You may have heard that hiring managers generally give a resume less than ten seconds before they decide whether it goes on the reject or call piles.

They are scanning through so many of these things, and they all look the same.

The difference between the reject pile and the pile that gets a call back is who best articulated, clearly and concisely, that they were a potential good fit for the job.

Infact, for the really good jobs, hundreds even thousands of qualified people apply everyday.

You need something to stand out and here are five tips I have learned the hard way:


Thomas Frank of College Info Geek says that a resume being a summary of your skills, achievements and experience and how they relate to the job you are applying for is like an advertisements.

I want to go further and say it is like a pop up add or a YouTube ad, most people just skip after four seconds.

However, if the ad is catchy enough or the product is something we need, we will watch to the end and even click on it. 

So always customize your resume for the job you are applying for.

Present yourself as the person they want. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, calls this telling a narrative.

Do not just repeat boring facts about summer internships and where you went to school.

Use the facts to make an impression on the person reading. Let them remember you as something.

My branding was always the writer/humanitarian. For Ramit, it was the psychology entrepreneur guy.

We will get more into later.

Do not blend into the crowd of resumes.

You want the person going through hundreds of resumes to at least give you a shot.

Do this by using the same facts everybody else is just throwing around to tell a story about why you are a better candidate for the job.


Always trim the fat. A resume that is about one and a half a page is perfect.

That is not a lot room to put everything but it is enough real estate to highlight your best and most relevant skills, achievements and experience.

Instead of worrying about formatting, paper quality and all these things that do not matter, focus on making your resume clean and clear for the person reading.

Eliminate all information that does not do you any favors like a GPA below 3.2. Put your best foot forward and explain the rest later.

Remember that narrative you are telling. Use it to determine what makes it into the resume.

For example mentioning classes I took like refugee law or international humanitarian law contributes to my writer/humanitarian brand.

Also use the narrative to determine what does not make the cut.

That means entertainment law stays out. It has no relevance to my brand.


Since you are fresh from college, you may not have tons of experience.

Use that which you have to tell your story. Start with the most relevant ones then move down to the lawn mowing and dog sitting (if you have to).

Do not put the jobs in chronological order unless you have a lot of relevant job experience.

If you are trapped in the I need a job to get experience and I need experience to get a job cycle, you need to get proactive.

I feel for you. I was there.

But this is never going to change so stop moping around and either do an independent project related to your field or take an internship position.

If you are looking for a marketing job, take the initiative to help out a friend/family/neighbor with the marketing strategy of their small business.

For legal and medical fields, the opportunities to volunteer are endless. This is how you get some experience on that resume.

I know it may feel as if you need a job immediately to be able to pay your bills but if everywhere you keep getting rejected because of lack of experience, you are wasting time.

I started a freelance writing business so that I could afford living in the city while doing a very low paying internship.

Most organizations and companies have internship programs to screen and develop candidates to be absorbed.

While others just want to enjoy cheap labor. If you can get the former, you will be the better for it. Part time and remote jobs are also great ways to build experience.


Highlight achievements, not duties and job descriptions.

The number one rule of writing also applies to resumes, show don’t tell.

Do not say I was an invaluable member of the team, show that you introduced a system that saved the team and the company time and money. 

Build credibility by expressing the results you achieved in numbers or other quantifiers.

Nobody cares that you were an intern at some place for three months and used a photocopier.

They want to know what amazing thing you achieved even if the internship did not expose you to many opportunities for anything other than bringing coffee and organizing files.

For example in my last internship, I noticed that there were still a lot of physical files that had not been scanned and uploaded to the online database.

I spent six months sorting through and scanning almost one hundred years worth of documents (on top of my regular duties) and created an archives for them.

That is an achievement I should put in my resume especially if the job requires some form of data management.

It tells the story of a person who takes initiative and works hard. I will need to quantify.

Instead of just saying I organized documents. I say I organized one hundred years worth of documents over a period of six months.

Another great way you can present internship experiences if you did nothing of mention is to say who you worked with or reported to.

In my first legal summer internship, I reported straight to a judge.

Although on most day I sat in court and made notes about court proceedings before spending the rest of my time gossiping with the court clerk.

In my resume I mention that I was closely supervised and mentored by Honorable Y. 


I have already briefly touched on this. Avoid mentioning soft skills like hard worker, team player and self driven.

Find ways you can use your experience and additional information to bring out this things about yourself.

This is a mistake that I made with all my resumes.

I kept mentioning little details about just how great I am all over those two short pages.

I thought it was subtle but now that I look back, I cannot help but cringe. It sounded arrogant and desperate.

Using another example from Ramit, instead of saying he was a fun person to work with, he mentioned under additional information that he had been a comedy columnist for the Stanford Daily.

Instead of mentioning that I was a leader, it would have been more than enough to mention that I had been the chair of a club or a society.

There a lot of ways you can tactfully toot your own horn.


Do not overdo it with the skills.

Mention any special certifications you have, special skills required for the job especially if it was specifically mentioned on the job advertisement. 

Then mention special skills that tell the story of who you are even more (refer to point number four).

Leave the soft skills out of it, use details about extra curricular, volunteer and awards to speak on your behalf.

You do not need to say you love the environment. You can mention events, awards, volunteer programs or even a website you started that show you do.

If you have none of those, maybe you do not care about the environment enough to say so in your resume.

The most important thing to remember is to always customize your resume for the position and organization you are applying to.

Always tell a narrative of the impression you want to leave and then it is out of your hands.
Job seeking is a game of networks and numbers.

Even with the best resume, you may never get a call back without the right connections so get out there and network.