How to Make Your Resume Stand Out (In a Good Way)

You’re about to graduate and are feverishly looking for a job. Or you’re in the midst of you career, striving to advance to a new position. You keep applying, but haven’t heard back from anyone. It’s downright frustrating!

I get it. If only you could schedule an interview and show your potential employer WHY you should get the job, instead of just submitting a resume. A piece of paper just doesn’t do your personality or accomplishments justice. At least, that’s what you keep telling yourself, right? But, what if you could make that one piece of paper reflect your abilities?

It is possible to get your foot in the door with a resume if you utilize it in the right way. Here are a few tips to follow when formatting your resume to apply for your dream job.

Do not; I repeat, DO NOT exceed two pages when formatting your resume.*

*With rare exceptions (PhDs needing to list their research for academic purposes, etc.)

A resume should be no longer than two pages long. Most employers prefer to only see one page. If your resume exceeds two pages, you will quickly lose the attention of the person reviewing it. You don’t want that.

If you are having trouble condensing your resume into two pages or less, check what you have listed under experiences and narrow it down from there.

Check out these examples below to see what you should and should not be doing when it pertains to the design and formatting of your resume.

Bad Example:



Good Example: 

Your experiences should be listed in descending consecutive order, starting with your current role. Under each experience, you should only include your primary responsibilities. Those are the duties that define why that job exists.

Do not list everything you ever did in that job. Keep your descriptions short. You should have a maximum of five bullet points listed for a current role and three bullet points for previous roles.

Also, don’t include sid projects and volunteer work in your “work experience” category. Keep those experiences listed separately! This is a big pet peeve of mine. It can be so confusing!

Under each experience, try to include metrics (numbers) that show good performance. Numbers from previous positions can assist in justifying why you are the best candidate for the current open position. They show results.

Also, show where you developed key relationships that might be helpful in the new role you are applying for. Sometimes who you know can be just as beneficial as what you know.

If you are a new graduate, list your education at the top of your resume. All other job seekers should list their experience first.

An objective should only be included if it shows a vision for your life that directly matches with the job you are applying for at the time.

For example, do not say “Objective: To get this job (or become a salesperson, etc.).” An objective that shows a vision would be something like this, “Objective: To become the authority on ruminant nutrition in West Texas.” This could be a really interesting, eye-catching statement if you were applying for a Ruminant Nutritionist position in that territory.

Here are some examples of good and bad objectives.

Bad Examples:

“To become a sales rep for a seed company.”

“Young professional with a passion for agriculture, both crop and animal production, with practical, relevant experience. Seeking a career that will utilize my strong analytical and customer service skills along with sales experience. Enjoys business development and customer acquisition responsibilities, self-motivated and talent for quickly mastering technology.”

Good Examples:

“To help farmers make informed decisions around input purchases to improve yields and efficiency on the farm.”

“To become the authority on agricultural marketing and communications in the precision agriculture industry.”

One of the most important points to consider when writing an objective, or your resume in general is to make sure it’s sincere. Be honest with the whole thing. Do not exaggerate.

Over the years, I have helped countless prospective employees create and tweak their resumes. Here are a few items I see people worrying too much about and ones they should start worrying more about.

What people worry too much about:

  • Fancy designs — Prospective employees tend to dress up their resumes with fancy designs in an effort to play up their application. Keep your resume simple and straightforward. You should stand out with your background and experiences, not your colors and graphics.
  • Keyword stuffing — Do not “stuff” your resume with keywords listed on a future employers website of job description. It looks tacky and unoriginal.
  • “Fear of Leaving Out” (FOLO) — Your resume is not your life’s story. Do not worry about adding in that one volunteer activity you completed back in middle school.
  • Well roundedness — People have a tendency to think they are not well rounded enough, so they will either start exaggerating what is already on their resume or take on activities they are not even interested in to just put them on their resume. Do not do either of these. Just be you.

What to start worrying more about:

  • Clarity — What is the first thing that sticks out about you when someone glances at your resume? Using that information alone, would a hiring manager for this position want to keep reading?
  • Narrative — How have you built a career up toward this position, not out (trying everything)? Think about the opportunities and responsibilities you have completed that make you a specialized fit for this position.
  • Metrics — Focus on metrics (numbers) that prove your performance. What have you done to increase certain performance measures?
  • Relationships — What relationships have you developed that could be beneficial to the role you are applying for?

Prior to sending your resume off to a future employer, make sure someone proof-reads it for you! It would be unfortunate to lose credibility because something was misspelled. When it’s ready to send, save it as a PDF, not a Word document, to ensure your formatting does not get messed up.

Now, get out there and kick butt with your newly constructed resume!

Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.