We all hear about how critical it is to make a good first impression. An important study recently showed that first impressions are eerily accurate and frustratingly arbitrary. Rest assured, though, there is hope for the awkward. A 2009 study showed that a first impression can be overturned if the relationship is important enough to pursue. You may have experienced this if you’ve had a coworker you didn’t like at first, but grew to respect.
What does this mean for your resume, which is arguably an incomplete representation of you, but still your first impression when applying for a job? Know what the hiring manager is really looking at when they give your resume a first glance.
• Good grammar and proper spelling: Your resume is a reflection of your ability to communicate effectively. A grammatical error here or there can’t be avoided. However, if your area of expertise requires an intense attention to detail (think: QA/QC), even one error can put your resume in the “maybe” pile. In general, make sure you’ve spelled all of your common industry terms correctly. Also, don’t just copy and paste all of the bullets from your previous position into your new position. Demonstrate that you have built new skills and accepted new responsibilities as your career has progressed. If you can’t demonstrate career growth, at least impress upon the hiring authority your fantastic command of the English language.
• Current skills and responsibilities: Your current position will be the one most highly scrutinized. The assumption is that the work you are doing right now represents your highest level of skill and the career path you’ve chosen to take. Hiring managers want to be sure that you will be happy in the position they have available. They’re looking at your resume to determine if the work requires your specific expertise, or if the opportunity will present enough challenges to help grow you in your obvious career path.
• Proven expertise / Commitment to growth: A good skillset is important to every hiring authority, but expertise is more highly favored in consultants, while demonstration of skill-growth is more important for normal employees.
What’s the difference?
A consultant is highly-skilled and typically brought in for their specialized knowledge. If you are a consultant, be sure to feature proof-points on your resume that describe your greatest contribution for every contract you take. For example, “Delivered X project in Y days, Z days ahead of schedule.”
A normal employee is expected to take the time to grow their career and learn new skills, augmenting the ones they currently have. A salaried employee who performs well is also invested in their future with the company. If you are normally employed or salaried, be sure your resume demonstrates a history of regular promotions and new responsibilities for every position you list.