You’ve heard the adage, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." While you may have taken this principle into account when preparing for an interview, have you given adequate thought to the first impression your resume gives to prospective employers?

When responding to a posted job opening, your resume precedes you. The employer’s first impression of you is based solely on what he or she sees on paper (or the computer screen). Here are three tips for making sure your resume creates the best possible first impression.

1. Personalize your resume for the specific job and employer.

- Use the job title as your objective;

- Identify your key “selling points” for the particular job and company;

- Select the most appropriate format, either chronological or functional;

- “Front load” the most important information about your skills and experiences. (Employers spend 30 seconds or less looking at a resume unless you quickly hook their interest in the beginning part of your resume.)

2. Make your resume visually appealing so that it encourages the employer to read it.

- Use an 11 pt. or 12 pt. font. If the font is too small (especially for middle-aged eyes) it discourages the reader from wanting to take a closer look at the content.

- Keep your resume to one or two pages. Edit ruthlessly if you have a longer resume, keeping only the information that is most pertinent to a specific position. The purpose of the resume is to hook the employer’s interest and get you an interview, not to be an autobiography of your work life. During the interview you will have the opportunity to provide more information.

- Use margins strategically. Choose side margins of at least .75 so that the page does not appear too crowded. Use a .5 margin at the top so that your name is easily visible when an employer is riffling through a stack of resumes.

- Use bullets instead of paragraphs of information. Blocks of text do not invite reading; people are likely to skip over what may be key information about your qualifications. Bulleted information can be grasped much more quickly.

3. Develop your resume so that it answers the question, “Why should we hire YOU?”

- Showcase results you have achieved in your past jobs; don’t just list information about what you have done. (For more information, see our article How to Write a Resume that Gets Results.)

- Think from the employer’s point of view. As the employer, what would you be looking for in a candidate for this position? Make sure you include the most important information about your background and abilities, and organize it in descending order of importance so that the employer quickly sees what you have to offer within the first half of the first page.

- Know yourself and your unique strengths. Ask yourself what distinguishes you from other job applicants for this position, and highlight that information. Your uniqueness is your personal brand; you want to stand out clearly and compellingly from the other job applicants.

© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com. All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.

Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. Their websites, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com, www.ChurchJobsOnline.com, and www.ChristianJobFair.com, feature hundreds of job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; and many other career/job search resources and articles. They also offer career coaching and testing to help you discover work that fits your God-given design, as well as assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, and other aspects of a successful job search.  You can schedule a career services consultation today!