Resumes should NOT stand out, I’ll tell you why…

As a top-billing headhunter who directly poached and placed candidates from analyst-level all the way up to Chief Executive level, I have truly seen it all when it comes to resumes. Plenty of my chief executive-level candidates spent THOUSANDS of dollars on their resume which were unusable because they were based on career advice theory, not fact! What a waste of money.

Why? Simple! It’s because most people who give advice have NEVER functioned in a role that gives them access to a volume of end users and evaluators of your resume who are: human resources (HR), hiring managers, internal/corporate recruiters, and headhunters.

Most people don’t even know the difference between each of those entities, let alone know how they think in terms of resume preference! As the direct link between candidates whom I’m trying to represent and these hiring entities, I had the unique privilege to experiment and see what worked in terms of getting their attention. I invented my own format, now the DANDAN Method format, to cater to their needs and get my candidates selected to interview.

What also doesn’t help is this misguided idea that a resume’s purpose is TO GET NOTICED. What’s the point of “getting noticed” if your resume doesn’t get you anywhere or result in interview requests?!

The goal of your resume should be to GET YOU THROUGH TO THE NEXT STEP! Once you understand this principle, you’ll actually get an interview.

The problem with most resumes IS that it stands out — sticks out, actually, like a sore thumb, straight into the “no thanks” pile!

Don’t fall into this trap of marketing yourself incorrectly. Don’t waste time being “different” or “trying something crazy”. Just write your accomplishments into a format that is easy to understand and tells a coherent story of your career journey.

In many things in life, LESS IS MORE. This is definitely the case with resumes. Don’t go overboard.

Take these 3 suggestions for your resume into consideration:

1. Formatting is usually a big resume killer — visually when there are lines all over the place, colors, Bold, Italics, Underlining, etc., the reader is already thrown off, distracted, and bombarded with thoughts of judgment on your organizational/design skills. Simplify everything and focus on content, not appearance (so many metaphors to life!).

Take a look at my ACTUAL resume based on the DANDAN Method resume format for an idea of what your formatting should look like:

This is just the first page to give you an idea. Sign up at for the whole thing!

As you can see in my resume, I waste no effort drawing lines, bolding things randomly in the body/content (outside of displaying the category), or any weird colors, spacing, etc. I am utilizing as much of the page as possible, NO wasted space on margins! No BS key competencies listed which may or may not be relevant to what the company is seeking!

2. In my resume, the content is also highly results-oriented, direct, specific, with an aggressive tone of speaking to my accomplishments. I am already incorporating my job responsibilities into the actual results, so there’s no usage of PASSIVE words like:

  • Responsible for
  • Tasked with

These words are so boring, so over-used, and are no better than job descriptions. In fact, these words are commonly used IN job descriptions, and I’ve caught many a candidate copying and pasting job descriptions, so please don’t use these terms as they speak to nothing about your influence on the job other than the fact that you were TASKED with something.

The question the audience wants to know the answer to is: What did you actually DO (outside of being tasked with stuff)?!

3. Refine and update your resume at least twice a year: I recommend once a quarter. This activity should be like checking your credit score (although you should check your credit score a lot more often!). Spend time on this important marketing document. You never know when you’re going to need it!

In fact, you should also do a full personal branding tune-up from time-to-time.Look at your all your professional social media pages, evaluate the personal statement that you’re saying when meeting people. Make sure you’re constantly updating your arsenal to match your personal branding goals!

Dandan Zhu is a NYC-based entrepreneur, headhunter turned career coach, feminist, and go-getter businesswoman.

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Check out Dandan Global based on her expertise as a headhunter, teaching the DANDAN Method to job search!