With the right resume, you can be sure that you're making the perfect first impression on employers

You probably know the old saying about how you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. That idea is embodied in quotes like “dress to impress” and is something that most of us learn at a relatively early age. But have you ever taken the time to think about how it applies to your job search? Chances are that you apply this thinking when you choose your attire for an interview - but do you give the same amount of consideration to whether your resume is making the right first impression?

In this post, we'll explain why making a perfect first impression with your resume can make all the difference between job search failure or success. We'll also present some tips that you can use to make the right impression and provide some great first impression examples that you can use to create an even more compelling resume.

What is a first impression?

Whether you realize it or not, your brain is always assessing people that you meet. The way they talk, dress, employ body language, or communicate in emails and texts can all influence your perception of them as a person. Well, the same holds true for them as well. Everyone who meets you, reads something that you wrote, or hears you speak forms an initial assessment and judgment about you. These initial assessments are what we usually call first impressions.

At first glance, it might be tempting to assume that first impressions are not all that important. After all, if it's called a “first” impression, that would seem to imply that you can make a second or even third impression - right? As it turns out, however, it's not that simple. For most people, that initial first impression may be the only impression that matters. This is because many people form a concrete assessment of those around them based primarily on that initial first impression.

First impression factors

When it comes to making a positive first impression, there are many factors in play. People who meet you for the first time can be influenced by everything from your clothes and overall demeanor to your posture, body language, and speaking style. Even little things like eye contact and your willingness to smile can play an important role in making the best possible impression.

Naturally, all of those visible and audible factors are important for making a great first impression during a job interview. But is there a way to achieve that before the interview? The answer is obvious: yes! In fact, you must strive to do so because that's the best way to ensure that you get the opportunity of an interview in the first place. Of course, the best way to make a pre-interview positive impression is through your resume.

Why does a first impression matter for your resume success?

First impressions are important in almost every area of life. That includes personal and romantic relationships, customer and client relations, and the job search itself. Even political candidates rely on their skills at making positive impressions on voters. When it comes to job seeking, however, it's easy to argue that it is even more important to make a great first impression with your resume. After all, that first impression is likely to be the only chance you'll get to capture a hiring manager's attention before they make a yes or no decision about progressing your application.

Employers typically need to filter through dozens or even hundreds of resumes to narrow their search for qualified candidates. And guess which resumes they automatically exclude from consideration when they're selecting candidates to interview? That's right: the ones that make a bad impression. Now, that impression can be based on any number of factors, including insufficient qualifications, poor presentation, a failure to focus on the job's needs, and more.

You can avoid falling into that trap by taking the time to ensure that your resume is tailored in a way that makes the perfect first impression on that hiring manager. To do that, you need to make sure that you include the right substance, with the right focus, presented in the most compelling way possible. Fortunately, we've compiled some great tips and recommendations that you can use to update your resume, so that it makes the perfect first impression you need for job search success.

How to make a good first impression with your resume

The first thing that every job seeker needs to understand is that the resume is not just a formulaic presentation of your job history and skills. Instead, it's a marketing piece designed to introduce you to a prospective employer. And, like all good marketing vehicles, your resume will be the first chance that a hiring manager gets to size you up. As a result, it's vital that you make the type of first impression that makes them want to learn more about you and your potential value as a new hire.

The following tips can help you to craft that compelling narrative, ensure that you have the right resume focus, and avoid pitfalls and traps that could leave the wrong impression.

Tell the right story

Every good marketing presentation tells the right story to its audience. That's true for a resume as well. If your resume fails to connect with its audience, your chances of landing an interview will be slim. And since you only get one chance to make that perfect first impression, you can't afford to have your message miss the mark. The best way to avoid that failure is to focus on crafting a concise and clear narrative that makes the case for why you are the best candidate for the job.

Begin by examining the job description and requirements in detail. What specific skills, experience, and education are required to fill the role? How does your own background measure up to those requirements? Make detailed notes that you can refer to as you create each section of your resume, so that you can effectively highlight those needs as you develop your broader narrative. As you flesh out that narrative, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure that you continually focus on how your qualifications are relevant to the job

  • Shape your message to ensure that the employer's needs are prioritized

  • Avoid repetition and remove any duplicate content that might seem redundant

  • Wherever possible, use short sentences to convey important ideas so that they have a greater impact

  • Revise and polish your narrative as many times as needed to achieve the results you want

Make yourself easy to contact

Make sure that your contact information is right at the top of your resume. This should include your first and last name, physical location, and important details like your phone number and email address. Remember, hiring managers often read through dozens or hundreds of submissions, so the last thing you want is for them to set your resume aside because they can't figure out how to reach you.

Focus on the right job title

If you include a desired job title in your resume, make sure that you choose one that's appropriate for the job you're seeking. Think about the job description and any job title listed in that text, and then compare that title to your current and previous positions. The job title that you include in your resume will need to be supported by your previous positions, experiences, achievements, and skills.

Use a summary to focus on the company's needs

Remember that the average hiring manager spends only seconds on your resume before deciding whether to read the entire document. That's why your resume summary statement needs to capture the reader's attention right away. Your job is to ensure that your brief summary is compelling enough to make the hiring manager want to learn more about you.

As for the summary itself, think of it as a resume version of the old elevator sales pitch. You only have seconds to engage the reader and draw them into your narrative, so make the most of every word and line. Prioritize skills and experience that fit the job you're seeking and highlight the potential value that you can bring to the company if they decide to hire you. If you can do all of this in five or six lines of text, you'll be well on your way to making a great first impression.

Relevant experience only

Of course, you'll want to apply this same mode of thinking to your professional experience section as well. While it can be tempting to simply list your jobs in reverse chronological order and add bullet points highlighting your responsibilities, you need something more than that if you want to make a lasting impression. In fact, you need to use your experience section to reinforce the elevator pitch you made in your resume summary.

To do that, focus your attention on bullet points that back up the skills and other qualifications you included in your summary. Every bullet point should describe experiences that showcase those skills, as well as quantifiable achievements that provided real value to your previous employers. Again, try to stick to examples that have direct relevance to the requirements listed in the job description, using keywords and phrases from that post.

Prioritize skills

In your skills section, make sure that you list your core abilities in the right order. Always prioritize the most relevant skills by listing them first and using the same terms found in the job posting. That's important if you want to focus the hiring manager's attention on how well your skills align with the company's stated needs. Review your skill section multiple times and tweak it until you're confident that it tells the story you need it to tell.

Include relevant education, certifications, and awards

These days, job descriptions almost always include some level of required education. Pay careful attention to the posting and make sure that your education section includes those qualifications. You can also include related educational achievements that align with the job requirements, including certifications and training. Finally, don't be afraid to include any awards that you've received.

For more advice on putting together a stellar education section, check out Ask Amanda: What's the Best Way to List Education on a Resume?

Be authentic

This one is important. Most hiring managers with any experience in the job can smell a lack of authenticity a mile away. If your resume reads like a sales advertisement, chances are that the average hiring manager won't be too excited to get to know more about you. That's especially true when you fill the document with exaggerated claims that seem to be too good to be true. You can avoid leaving them with that impression by being honest, avoiding hyperbole, and focusing instead on telling a compelling story.

The good news is that this doesn't mean you need to downplay your abilities or accomplishments. It simply means that you need to focus on highlighting your strengths and presenting them in ways that show you to be the best candidate for the job. Refer back to the job description often, as you identify the key skills and experiences you need to showcase to convey that message.

Format for easy reading

One of the easiest ways to spoil your first impression is to make your resume hard to read. As a rule, most resumes need to be free of clutter and distracting graphics, use plenty of white space, and rely on simple, easy-to-read fonts. Sure, that beautiful cursive font that you use for personal letters may provide a sense of grace and elegance, but is it professional? Obviously, it is not. Stick to the more common fonts like Arial and Calibri to ensure that your text is as clear as possible.

For more formatting tips, read our great post How to Format a Modern, Visually Appealing Resume.

Be concise and consistent

Your revision efforts should also focus on ensuring that your narrative is both concise and consistent. Every statement should be made with brevity and clarity in mind. You have limited space, so strive to convey each idea in as few words as possible. Also, review every statement in your resume to ensure that the story is consistent. Any claim that you make needs to be in alignment with that narrative. If a statement detracts from that consistent message, delete it.

Proofread, proofread, and proofread again

After you've finished conducting multiple reviews and revisions of your resume narrative, make sure that you also take time to proofread the entire document - several times. Remember that the automatic editing features in Microsoft Word can only do so much and will often fail to notice things like using the wrong word in a sentence. Those types of mistakes can leave a bad impression with hiring managers, though, so it's well worth your time to root them out.

It may also be a good idea to have at least one other person read your resume before you submit it to a company. A fresh set of eyes can often catch weaknesses that you might miss. More importantly, it can be helpful to obtain an unbiased opinion. Does the resume present the right message? Is it compelling enough to make the reader want to meet with you and learn more about your potential value?

Clean up your social media

You should also take the time to remove any social media or other online content that may raise concerns for a potential employer. Many companies routinely review job candidates' online accounts and may overlook anyone whose social media postings include offensive, unprofessional, or controversial content. Remove any comments, photos, or other material that might prevent you from making the right first impression.

Get professional assistance

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that resume writing is no easy task. That's why so many job seekers rely on professional resume writers to help them to craft the compelling content they need to make that perfect first impression. Don't be afraid to invest in your own career advancement by getting the expert advice and assistance you may need to create a truly winning resume!


Your resume is your most important job search tool and serves many purposes. It's your introduction to prospective employers, the vehicle used to convey your qualifications, and a showcase for your talents and achievements. By following these tips, you can ensure that you make a perfect first impression on any hiring manager and increase your odds of landing an interview and eventual job offer

Get your free resume review from our team of experts today to ensure that you never miss your chance to make a great first impression!

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