Making Your 1st Impression Count: 3 steps to a better resume

Check out my recent article for The Student Affairs Feature titled “Making Your 1st Impression Count: 3 Steps to a Better Resume.” If you’re not in the field of student affairs this article is is still for you and will give your resume and cover letter an edge on the competition.

We have all heard the saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” This could be in reference to the first time you meet someone or when you are introduced at an interview. You might not think it, but when applying for a job your first impression is actually your cover letter and resume.

You do not have much time to make a good first impression. Recent studies state that recruiters spend as little as six seconds reviewing resumes (The Ladders, 2012; BeHiring, 2013). In truth, those reviewing resumes are scanning, not reading, your materials. With just under 1,000 candidates attending The Placement Exchange last year it is imperative that you make a good first impression. How are you going to stand out? If your resume and cover letter fail to make a strong first impression the odds of you being invited for an interview diminish greatly. Your first priority is to make your application review as easy as possible for reviewers. Provided are three steps to ensure your resume and cover letter make a great first impression.

Your resume and cover letter must be without error.

In mid-2012, CareerBuilder released a study of 2,298 nationwide hiring managers. In part, the study determined common mistakes for jobseekers to avoid. According to the study, the number one reason (61 percent) to dismiss a candidate from consideration was a resume with typos.

Tip #1 – Have someone proofread your resume and cover letter. I know – this something you have heard before. Yet, do you know how many people still do not find someone to review their application materials?

Choose someone who has experience evaluating resumes and cover letters.Do not choose a parent, friend, or supervisor simply because they are willing to help. Ask yourself, “What makes them qualified to evaluate your materials?”

Do not ask too many people as you will get just as many answers. For every person you ask to proofread your resume and cover letter you are going to receive several different opinions. The first person might suggest making your font size smaller, while the second person might tell you it should be larger. Ask each person who reviews your resume to look for something specific. Remember, this is your application. It is your first impression. Those you are asking to help are providing suggestions – you do not need to take their advice.

Spend some money to have your resume and cover letter reviewed. This might sound like a waste as you can have this done for free, but hiring someone could have huge benefits in the long run. People you pay for these services have more of a vested interested in your application as you are paying them to do so. They will give you an added advantage. Depending on who you hire, this service can range in price. Look around, do your research, and find someone who fits into your price range and has experience in your field.

Check for grammatical and spelling errors. I cannot tell you how many times an applicant does not get a second look from a search committee because they have errors on their resume and cover letter. One grammatical or spelling error is one too many.

Use your space efficiently. Is there too much white space on your written materials? Are you wasting precious space on your resume where you could add skills? For example, the most common mistake I see is the right side of the paper on the resume is not utilized effectively. Consider using bullets and columns on your resume to fill in the space. Fill in your sentences so they take up the entire line if you are using bullets.

Your resume and cover letter must match the announcement.

Both your resume and cover letter must be specific to the position you are applying for. Individuals or teams who review resumes can spot a generic resume at first glance. If you are applying for three different jobs then you should have three different resumes and cover letters. I know this seems tedious, but it will increase your chances of getting an invitation to interview. Put the time and hard work in, craft your resume and cover letter to the specific job announcement, and standout!

Tip #2 – Make it clear on your cover letter how your knowledge, skills, and abilities meet the required and preferred qualifications for the position. This is basic, yet most people miss this idea completely.

Bullet points work best. On your cover letter list out how you meet all positional qualifications. List these in the same order as the job announcement. This makes it easy for the evaluator to see that you are qualified. They should have no need to look at your materials and guess whether you are qualified. List the information on the first page of your materials.

Elaborate on your resume. Once it is obvious that you meet all the requirements, use your resume to document and elaborate on the required and preferred qualifications for the position. Sell yourself and show how qualified you are.

Give your proofreaders the job announcement to review with the matching resume and cover letter. Why have them read your materials without understanding what you are applying for? Someone who has expertise in resume and cover letter review will ask you for this every time. Ask them to ensure that your materials are tailored to the job qualifications of the position.

Avoid common mistakes.

The objective statement. Get rid of the objective statement. Everyone knows you are interested in the position because (wait for it)… you are applying for the position! You do not need to restate that your objective is to obtain the respective position. This is not only a waste of space, but a waste of prime real estate on your resume (the top of the resume just below your contact information).

Tip #3 – Use a “Profile” section instead of an objective statement. Included in this section is a sentence or two on your expertise or time in the field. I also include a two-column bulleted list of my areas of expertise. This list may change or grow depending on the skills needed for the position I am applying.

Not contacting your references. I cannot tell you how many people do not ask individuals if they will be a positive reference. No matter how much you think they will serve as a positive reference, you need to check.

Tip #4 – Only list positive references. Contact each of your references and ask them, “Will you be a positive reference for me?” When it is time for reference checks, touch base with your references again and send them the position description. This will allow them to prepare examples of how great you will be in the position. Furthermore, do not end your resume with “References available upon request.” Rather, include them on an additional page and attach them to your resume.

Listing each positions’ responsibilities. Many applicants simply document their job responsibilities from previous positions. While it is important to show perspective employers what you have been responsible for in the past, it does not show what you have accomplished.

Tip #5 – Your resume is the perfect opportunity to sell yourself. For each job you have had, ask yourself the following question: “What are my top three accomplishments during my time in this position?” With each position, focus on the value you provided to your department or division. Be specific in your answer and include data. Think about how it might relate to the position you are applying for.

Remember the resume and cover letter are your first impression and the goal is to get you an interview. It should demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the position and have the skills necessary to succeed. It should also leave those evaluating your written materials thinking, “I need to meet this person. Yes, I want to interview them!” Yet, so many job seekers do not realize its importance. Follow the tips above and you will increase your chances of success!

CONGRATS to MEGAN CALE

for winning the FREE resume/cover letter polish and phone consult.

I am giving away a FREE resume and cover letter polish and a 30 minute phone consultation to one lucky winner. A +$200 value! Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on February 24, 2014. To Enter:

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Question: What’s your best resume and cover letter tip? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Single Most Important Tool to Building a Resume

Have you ever had someone send you a job announcement or you came across one and the application is due in a day or two. Without spending a whole day working on your resume, how can pull together a tailored resume in a timely fashion without starting from scratch?

Putting together a resume every time you come across a job you want to apply for can be a daunting task. But what if all you had to do to tailor a resume to a specific job announcement is choose from a list of everything you have ever done. Wouldn’t that be much easier than thinking of each and every time?

If you think you don’t need a resume now because you aren’t job searching for a while you are WRONG! Check out my article on 5 Reasons Everyone Needs to Job Search This Year.

Resume

Photo Credit: Chris Mullen

5 Reasons Everyone Needs to Job Search This Year

 

Check out my recent article for The Student Affairs Feature titled “Five Reasons Everyone Needs to Job Search This Year.”

Even if you are not in the field of student affairs this article is for anyone in any field.

Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow via Compfight cc

Many professionals in student affairs will begin searching through position announcements and consider job searching or attending a placement exchange in the coming months. If you are thinking to yourself, “I am not looking for a new position this year”, do not be so sure.

Take a moment to answer the following questions:

 

    • Have you thought about the next step in your career?
    • What will your next position be (it may or may not be your dream job, but perhaps it could be a step in that direction)?
    • Geographically, where is your next job located?
    • What institution or company will you be working for?
    • What functional area or field of work will the position be in?

 

If you have not thought about these questions in a while, perhaps you should. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m comfortable in my current position. I like what I do.” My question to you is, “Are you going to be in your current position forever?” For most of us, the answer is likely “no.”

You may have some hesitations or limitations about starting a search. For example, you may have only been in your current position for a short amount of time, you have family or a partner to consider, you are bound to your geographical location, your department will not be able to survive without you, it will take you forever to put a resume together, etc. I am not dismissing your hesitations or limitations but believe you can benefit from searching regardless of these hesitations or limitations. Furthermore, searching this year is not only for entry and mid-level professionals, but for those in upper-level administrative positions as well. Everyone can benefit from looking for their next dream job, staying sharp, and refining what should be on their resume.

“JOB SEARCHING SHOULD NOT BE A CHORE – ONLY DONE WHEN YOU DO NOT LIKE YOUR CURRENT POSITION OR THINK YOU HAVE STAYED TOO LONG.”

While there are many personal considerations to searching, below are five reasons everyone should search at the beginning of this year.

1. Searching now could land you your next dream job. You never know when your dream job will come around and if you are not looking, you may never know either. The job you have always wanted is not going to be handed to you or simply appear when you are ready to search. By staying engaged with the search world, you will be more likely to find the dream job you having been working towards.

2. Searching now keeps you sharp. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Through the process of looking at positions, job descriptions, and requirements, you will improve your ability to evaluate each position and determine if you could be a competitive candidate. You may start to notice which institutions you might want to work for if the opportunity was presented. Reviewing job descriptions is an excellent way to understand what types of skills should be documented on your resume.

By searching now and staying sharp you will be able to notice trends in the current search environment. This can assist you as you continue to look for the next step in your career and can also help if you are looking to hire.

3. Searching now can help others. When looking for jobs you never know what positions you might come across. Though a position does not align with what you are looking for, it could be perfect for a friend or colleague. Thinking about others will expand your network and it is likely they will do the same for you. There are more professionals than just you searching for their dream job. We can all use the help!

4. Searching now keeps your resume up to date. Certainly, we all have been there – we find a position we want to apply for, but our resume is outdated. Soon, we find ourselves scrambling to add everything we have done over the past few years and tailor our resume to the position description. It is a daunting task. However, if you are continually searching it will force you to keep your resume current, decrease the amount of grammatical and formatting errors on your resume, and allow for more time to have it reviewed.

5. Searching now will help you plan your professional development for the year. This is one of the most important, and often overlooked, reasons you should search this year. Even if you are not currently looking for a new position, knowing what jobs are on the market will empower you. While reviewing position descriptions, you can gain a good understanding of what knowledge, skills, and experience you do not have, but need to gain in order to be successful in your next move. Doing so, will allow you to be intentional when creating your professional development plan for the year. As such, you will be a highly qualified candidate when you do apply for that position.

Job searching should not be a chore – only done when you do not like your current position or think you have stayed too long. Job searching should be a continual process happening each year. Even if you enjoy your current position, you can benefit from job searching by setting your professional development for the year, keeping your resume current, and helping colleagues in their search. If you have questions about this process, feel free to connect with me on Twitter.

What are your reasons for job searching?

What is holding you back from searching?

Let’s discuss.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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