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First Impressions Are Everything: 6 Tips to Improve Your Resume

So you find yourself out of work and decide that it is time to put your resume together. With a sense of urgency, you search in Google and utilize the first template that you find, inputting your employment history at the speed of light. 30 minutes pass, you save your document, and begin firing resumes to all of the job ads that you see on the local Job Board. Then you wait… 4 hours, 2 days, a week… No one is calling!!

Your first fear is alleviated when you double check your resume, and yes, your phone number is correct. So what seems to be the problem??

The issue is not one of desire as you clearly want to be employed. However, in one’s eagerness to find work, there can often be a failure to take the time necessary or utilize the resources available to craft a resume that would deliver the great first impressions necessary right from the outset!! This is important because these impressions can literally “make or break” your job search.

Let’s consider for a moment that psychologists tell us that it takes about one-tenth of a second to form a first impression in person. This timeframe is only extended slightly when reviewing a document like a resume. According to a quantitative eye study by TheLadders, recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds reviewing an individual resume and making a “fit or no fit” decision. Workopolis has observed that employers spend on average 11 seconds or less on a resume before moving on.

This seems illogical at first, but the truth is that is after reviewing tens of thousands of resumes, recruiters have trained their minds to immediately assess and to make snap judgments based upon what they see. When it comes to your resume, carelessness is quickly rejected and carefulness is swiftly rewarded.

That brings us to the ultimate question: How can you tailor your resume to capitalize on this fact? What should you add and/or remove in order to up your chances of moving to the interview stage? Here are some general tips to get you started on the road to positive first impressions:

  1. Formatting Matters: While content is obviously critical in selling your qualifications, it must go hand-in-hand with a resume that is thoughtfully and practically laid out, while being visually appealing. Important steps are to “clean up” your resume by removing clutter and ensuring that your font, text size, indentation as well as headings are consistent. Keep it to a maximum of 2 pages. I recommend consulting friends, family, and employment experts in your area to get their honest opinions and suggestions.
  2. Pay Close Attention to Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation: U wuld be Surprised at how little time iz invested to get this write!! (Note: the errors in this sentence were intentional). While errors in this area can be easily rectified, it is common to review resumes with over a dozen glaring spelling errors, which immediately makes a negative impression, and more than likely removes someone from consideration for any position. Getting it perfect doesn’t guarantee you the job, but the opposite is sure to dramatically decrease your chances. Do yourself a favour and have at least two people proofread your resume (after spelling / grammar check).
  3. Avoid Automated Resume Creators: While these can assist in quickly creating a resume, I do not recommend solely relying on them. Your resume is intended to reveal what is unique about you and showcase your personality and creativity, which is something that canned templates will not do. While job search services like Indeed.com will create your resume for you, I fail to see the benefit in having the same template as 75% of other job seekers. At best, I would utilize them to create the basic resume structure and then customize, customize, customize. Take the time to stand out!!
  4. Use A Professional Email Address: Resumes are professional documents and as such should have a professional or at least generic email address that does not draw negative attention. Do not include anything about sex, religion, politics, age, or race. Acceptable: jdoe@gmail.com or johnmdoe2@hotmail.com. Non-Acceptable: sexygrl23@gmail.com or psychobob@hotmail.com.
  5. Ditch The Generic and Focus on Specific Results: Many people simply rehash the job description from their previous position on their resume. However, for optimal results, don’t just tell it, sell it. Beyond the generic verbiage, what are the specific accomplishments from your previous position? As an example, why not replace “Responsible for all sales activity and on boarding new clients” with specific details, such as “Through targeted daily sales activity, increased annual sales revenue by over 35%. Won top new business acquisition award by securing 2 multimillion dollar accounts”. See the difference??
  6. Highlight Extracurricular Charitable/Community Involvement: Do not overlook charity and community involvement when developing your resume, as it can make a huge impression. Kara Montermoso from Idealist.org says it best: “Volunteer work, whether in addition to a current job or an activity in between jobs, shows an employer that you are willing to try new experiences, be involved in your community and generally demonstrates a willingness to take initiative and make things happen.” Enough said.

We have all heard the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”. This is especially true of your resume. Often, you have only one shot to show you are the best candidate for the specific position. Don’t leave it to chance and just throw something together and expect results. Invest the time and effort necessary to put your best foot forward, because first impressions are everything!! You will not regret it.

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