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November 11, 2013

Simple tips to make your resume stand out

By shutterstock_105088013_feat

Ah the résumé, a simple piece of paper that stands between you and your ability to pay the bills. A job, a future, a career. As you were going up the ranks of college, few ever warned you just how crucial that piece of pressed paper would be to your life. For over 20 years I was a professional actor. My résumé was my gateway to work. Prospective employers would give a ten second glance at that paper and know, immediately, if they had any interest in any further interaction.

Seconds. That’s the amount of time you have to make an impression. Let me say it one more time.


This idea plays into the old “rule of one.” But does it defend it? Does it mean that rule is an absolute?

Absolutely not.

Rule of one

First, what is the “rule of one”? This is something that has bounced around the planet for decades and tries its best to limit the length of your resume to one page. That’s all fine and good for those just jumping into the work force. Most coming out of college will be lucky to have enough experience and skills to fill an entire page. But what of those that have years of experience? To those with a list of skills and experience the length of a Dead Sea Scroll, I would say this:

How did those skills and experience affect the bottom line of the company you worked for?

The answer to that one question will have more of an impact on prospective employers than a litany of previous jobs and abilities. With that in mind, comb through your experience and your skills and rid the list of those that had little to no impact on a company’s bottom line. For example: If you re-deployed a company network using all open source technology, and saved said company tens of thousands of dollars on their yearly budget, that should land on or near the very top of your list. If you implemented a firewall system that served to not only block unwanted access to your network, but significantly drove down port scans to your servers, that too should land on or near the very top of your list. If you served as desktop support for a twenty or so desktop users, yes, that could go on the list, but how did it save the company money?

You see where I am going with this? You have to immediately display how you can affect a positive change to the bottom line for prospective clients. That will get you much farther than a bulleted list.

The extra mile

One of the nice aspects of submitting résumés within the tech industry is that you can always show a bit of flair in ways other industries won’t appreciate. For example, I have created QR codes that can be scanned on a smart phone to give extra information or even direct the viewer to a video clip of myself (or video references). QR codes are simple to create, are unobtrusive to the resume, and will certainly pique the curiosity of the reviewer. This also has the added benefit of giving you an infinite amount of room to display your unique abilities and reasons why a company would be best served to hire you.

Along with a little creativity, it is absolutely imperative that you do both spelling and grammar checks on your document. This might seem like a rookie mistake, but you’d be shocked at how many résumés I have seen rife with errors. These mistakes leave an indelible mark on you as an employee — one not up to the task of detail and care. While you are picking the grammar nits out of that résumé, make sure your words are chosen with the same amount of care as was your content. You must present yourself professionally while at the same time make yourself stand out. Remember, that company is going to receive countless résumés for that job; you must do everything you can to get your résumé noticed and not tossed into the recycle bin.

Lay it all out

I’m not talking about your personal life. What I mean here is that you should avoid creating your résumé with a text editor. MS Word or LibreOffice are great tools for writing documents, but desktop publishing tools they are not. With a tool like Scribus, you can manipulate the content of your résumé with much finer detail. You can also more easily add and manipulate borders and lines.

Create your résumé with MS Word and it’ll look like every other résumé in the pile. And since Scribus is free, you can’t afford to not take advantage of this outstanding layout tool.

Résumés are your best chance at getting your foot in the door. If you take a little extra time with that piece of paper, you can transform it into a gateway to the future. Be creative, be professional and be prepared.

About the Author

is an award winning writer of technical content and fiction. He has been covering Linux and open source since the late '90s and just about every conceivable topic since. His fiction breaks ground in the post apocalyptic genre as well as horror, thriller, and science fiction. For more information on Jack, check out his site, Get Jack'd at