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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out: Two Real-Life Case Studies

How to Make Your Resume Stand Out: Two Real-Life Case Studies

You feel your resume isn’t good enough to beat the competition. And you’re not alone. See these transformations of Zety readers’ resumes and learn how to fix yours.

Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Career Expert

You find a perfect job opportunity. You start reading the description...

 

Required skills? Check. You have them.

 

Job duties? Check, you’ve done similar tasks in the past.

 

You get excited. This could be the career break! You know you’d be a great fit. But then—

 

The doubts kick in.

 

“What about all these other candidates? I’m sure some are more experienced than myself.”

And you know what? Some probably are. 

 

But all you have to do to outperform them is create a resume that stands out. Just enough to get your foot in the door.

 

Consider this: if you think you’re right for the job, you think so for a reason. If you create a resume that explains this very reason, you’re already on your way to a job interview.

 

If you don’t feel confident your resume is good enough, you’re not alone. 

 

In this article, I’ll share real-life stories of Zety readers who didn’t know what to do to hook recruiters with their resumes.

 

Together with my friend Tom, we assisted these candidates in rewriting their job applications.

 

Read on to see the transformations of their resumes and learn the most effective, easy-to-use strategies for improving your resume in no time.

 

Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.

 

sample resume templates

Sample resume made with our builder—See more templates and create your resume here.

 

Case #1: Iñaki and One Hell of a Career Change

 

The first job-seeker whose resume I helped rewrite was Iñaki from Spain. He had just finished working in Orlando, Florida, and was seeking an overseas opportunity.

 

Iñaki was looking for a job in Customer Service or Human Resources. But there was a problem—

 

Although he thought he had the necessary skills, most of his recent experience came from a very niche industry: he used to specialize in goalkeeping

 

Iñaki was a Player Liaison Officer at one of the popular goalkeeper gloves’ brands, as well as a Goalkeeping Coach and Head of the Goalkeeping Department in local clubs and organizations in Florida. Plus, he worked as a freelance event manager at international sports conferences.

 

As Iñaki put it: 

Supervising the goalkeeping and coaching has been the core of my professional life for the past few years, but I think it’s time to focus on some standard job.
Iñaki, Spain

And while he had what it takes to succeed in a “standard” office job, he had no clue about how to present it on a resume.

 

Then, there was another problem: over the years, Iñaki has held a lot of jobs in different industries and in many countries.

 

International experience? Sure, that’s a plus for most openings. 

 

But Iñaki’s resume made his career come across as random, with no logical or linear progression.

 

Just have a look:

 

Iñaki’s Resume Pre-Transformation

 

inaki's old resume

 

Not great, right? Here’s why in particular:

Any customer service hiring manager would reject the resume in seconds—Iñaki just doesn’t appear to be the right candidate, does he?

 

The thing is—Iñaki has an amazing, unique set of skills. 

 

True, he learned them in an unorthodox way, but his abilities would make him an asset to any company. That was also reflected by his professional achievements. 

 

For some reason, he didn’t mention any of the below on his resume:

  • He handled budgets of over 1 million dollars, negotiating $300,000+ contracts.
  • As a Player Liaison Officer in a developing sports equipment company, he signed deals world-class goalkeepers, including Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas—all that despite having to compete with more powerful brands such as Nike or Adidas.
  • He was fully responsible for all stages of organizing international events with 100+ participants.

 

With all this in mind, Iñaki and I began working on his resume redo.

 

First things first—we needed to find a specific job opening to which we’d tailor his resume.

 

Iñaki found a position as an HR Customer Advisor in a multinational R&D company. He thought he ticked all the boxes.

 

Here’s the job ad:

 

Position: HR Customer Advisor with French and Spanish
[Company Name]

As part of our HR Services Team, you will act as an HR guide for our employees. You will have the opportunity to navigate them through the world of HR topics and design smart and elegant solutions for them.

What skills will make you successful in the role?

 

  • Fluent / very good combination of the following: French and Spanish or Spanish and Italian
  • Fluent English
  • Problem-solving attitude
  • Influencing, persuasion, and negotiation skills
  • Passion about customer service
  • Team-working skills and change-agent personality
  • Pro-active attitude and innovation spirit.

 

After a few hours of chatting with Iñaki, one thing was 100% clear.

 

To maximize his chances of landing this job, Iñaki needed to use the combination resume format

 

One that highlights, and verifies skills, instead of focusing on career progression.

 

Have a look at Iñaki’s previous resume: he did list his key skills, but there was no proof to back them up. And that proof is exactly what the combination resume provides.

 

We decided that, for this particular opening, the most important skills to show on Iñaki’s resume were:

  • His proficiency in 6 (!) languages
  • His problem-solving abilities
  • Negotiation
  • Customer service.

 

We also rephrased Iñaki’s career objective at the top of his resume. In the new version, it was customized to match the job requirements and offered to deliver value to the employer.

 

Finally, we made Iñaki’s resume much more believable by linking his skills to specific job accomplishments.

 

And, of course, we used Zety’s resume builder to revamp the layout and design of Iñaki’s resume.

 

See the final effect:

 

Iñaki’s Resume Post-Transformation

 

inaki's new resume

 

Wow, right?

 

Now, the summary of Iñaki’s skills, following his career objective takes up the whole first page of the resume. Below each skill, in bullet points, we provided evidence of putting the skill to practice.

 

Since it’s a combination resume, not a purely skills-based one, on the second page there still are brief descriptions of Iñaki’s past positions—but they’re not the central part of the narrative, which takes the attention away from Iñaki’s somewhat erratic work history.

 

And... 

 

Iñaki scored the interview! 

 

But he didn’t land the job. Ouch, right? 

 

Nah, not really.

 

In the process, Iñaki learned the most important strategies for writing great resumes. 

 

He sent out a few more, each perfectly tailored to match the requirements of a given position. Within a month, he accepted a job offer as a Recruitment Coordinator with a huge multinational corporation.

 

Does Iñaki’s job history resonate with you? Try out the combination resume format! You can learn about all the ins and outs here: Combination Resume: Samples and Writing Tips

 

Now, hear a very different resume-redo story.

 

Case #2: Colleen Who Didn’t Want to Brag

 

The second example comes from Colleen, a US-based candidate who, like Iñaki, wanted to make a career change—but her case was very much different.

 

Colleen
Colleen, Aerospace Project Manager seeking a career in IT Project Management

 

Coleen was re-entering the workforce after a three-year sabbatical she’d taken to grieve a personal tragedy, the loss of her son.

 

Her plan was to make a switch from aerospace program management (so basically rocket science) to IT project management.

 

Not that drastic a change, right?

 

Colleen didn’t yet have a specific position in mind. She just wanted to create a general “master” resume well-suited to job search in IT project management.

 

And she felt something was missing... 

 

So she reached out to Tom Gerencer, my fellow career advice writer at Zety.

 

After their first conversation, Tom expected little work. Colleen seemed like someone with a solid resume.

 

And Tom was right. Colleen’s resume was solid. The thing is—

 

Solid isn’t the word to describe her work history. Stellar is more like it (especially considering her industry). First things first, though—

 

Have a look at Colleen’s old resume.

 

Collen’s Resume Before the Redo

 

colleen's old resume

 

Impressive?

 

At first glance, maybe. But Colleen’s resume is missing so many important details about her employment history!

 

Get this—

 

In the aerospace firm she worked at, she slashed their time spent in meetings from 10 hours to 2 hours weekly for 40 engineers. That’s not on her resume. 

 

She saved the company $32,000 a WEEK. 

 

(Not on her resume.)

 

And it’s just the tip of an iceberg.

  • Colleen automated the tracking of 17,00 customer requirements across 120+ programs.
  • She cut daily disruptions by 60%. 
  • She led a panel during a major industry conference…

 

None of the above was on her resume.

 

Colleen had amazing achievements but, for some reason, failed to properly highlight them on a resume.

 

See the updated version of her resume she worked on with Tom.

 

Pay particular attention to the difference towards the very top of the document.

 

Colleen’s Resume After the Redo

 

colleen's new resume

 

That’s more like it!

 

Eye-tracking studies on recruiters and in-house HR pros have shown that they spend most time looking at the top-third of resumes. That’s usually the place for a resume profile.

 

On Colleen’s previous resume, that part read, well, okay: she mentioned years of relevant experience. Gave examples of past duties. But it lacked the sparkle.

 

The new version? It shows the superstar Colleen is.

 

“Saved 100 labor hours/wk & $500,000+ per year at B/E Aerospace through IT streamlining & automation.”

I mean—if I were the hiring manager I’d have to be insane to not want similar results for my team. And Colleen’s resume promises to deliver!

 

Looking for hot tips to improve your resume profile as Colleen did? Look no further. See this guide: Resume Profile: Examples & Writing Guide

 

Colleen’s case only confirmed something I’ve noticed before when working with other candidates on improving their resumes.

 

Job seekers don’t know how to show off and quantify their achievements!

 

No idea why that is. Maybe they’re too afraid to come across bullheaded. Perhaps they don’t know how to identify the most important accomplishments. 

 

Some people seem to think “yeah, achievements surely can make a resume stand out, but it doesn’t apply to me. I don’t work with hard numbers.”

 

Sound like you? Well, even if you think you can’t come up with numbers to illustrate your work performance, you’re most likely wrong.

 

But since that happens so often, I compiled a guide that will teach you how to add quantified achievements to a resume (and how to come up with those when you think you have none!). Check it out: Achievements on a Resume: Examples & How to List Them

 

So—what do you think?

 

I hope you enjoyed the resume transformations and I hope you learned something from them!

 

For a step-by-step breakdown of how to improve your resume, see our resume 101: How to Write a Job-Winning Resume in <1h

 

Want us to help you rewrite your resume? We’ll be happy to do it (as long as you agree to share your resumes pre- and post-transformation with the rest of Zety readers). Just drop us a line in the comments and we’ll get back to you.

 

Disclaimer: due to limited capacity, we reserve the right to only help redo selected resumes.

 

Share your thoughts in the comments! I can’t wait to hear from you.

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Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
Michael, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) is a career writer and the newsletter coordinator at Zety. Apart from sharing his own resume-writing expertise, Michael reaches out to recruitment and hiring gurus to help you learn the most effective strategies for managing your career.
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