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As the saying goes, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. Your resume is that first impression to a perspective employer. A well-constructed resume can get you in the door and give you the opportunity to show a hiring manager what you are all about. A poorly constructed resume can leave you wondering when that next opportunity is going to come. There are many opinions as to what makes a strong resume. Having reviewed resumes professionally for over 15 years, there are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Resumes DO NOT have to be one page long. This one has never made sense to me, yet it is the one I most commonly hear. If your career is two years long, yes, you should be able to write that on one page. But if your career has spanned 10-15 years and involves 3-4 employers with multiple projects for each, how can you be expected to sum that up in one page? Six or seven pages is far too many, but if your resume is three pages long you have nothing to worry about.

2. Colorful or creative fonts do not catch the reader’s eye, they distract from the content. This is not an art project, it’s an opportunity to display your professionalism. Use a font (and font size) that is easy to read. Write in black or dark blue. Whatever font/color you choose, stick with it throughout the resume. You may want to adjust the font size or use italics/boldface to denote a job title, company name or similar heading. Beyond that, stay consistent.

3. Be prepared to write multiple versions. If you are posting your resume on the job boards (Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, etc.) post a version that gives a good general overview of your skill set and will cast the widest net. Your goal with this resume is to get a recruiter or HR professional to call you. Once you get that call though, you should be open to modifying your resume to fit the specific job for which you are applying. Your original resume may dedicate one bullet point to a subject whereas your targeted resume dedicates 3 or 4 in order to show how in-depth your experience is in that area.

4. Don’t lie! Don’t even exaggerate beyond a few flowery adjectives to describe what a wonderful person you are. Anything you claim on your resume, you should be prepared to defend in an interview. If you claim expert knowledge of something on your resume and do not demonstrate it in the interview, you have not only wasted your own time but you’ve also wasted the time of the manager you expect to hire you. If you’re thinking that you can lie to get in front of the hiring manager and then your winning personality will get you the job, you’re kidding yourself. No one is going to hire a candidate that started lying to them before they even met.

5. Spellcheck and Grammar check is your friend. All employers notice when you make spelling errors. And it’s not because all jobs require someone with advanced grammar skills. Spelling errors on a resume show a total lack of effort on your part. It shows that you are not taking this process seriously at all. Why? Because you don’t even need to know how to spell, your computer does! Take advantage of the spellcheck feature on your computer. Don’t blow the game by missing a lay-up.

Your resume is the first step in demonstrating who you are to potential employers. Take advantage of the opportunity and show them the best possible version of yourself!

-Brian Tarsi

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