treat the email message as your cover letter. Include 4-5 sentences on why you want to work with the company (the hiring manager wants to see that you understand the company) and why you’d be a good fit for the role.
Apply directly to the company
Unless specified otherwise, always send your resume to the company you’re applying to directly instead of submitting it via the job ad platform.
More quick tips
Skip the objective section or summary or, at the very least, keep it brief (2 to 3 sentences).
Write out any links you include rather than just hyperlinking them — depending on the software the hiring manager is using, the links might not work. They also won’t work if the resume is printed out on a sheet of paper.
Make use of bullet points. No one likes walls of text. But stick to no more than five or six bullet points per section.
To list a college you didn’t graduate from, use words like “attended” or phrases such as “took x credits towards x degree.”
Unless it’s asked for, you can probably exclude references, as well as the pointless line “references provided upon request.” If you progress in the hiring process, the hiring manager will likely ask for this separately (so keep a list of references ready).
Use a professional-sounding email (like your name and surname), nothing cringey.
Always submit your resume as a PDF to avoid formatting issues (unless it says otherwise, in which case, follow the instructions).
Name your resume file as “NameSurnameResume.”
Leave out your headshot — it could introduce unconscious bias.
No work experience? No problem
Focus on your education, the courses and projects you took/completed (pad these out with bullet points on your accomplishments within either or the skills you picked up), certifications achieved, technical skills, extracurricular activities (like clubs or societies), volunteer experience, and odd jobs (for example, even if you only ever worked as a babysitter, you can still make your experience relevant by emphasizing your dependability, consistency, multitasking, etc.) If applicable, include a link to your online portfolio.
Tip: Whatever role you’re going for, look up resumes for it and base yours on the ones you like best. Then, anonymize your resume and post it on r/resumes for critique.