Your resume is not only a succinct summary of your professional history and expertise. It’s also a critical part of your first impression with a prospective employer. That’s why it’s important to avoid common errors that could hinder your chances of getting hired. You have approximately 15 seconds to get your resume into the “keep me” pile. And that means your resume needs to quickly make a good first impression.
Before you submit your resume to a prospective employer, enlist a friend or family member to provide a second opinion. Then read it again with a critical eye while keeping these tips in mind:
- Show your value. Use your resume to show a prospective employer why you’re an ideal fit for the position. Resumes are challenging to write because you need to convey a lot of information in a small space. Don’t just list bullet points of skills; instead, illustrate how you’ve used your skills to accomplish various goals, provide examples of leadership and quantify your achievements.
- Don’t assume potential employers will know what you’re talking about. Tell a potential employer exactly what you did when you were an “Account Executive” or a “Manager.” Titles have broad meanings and may not be consistent across different positions or industries. Don’t burden your prospective employer with guesswork—instead, clearly and concisely list your responsibilities and achievements.
- Don’t lie. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people opt to pad their resumes. A tip? Tell the truth – ultimately, a prospective employer is going to ask about your experience and verify it.
- Customize your resume. Here’s the bottom line: You won’t stand out if you use a one-size-fits-all resume (or cover letter). They’re generic, and it’s clear to those reading it. Let’s say you’re applying for a specialized position in a technology-related industry. You wouldn’t necessarily list a retail job you held while in college, or your time spent toiling at a restaurant. Instead, focus on the positions and work experience that are relevant to the job for which you’re applying so that you can help your prospective employer visualize you as part of the team and get a clear grasp of the relevant experience that makes you an ideal fit for the current position.
- Be professional. If your email address is inappropriate, sign up for a new one that you use only for job searches (Gmail is free and comes with a number of features). If you’re sharing your online profile, make sure you’re displaying a lifestyle that you’re okay with potential employees seeing.
- Use keywords. This is something you might not be aware of if it’s been a while since you’ve applied for a job, but businesses now have the ability to scan resumes for keywords. If there aren’t enough of them in your resume, it may not get a second look. Think of this as SEO for your resume.
- Length matters. Let’s face it: HR departments get a LOT of emails and resumes. They do not have time to read your biography. Cut the fat! Keep your resume short; a single sheet is best. If you maintain an online profile, put the URL on your resume. Remember to keep your online profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, About.me) up-to-date so that prospective employers can quickly glean a synopsis of your professional life.
- The power of proofing. It’s a step often overlooked, but job seekers should always spell and grammar check their resumes before submitting. Distributing a resume that includes mistakes is one of the fastest ways to make a poor first impression, and may even cost you a chance at the job opportunity. If you have a friend who’s a grammar freak or a wordsmith, now would be the time to call in a favor—after all, there’s no such thing as too much proofreading!
Putting some extra effort in your resume will go a long way toward establishing an ideal first impression with a prospective employer, paving the way for an interview and, possibly, a job offer. Despite today’s increasingly digital landscape, don’t underestimate the power of your resume and its role in your job-seeking process.