sharoncolemanlouissaint_web.jpgThe purpose of a resume is to help a jobseeker land an interview; but trying to land an interview can become rather challenging in our competitive job market if you don’t have an exceptional resume! 

A well-constructed resume is very inviting; it demands that you give it your full attention.  Unfortunately, having reviewed thousands of resumes, I’ve concluded that it is not always possible for job seekers to write and constructively review their own resumes with any measure of objectivity so their resumes can take on that captivating appeal. 

Over the years, in my capacity as an executive recruiter, in-house counsel, and vice president for human resources, I have come to understand that far more job applicants would have made the leap from applicant status to interview stage if their resumes had been prepared with slightly more marketing savvy.

Some jobseekers overlook the fact that hiring managers judge them by their resume’s very appearance, which explains why it is often the resume that is making the first and only impression. 

Much like a company brochure is carefully crafted to sell a company’s product, a resume should be designed to sell a candidate’s education, work experience, and talent as something that a company simply must have in order to be successful.  Does your resume represent you in this manner? 

It is important to take advantage of the biases that we human beings have for appearances, by making your resume take on the earmarks of a Madison Avenue ad campaign – minus the theatrical.

So how is that done, you ask?  The answer is simple – you start with the foundation – the format.

Formatting, Formatting, Formatting.

Content is crucial and format is equally important.   Hiring managers and recruiters first look at the overall resume appearance, translation – format – and consciously or subconsciously, arrive at conclusions about a candidate’s judgment and sense of professionalism before they actually read the resume.  Consequently, the overall appearance is what actually makes the first impression. 

In addition, please note that for the purposes of this article, the terms “hiring manager” and “recruiter” are used interchangeably.

In today’s competitive job market, hiring managers usually receive anywhere from 300 to 500 resumes for one job opening (I’m sure you can imagine the volume if they have to fill seven job openings).  As a result, in order to quickly and efficiently move through the massive amount of resumes, they start by quickly scanning the top half of the first page. This is done to determine whether pertinent information is present, which would indicate whether they need to spend time looking at the entire document.  Therefore, you need to make certain that every critical aspect of your talent and expertise has been clearly summarized in the top half of the first page.  This can be done by using sections such as a resume title, objective, summary statement, core competencies, education, software proficiencies and similar sections.

These give the reader a concise snapshot of your credentials before they reach the work experience section.  Based on the information presented in the top half of the first page the recruiter then determines whether they want to continue scanning the rest of the resume.  Notice I use the word “scan.” 

Next, it is important to make certain that there is sufficient white space between the various sections, including the information presented in the “work experience” section.  The white space subconsciously signals the recruiter that there is an end to the section they are presently scanning, so the recruiter is encouraged to continue scanning the entire resume (remember your resume is one in a stack of 500). 

Use creative dividers between sections, such as lines, capital letters, bullets, shading, boxes, bold print and different fonts to separate each section and add to the overall aesthetic appeal.

Your resume should be formatted so that it is easy to scan the entire document at a glance.  Only after a hiring manager has scanned the entire resume, including your work experience, and is satisfied with the basic content, will her or she be interested in actually reading the entire resume for substance. 

Once the recruiter makes the decision to read the resume and match your background with the job qualifications, you stand a great chance of progressing from “applicant” to “interview stage.”

Remember, this is very critical because, as I mentioned at the beginning, the purpose of the resume is to attract the attention of the hiring manager so that you can land an interview.  You may receive a call for a phone interview or an in-person interview – but trust me – at this point, you are well on your way. 

Who knows, this could turn into your dream job, so make certain that your resume makes you look like the consummate professional; and when in doubt just ask yourself, “Will this document distinguish me from the other 499 resumes in the pile?’’

I think you will come up with the right answer.

Sharon D. Coleman, JD, is president & founder of “An Exceptional Resume, Inc.”  She can be reached at 954-465-6083 (Broward) or 561-477-9564, (Palm Beach), or