There is a scene in Legally Blonde that sums up the way that we used to be able to make our resumes stand out. Elle Woods hands a copy of hers over, and her professor looks at it, startled. “It’s pink,” he tells her, somewhat aghast. “And scented!” She chirps in response, much to his bemusement.

While the scene is more about Elle’s unconventional approach to things, it nevertheless used to be a good tactic. “Print out your resume on colored paper to make it stand out!” was a common recommendation to those wanting to boost their chances at securing an interview. It probably worked as well; if you’ve a pile of documents to sort through, then one that looks different will catch your eye.

The only problem is… who sends paper resumes anymore?

It just doesn’t happen. Most of time, you will send your resume by Word file rather than print it out. At worst, you’re going to be filling in an online form rather than something you crafted yourself. So how can you stand out?
Step One: Find your job

Applying for jobs should never be a mass activity. Yes, you up your chances by applying for a lot at once, but what quality do those occupations have?

Instead, find a particular job to focus on at a time. If you’re struggling for inspiration, there’s many a job vacancy can be found here and using basic Google searches. When you’ve found something to draw your focus, move on to…

Step Two: Tailor Your Application

Never fill in the same details and just change the company name and job title. It’s been studied, and one of the things that employers hate most is a carbon-copy application.

So write a new cover letter (or cover email, as the case may be) to go with each application. For an example, let’s say you’re a Blue belt in Judo and that you’ve worked for a fast food chain.
On an application to be a gym instructor, you emphasize the judo qualification.
If you’re applying to be a waitress, you emphasize the fast food experience.
It might sound simple, but shockingly few people bother to do it.

Step Three: Don’t Be Obvious

Go through your resume. Does it have any of the following terms?

  • I am keen to learn
  • I’m a hard worker
  • I work well within a team
  • I pick things up quickly

Found them? Delete them. They’re nonsense. Instead, use examples from your working life. Instead of “I’m a hard worker”, choose a situation that actually demonstrates that and write about it. You immediately leap out from the thousands of others who have used the same banal statements.

Step Four: Proofread and Spellcheck

Spelling and grammatical errors are a huge no for potential employers, even in jobs where writing isn’t important. It’s about presentation and how thorough you can be. Don’t rely on your program to detect the issues; proofread it yourself and get a friend to do it also. Then do it again, and again. This is one area you can’t afford to slip up on. The rewards are great – putting money worries behind you may rely on reading just one more time.

With a unique, well-written and tailored resume, your chances of standing out in the crowd have gone up ten notches. And you didn’t even need to invest in pink paper to do it.