While you might spend hours preparing your résumé, an employer will probably spend less than a minute reviewing it.
If you want to make a good impression your résumé has to pack a punch. Smart résumé writers know that they have to put the most important information right up front. They also know how to make effective use of fonts and white space, and they are careful to choose language that is clear and direct.
First, create visual interest
Select one typeface for headings and another for text. Use different type sizes and highlight important text with italics, boldface, underline, and capital letters.
By bolding headings and underlining subheadings, divide your résumé into clear sections to make it easier to read. By balancing white space and text, it allows readers to easily zero in on those accomplishments that interest them.
Gone are the days when you printed 50 identical résumés with a general objective. Employers want to know what position you’re seeking; they want to know that you want to work for them. So, show that you have done your research and target your résumé to the employer’s needs.
A targeted objective is clear and direct. Emma’s revised objective is, “To obtain a position in merchandising with Lane Bryant.” She names the employer and she shows she’s willing to start as a sales associate and work up to a managerial position.
Emphasize your strengths
You increase the visual impact of your résumé by using major headings such as Objective, Education, Work Experience, Activities, and Scholarships to group your skills and experiences. Although Emma used these categories in her first résumé, she gave them new emphasis in her revision. Work Experience is usually the largest category and Emma lists her job titles in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent.
Choose your words carefully
When it’s time to add the details to each section of your résumé, use powerful action verbs and specific information. In her revised résumé, action verbs like “sold,” “wrote” and “researched,” make it clear what Emma’s skills are, and they replace mushy words like “assisted,” or “provided” in her original résumé. These action verbs, combined with details, such as “create window displays” or “teach skin care” make a strong impression.
Don’t overlook the impact of keywords either. These are nouns or phrases that are specific to certain jobs or industries, and they help employers gauge an applicant’s skills. In Emma’s case, terms like retail inventory, event planner, customer service, merchandizing and window displays, clue employers that she’s qualified for work in merchandizing and marketing. Find keywords in job announcements and job descriptions.
Show what you know
Be sure that you include transferable skills in your résumé, too. These are skills that matter, no matter what the job. They “transfer” from one job to the next. Examples are teamwork, communication, leadership, time management and work ethic. If you manage your time well at one job, you will manage your time well at another job. Emma’s résumé mentions “teaching” and “recruiting” as skills she can use at Lane Bryant, or any other business.
Finally, end each job description with an accomplishment. For example, under Sales Associate, Emma demonstrates she is a capable and competent employee by stating, “Consistently helped store achieve daily sales goals…” Other examples of accomplishment are: “Demonstrated initiative by taking on management responsibilities.”
Remember, your résumé might be your only opportunity to make a good impression with an employer. It’s your calling card; it’s your foot in the door – and the better it looks, the better you look.