Make Your Resume Stand Out with a Little Color

by Brian Skory

When digging for gold, sifting through resumes can often be a high-volume proposition for hiring managers. After hours of reviewing job histories and skills matrixes, resumes can sometimes begin to blur together. Yes, there will be the handful of stand-out resumes due to superlative skills and experiences, but how about giving yourself an added advantage that makes your resume stand out even in that short stack?

Here's an example I ran across recently. I was reviewing resumes for a .NET developer and I had several that looked pretty good, but one, in particular, stood out. I noticed down at the bottom of his job history that he had been an Executive Chef, a graduate from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He had been the head chef at a 5-star restaurant, but for whatever reason, after about 7 years working in the food and beverage industry he made the switch to software development and became very accomplished in that field. That's probably an interesting story, I thought to myself, while making a mental note to ask him about that when I called him.

Most of us have something colorful to add to our resumes, whether it is tech related or not. Here are some other examples of items that piqued my interest and pushed me that much closer to making a phone call to that candidate:

  • Flew fighter jets in the military
  • Took a year off to hike through South America
  • Wrote and published a successful book on C# programming
  • Built battling robots and competed nationally
  • Won a Google Code Jam for what sounded like an interesting application
  • Performs as a Saxophonist for a recognized swing band
  • Maintains a fully physical cluster home lab for testing, learning, and playing

I understand that many of us have been coached to "leave the personal stuff off the resume" but at least for this recruiter, with all else being equal, that additional color may be the deciding factor for whether you get called or not. As with anything, though, a little goes a long way–so don't overdo it with a long list–one or two interesting items should suffice.
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