By Consiglia Intile, Assistant Director of Career Services
First impressions are critical in a job search. They can either jumpstart your search or bring it to a halt.
You make your first impression on the employer with the documents you send, especially the resume. Your resume’s format, presentation, content and grammar will give the employer a strong sense of the soft skills you have and ones you need to further develop.
How you create your resume will also represent who you are as a job seeker and an employee and what kind of work you will produce. To secure a positive first impression and help boost your resume’s chance of making it to the interview round, follow these important resume rules before you hit send.
1). Tailor each resume to the job posting
Most larger companies are using applicant tracking systems to help them sort through candidate resumes. These systems are programmed to scan the resume, break it down into sections and pick up keywords. The more keywords you have on your resume, the higher the score you will receive. The resumes that score higher make it into the employer’s hands. Tip: Employers use the same keywords that are found on the job posting. So be sure to tailor every resume you send out.
2). Add a reachable contact number and use a professional email address
Supply your mobile phone number so you will be able to answer an employer’s call. Also, use a professional email address which includes your first and last names. For example: SaraJones@gmail.com. You will also want to ensure you are using a more common email account. The best and most common accounts out there are gmail.com, yahoo.com, and outlook.com. If you are still using AOL, I would say it is time to update to show the employer you are using a more current email account.
3). Make sure to add these important missed sections: Career Goal or Professional Summary and Technical skills
As a career advisor, I have seen countless resumes that do not include any of these sections. The Career Goal or Professional Summary is actually the first section to place on your resume. How do you know which one you should include? The answer lies in how much experience you have overall. If you do not have much experience, you will want to create a strong Career Goal. If you have many years of experience, a Professional Summary would be better suited for your resume. From there, you can highlight your skills, talents, strengths, and accomplishments. Your technical skills section is also important because it shows the employer what software you are familiar with using in the workplace. Most importantly, if it is listed in the job posting, then it should be placed on the resume as well. What happens if they list a software you have never used before? Not to worry, you can simply add a sentence that reads “Interested in learning about ______ (then provide the name of the software). The best part about this is you will score more bonus points through the Applicant Tracking System. To learn how to create a Career Goal or Professional Summary, visit the Career Development Office today. Our contact information is 312-261-3270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4). Align your goals with the organization’s goal
Remember your resume is a marketing piece for the job you are targeting. In order to attract an employer’s attention and keep them engaged while skimming your resume, job seekers should research their target company’s website and learn what goals they have developed and want to achieve. Your career goal should represent the skills you have that employers seek and what you plan on providing the organization through your skill set. Of course, you can have your own personal goals you want to achieve while being employed with an organization and you should work hard at accomplishing them, but when it comes to the resume, the employer is going to be more interested in what you can do for them and what you have to offer.
5). Focus less on duties (tasks) and more on accomplishments
While it is great to list all the of the challenging tasks you completed during your past employment, these really do not help make you stand out amongst other candidates. To an employer, anyone can complete a certain task, so you need to show the employer how unique you are and what you can do for their organization. Adding in accomplishments instead can help the employer visualize what you are able to produce and what you will be able to achieve within their organization. For more assistance on how to create these strong accomplishments statements, please refer to How to Soar in the Job Search.
6). Use a variety of different and strong action verbs in all your statements
Through all the resumes you create for your targeted companies, it may become a challenge to come up with strong action verbs that will keep an employer engaged while skimming through your resume. We sometimes get caught up using the same common verbs such as Assisted, Responsible for, Successfully Completed, Helped, or even Worked. These bland verbs do not really do a good job of telling the employer what you did. Using these verbs repeatedly can result in your resume being tossed aside. To prevent this from happening, take some time to review our resource that contains many different and strong action verbs for each specific skill on a resume.
7). Avoid using the same tasks for similar positions held
Each resume you create should contain engaging statements that show the employer the value in what you did for each position you held. Using the same exact statements for similar positions can give the employer a negative impression and the assumption that you did not put too much effort into creating your resume. That leaves the employer with little choice but to think this is how you will treat your work as well.
8). Use a professional format
Resumes should not include pictures, different color fonts, excessive use of large font sizes, all CAPS and excessive spacing. Applicant tracking systems works best to scan your resume when it is simple and uses only black font. Excessive use of CAPS can give the impression that you are shouting through your resume which will appear very unprofessional. Excessive spacing can give the assumption you do not have much experience and are just trying to take up space on the resume. To ensure you are creating a professional document for the position you are targeting, review which resume guide is right for you.
9). Keep your resume consistent
This is also one of the most important soft skills employers can identify on a resume. Being consistent simply means if you format your education or your experiences in one way, you want to be sure to format the rest exactly the same way. This is a way for any employer to see if you would be able to produce the same results throughout your career, if chosen. It also will give the employer an impression of how organized you are within the workplace so be sure to align all your years of employment and stay consistent with how you format your resume.
10). Keep your resume no more than two pages
This applies to those who have many years of experience. For entry-level candidates, keep your resume at one page and add more information as you gain experience. Employers will feel overwhelmed if you submit a document longer than two pages. Employers spend about 7 seconds skimming through the resume, so you want to make sure you include any pertinent information on the first page. In other words, be sure to include on the first page the skills you have that they are seeking. If you need any further guidance, remember the Career Development Office is here to support you in your job search. We have advisors in Chicago, Lisle and Wheeling, so contact us today.