First impressions won't always be made in person, especially when you're applying for a new job. But even so, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that the first impression you make is a good one.
For a potential employer, his or her first glance at who you are and what you have done will come with the résumé you submit--that ubiquitous 1 or 2-page overview of your professional experience. As career experts at MIT say, "A good résumé can help you land an interview, but even minor errors can take you out of the running."
Here, according to MIT career experts, are seven specific things you can do to improve your résumé and help ensure you get that next job.
1. A consistent format.
It's likely that the hiring recruiter who reads your résumé will have precious little time--perhaps just seconds--to search your submission for the information they need. So, keep the format familiar and easy to understand. No need to use too much bold text or crazy fonts--pick a conservative look to efficiently get your information across to the reader.
2. Tailored information.
No need to include every little thing you have ever experienced during the course of your career and life. When you apply for a job, the résumé you submit should be tailored to the specific position or employer you're pursuing. Use the listed skills required in the job description--have you had experiences where you have demonstrated these skills? Make relevance clear and undeniable.
3. Specific experiences.
MIT career experts say that, whenever possible, you should include how you performed tasks, not just what you did. This means if you have experience in lab work, for example, it would serve you well to mention specific techniques. Skills don't have to be listed in just a skills section--put them in your experience descriptions to reinforce their strength.
4. More than just the technical aspects.
If you can break down your experiences from the technical standpoint, don't forget to include the people skills you may have used on your way to task completion. These skills can include efficient communication, collaboration, and more.
5. Strong action verbs.
Although resumes don't require complete sentences, your work experience descriptions should still have strong action verbs, like "managed," "developed," "built," etc. This gives more insight into what you achieved and what you are capable of.
6. Recorded accomplishments, not just duties.
Communicate your impact by stating factual accomplishments. Don't wait for the interview round to brag about your contributions--use your résumé space to talk about how much of a good fit you are.
7. Typo-free text.
Even the smallest error can cost you a big opportunity. Read and re-read your résumé, and get others to proofread if you can. Revise carefully, and don't forget to include your contact information. As Laszlo Bock--former senior vice president of people operations at Google, and current CEO and co-founder of Humu--suggests: "Read your résumé from bottom to top: Reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation."