By Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Darcy Rezac
Research shows that a person has a mere three seconds to make a first impression. Obviously if you engage the other person, if they are interested in continuing the “conversation”, you’re on the right track—you have successfully established that first all-important connection! Many people think the three-second rule applies only to face-to-face conversations, but it also applies to the covering letter and resume you email to a potential employer. In this scenario you have even fewer tools at your disposal to make that first impression. All you have are words.
Start by nailing down your resume. Feel one hundred percent confident that your resume is the best it can be. Then “stuff yourself in the shoes” of the person reading your resume. We use the word “stuff” because “put” is simply not a forceful enough word. Stuffing yourself in the reader’s shoes means that you are sitting at their desk as they are reading your resume, or looking at their BlackBerry as they read your resume while relaxing on the couch at home. In that case, it might mean you have to “stuff yourself in their slippers.”
Now ask yourself, what kind of impression are they getting from what they are reading, including those first three seconds? Write down the three key impressions they have of you after reading your resume. If you don’t think those three key words create the impression you want to make, tweak your resume. Ask your network–friends and mentors–to do the same exercise: read your resume and write down three words. They will give the feedback to improve your resume.
Once again, “stuff yourself in the shoes” of the person reading your resume, except that this time, skim your own resume. What does the reader see? What are the three key takeaways they get from skimming your resume? Write these down and if you don’t like what you see, tweak your resume. Go to your network again for their feedback.
While we all know the importance of crafting a good resume, the covering letter is often what a potential employer will see first. Once again, the three-second rule applies and that’s probably the first paragraph of your covering letter. What’s their impression of you from that first paragraph? Write those words down. Do you think they want to click on your resume WORD document or PDF? Remember, they may have read fifty emails before yours! What can you do to make them want to read more? Have your network of support give their feedback on the covering letter as well.
If you are still wondering how do I “stuff myself in someone else’s shoes” when I don’t know them, here’s a bit of advice based on our ethos of Positive Networking: “It’s not all about you. It’s discovering what you can do for someone else”. Look at your resume and your covering letter and ask yourself is this “all about me and how I can get this job”, or “is it about what I can do for this company”. The latter is what will make you stand out.
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