How to Streamline Your Resume and Make It Stand Out

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

By Dan Scalco

Your resume is essentially your first impression to an employer. It’s your chance to show off your skills, your education, and all the experience you have that makes you the perfect fit for a job. However, many mistakenly think it’s acceptable to just list all of that essential information in a document and call it a resume. To be honest, that’s not the best move! You need to consider the structure of your resume to make sure you draw attention to what’s most important, make it easy to read, and more. To help you out, I’m sharing a few tips on how to streamline your resume…

Include your contact information first.
The whole point of your resume is to show off your awesome skills and to then get an employer to give you a call for an interview. Well, how can they call you if they’re searching your resume, struggling to find your contact information? Instead, you should make it very easy for them see. Present your name and contact information right at the top of the page.

When adding your contact information, include your first and last name, address, phone number, and your email address. If you have a website, you can include that as well if it’s relevant to your skills and the job you’re applying for. You might want to skip showing off a website that isn’t top-notch or is totally unrelated to the work you’re aspiring to do. This could do more harm than good, so only include a URL to a great website you’re proud to show off.

Write a succinct opening summary.
If you really want to grab attention with your resume, you should include an opening summary. This is the preferred option to a career objective. Use this as an opportunity show off why you are the most qualified person for the job you’re applying for. Share one or two achievements and your most recent experience in this section. Be sure that you don’t ramble on. Keep it succinct instead because you don’t have long to grab their attention and keep it.

When you consider that employers are receiving so many applicants for each open position, you want to make sure your resume stands out from the rest. And you want to keep in mind that they won’t always take the time to read the entire thing. An opening summary on your resume is the best way to showcase your top qualifications and to entice them to keep reading.

Don’t list every job you’ve ever held.
Many people make the mistake of listing every single job they’ve ever held on their resume. While it may seem like a good idea because you’re showing off your diverse experience, the reality is that employers only want to see relevant experience.

Instead, you want to streamline your resume by cutting out the outdated stuff when it comes to your work experience. There’s no need to go back any further than 15 years because that’s often overkill and it’s likely it won’t be needed. All you need to do is to focus on your most recent work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Showcase the skills you used on the job and put the most emphasis on the skills that would also come in handy for this job you’re trying to land. This is also the opportunity to share any accomplishments you had at each job, as opposed to writing a generic job description that’s likely to be overlooked.

Photo Credit: Andrew White

Photo Credit: Andrew White

Share your educational background.
If you have a college degree, you will want to show that off on your resume, of course. Many employers like to see what kind of education you’ve received and it sometimes makes or break whether or not you get the job.

One thing to keep in mind when creating this section is that you don’t have to go into the specifics. All you need to include was the school you attended, the years you attended, and what kind of degree you received. This helps you save space and keep the resume streamlined.

What if you’re fresh out of college without any work experience? If this is the case, feel free to elaborate on your college education. Share any classes or coursework you have done that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, plus any internships or leadership positions you’ve held. This will help to bulk up your resume until you get more “in the field” work experience.

Cater your resume to the job.
It may sound tedious, but you should always cater your resume to the job you’re applying for. Each job obviously has certain qualifications they’re looking for in their candidates. If you have the skills, work experience, or education they’re looking for, you’ll want to craft your resume in a way that draws attention to that.

Keep in mind that employers likely won’t read your resume thoroughly. They’re going to skim, looking through the document for specific information. This is all the more reason to highlight what will look particularly impressive to them.

Format your resume for readability.
As mentioned above, anyone who views your resume will likely skim through the information you’ve provided, as opposed to reading it in full. That’s why it’s so important to streamline your resume and focus on what’s most important, as opposed to rambling on by listing every work experience detail.

In addition to cutting the fluff from your resume, you’ll also want to consider ways you can increase its readability. Here are some tips…

  1. Use clear headings to separate each section of your resume. You can also make them bold to draw the eye to those headlines. This makes it much easier for an employer to find what they’re look for and keeps the resume organized.
  2. Use bullet points for lists and italicizing when appropriate. It may seem simple, but these tweaks help to break up large chunks of text, which can often appear overwhelming to read.
  3. Try to keep everything the same font. This makes it easier for the readers eyes to bounce around the page. If you need to make any text a different size, make it your name and contact information.

Wrapping up.
Now that you know how to streamline your resume for maximum results, you can start making changes. With these easy adjustments, your resume is sure to stand out from the crowd and get you those coveted calls for interviews.

Think you’re a resume pro? Showcase your skills by volunteering at our offices and helping our women improve their resumes. 

Ask DFS: How do I explain short term employment on my resume?

Dear DFS:

I was only at my previous job for a few months before I was laid off.  Should I list that company on my resume? I want to be honest, but I don’t want the short employment period to make me seem irresponsible. What should I do? 

Counting the days away in Brooklyn,


Dear Andrea:

Yes, you should definitely not be shy to list that company on your resume!  With the highs and lows of today’s economy, it’s not uncommon for an employer to encounter a candidate who has been laid off in the recent past.  This isn’t necessarily a reflection of your work ethic or skill level as an employee, but that your previous employer was undergoing certain changes and was forced to make the tough decision of eliminating a portion of their workforce.

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your interview with a new potential employer—you can even implement what I like to call the Three E’s!

Explain the lay off in factual terms when asked why your employment ended so abruptly.  Did the company simply downsize?  Was your position was eliminated?  Be as specific as possible to your lay off, but just remember to always talk about your pasta employers in a positive light!

Emphasize that you are eager to move forward with a new career and that you are looking for a company to grow with—and, in fact, to help grow!  Using the word “career” shows them that you are interested in a long term relationship with them and that previous short employment period shouldn’t be a concern.

Elaborate on your strongest qualities and how they can benefit the company that you are currently interviewing with!

Just like any other challenging question you’re asked in a job interview, you have the opportunity to turn this into a positive.  Anticipate that you will be asked about why you were only with your previous employer for such a short period and craft an answer ahead of time, so when the interviewer finally poses this question to you, you can answer with ease and keep the conversation flowing smoothly!


Glynis W. Bell

Founder & Executive Director

Dress for Success Winston-Salem


Writing a Resume That Works for You

By: Reesa Staten,  Robert Half International

If there’s one essential document in a successful job hunt, it’s the resume. Your resume is your first chance to show potential employers you’re the right person for the job. Poorly organized resumes hold back many job seekers because they fail to effectively sell their strengths. If your resume falls into this category, it may be keeping you from landing that coveted interview.

Resume writing can sometimes feel like more of an art than a science, but there are simple steps you can take to better showcase your strengths when applying for a job.

 Review and Research

What’s the first step in writing a good resume? As with most things, the answer is careful preparation. It pays to outline what you want to say before you sit down to write.

Start by reviewing the job ad. What skills and experience does the employer seek, and what parts of your work history match those requirements? You may not have held that exact position in the past, but you likely have transferable skills you can highlight. Are you organized, detail-oriented or good with people? These are attributes that will serve you well in any job.

Also, research the employer by visiting its website, reading news articles that mention the firm (you can find these with a simple Google News search) and contacting people you know who may have firsthand knowledge of the company. Your research will reveal more about the company’s business operations and provide you with insight into what it’s like to work there.

Use this information to determine what to include in your resume, as well as how to word it. For example, if the job posting states the company is looking for someone with advanced knowledge of Microsoft Excel, and this describes you perfectly, include the term “Microsoft Excel” in your resume, not a more generic term like “spreadsheet application.” It’s important to be as specific as possible. Many companies use resume-scanning software and keywords that are in the job description will rank the highest when your resume is entered in the system. Keep this in mind every time you apply for a job: word choice is vital.

 Go With What Works

When people think of a resume, they typically envision the chronological type, in which past jobs are presented in descending order, beginning with the most recent. Research we’ve conducted at Robert Half shows most hiring managers prefer this format over resumes that are organized by skills or job function mainly because these resumes are easier to follow. Employers can quickly review the jobs you’ve held, your accomplishments in each one and your career progression.

Occasionally, it may make sense to structure your resume differently. If you’ve been out of work for an extended period, you may need to place the spotlight on your strongest skills and downplay gaps in employment. This is where your transferable skills serve you best. If you’ve been out of the workforce to raise a family, think about the skills you’ve gained in the process, such as organizing the family household or volunteering for your children’s school events.

Tailor Your Content

Perhaps the most common mistake job seekers make is submitting the same resume for every job opening they pursue. Try to tailor your resume for each opportunity, emphasizing those aspects of your background that are the best match for the job.

You can start with a “foundation” resume that includes your full work history, notable career achievements and qualifications that could be of interest to potential employers. Then, when preparing your resume for submission, remove or downplay information that is not relevant to that particular job and instead emphasize the information that is.

For example, if you’re applying for a position as a bookkeeper, you might briefly note your past work as a waitress but avoid describing it in detail, unless part of your job included light bookkeeping. At the same time, you could emphasize your stint as treasurer for the local PTA.

Skip the Laundry List

When working on the section of your resume that describes your work history, don’t simply list your job title and duties. Consider your accomplishments in each role. Ask yourself these questions and if you answer yes to any of them, include this information in your resume when talking about past jobs:

  • Did you beat a deadline or finish a project under budget?
  • Have you developed an innovative idea or solved a tricky problem for the boss?
  • Did you lead a project team?
  • Have you trained others?
  • Have you earned recognition, such as a promotion or award?

Clear the Clutter

If there’s one word that defines a good resume, it’s concise. Use simple, straightforward language and add bullet points so information is easy to scan. Hiring managers spend just a few minutes reviewing each resume and you want your strengths to jump off the page. The keep-it-simple rule also applies to how your resume looks. Don’t try to spice things up with fancy typefaces or graphics. Let the words themselves do the talking. Use superlatives sparingly, but do include words that describe who you are. Do any of the following describe you? They are all good choices for a resume.

  • Adaptable
  • Analytical
  • Astute
  • Committed
  • Conscientious
  • Considerate
  • Efficient
  • Enterprising
  • Enthusiastic
  • Friendly
  • Independent
  • Insightful
  • Professional
  • Resourceful
  • Team-oriented

The final step in creating a compelling resume? Proofread. Robert Half often polls employers and they have repeatedly told us that just one or two typographical errors are enough to remove even the most qualified candidates from consideration.

Don’t let a missing letter or misspelled word ruin your chances. Read your document on screen, then print it out and read it again. Finally, ask a friend or family member to perform one last review. Only then should you hit “Send.”

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International ( ), the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at