Your résumé must stand out before it’s even read

One of the first rules of résumé writing is this: Make it stand out. You want yours to distinguish itself among a crowded field; that starts before the reader even opens the file.

When clients email me old résumés for me to update or to use as a reference when writing their new one, they can usually find it on their computer, no problem. It’s the file called “Resume.” Makes perfect sense when yours is the only one you’re concerned with.

But when I download it, it goes into a folder with all my other downloads. And being that I’m in the résumé writing business, you’d imagine I get a lot of files from clients labeled simply “resume,” so I sometimes have to do a little searching to find the one I’m looking for.

Wouldn’t you imagine a lot of prospective employers have the same issue?

So why would you want to make their job harder before they decide whether or not to give you a call?

Worse: Why would you want them to open someone else’s résumé by accident, and run the risk that they like what they see in the other one before they’ve even found yours?

So here’s my solution. Instead of just giving your file the obvious title of “resume,” simply add your name to it (“Resume-Smith”).

That’s it. That one little technique can make your résumé easier to find in a sea of generic filenames. It will separate you from the pack. It will show attention to little details and consideration for the reader.

It will make you stand out.

The Syracuse Pen provides résumé services and other writing and editing services for students, professionals, and small businesses. Visit our home page for more information about what we can do for you.

Don’t quit your day job… yet.

Just as being in a relationship can make you more attractive to others, having a job can make you more attractive to employers.

Why? It’s a brutal feature of human psychology: People want what they can’t have, and if someone else has you (either as a mate or as an employee), an observer will want you more. If you’re a free agent, a potential mate or potential employer may see you out there alone and think, “Sure, this person looks good, but why isn’t he/she married/employed already? What’s wrong with him/her that I’m not seeing? And why would I want to take a chance?”

If you’re sending your résumé out, it’s usually to your advantage if you already have a job while you’re looking for a new one. Other than the obvious perks of enjoying a steady income and avoiding a stressful employment gap, being employed shows a potential new employer that you’re not desperate for work; if you apply for an opening, it’s because you want it, not because you need it. It puts you in control and prevents you from appearing desperate.

I always advise clients, who are often so confident in their new résumés and excited to start sending it out, not to quit their jobs prematurely for these very reasons.

Of course, there may be compelling reasons to leave without a new job lined up — an intolerably toxic work environment, an impossible schedule that won’t allow you to interview for new jobs, or pressing family obligations that you hope a new position will be more accommodating for. Everybody’s situation is different.

But if it’s at all possible, don’t let go of the old job until you’ve landed a new one.