Make a Great Resume First Impression: 6 Best Tips

In this economy, there’s no time for a flawed first impression.

Recruiters generally spend a mere 30 seconds skimming a candidate’s cover letter and résumé before deciding whether or not he or she is worthy of a phone interview. And it’s not uncommon for recruiters to receive hundreds of résumés and conduct a plethora of phone-screen interviews all for one single job opening.

The six tips below are designed to help you make things easier for the recruiter to size you up (i.e., getting on their good side) and set you apart from the rough waters of the applicant pool…and hopefully one step closer to a face-to-face interview.

1. Mention Where You Saw the Job Posting

Recruiters often post positions to many different job boards and track the source of qualified candidates. It is a good idea to mention in the body of your email – or even in the subject line of the email – which posting you’re responding to. A good example of this would be writing “Administrative Intern YouTern posting” in the subject line, or “I am responding to the _____ position listed on_____” somewhere in the email message. This helps the recruiter with record keeping—and may add brownie points for you.

2.  Email: Say Something, But Less Is More

Even though you have (or should have) attached a comprehensive cover letter, in addition to your resume, that highlights your skills and experience, you should still include a brief summary of your interest/qualifications, including thanking the recruiter for their time, in your email message. It looks careless and impersonal when a recruiter opens an email to find not a single word.

Conversely, there is no need to write a book or restate your entire cover letter in your Email message. It’s a good idea to write a few simple statements telling which position you are applying for (you’d be surprised how many candidates don’t do this – recruiters are almost always recruiting for several positions, so it helps to know which one you are interested in) and where you saw the posting. Also, including a brief overview of your skills is a great way to get the recruiter interested in what’s in store.

An example of an introductory email message is below:

Dear _____,

Please find the attached cover letter and résumé as they relate to the Administrative Assistant position with ABC Company as referenced on As you will see on the enclosed documents, my credentials are an ideal match for the position, including my knowledge of various Microsoft Office applications and my ability to juggle a variety of tasks, all while providing excellent customer service.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to learning more about this opportunity.

Best regards,

Jane Doe

3.  No Phone Calls, Please

This can be a gray area. But for the most part, if a job posting specifically says not to call – don’t call. Chances are the recruiter receives hundreds of résumés, and if every applicant called to ensure his/her résumé was received, it would result in an overwhelming amount of phone calls. By ignoring this, you’re also showing that you don’t follow directions. What you think may be drawing attention to yourself in a good way may actually be doing the opposite. While on occasion the squeaky wheel gets the oil, in this case if your cover letter and résumé are powerful enough, you won’t need a phone call to be remembered.

4. No Errors, No Errors, No Errors

Though this seems monotonous, it nevertheless needs to be stressed. I’ve seen cover letters that referenced a completely different job title and/or company, which results in an immediate “no.” A good rule of thumb is to always assume there is an error somewhere. Double and triple check your document, or have a friend look it over for you with a fresh set of eyes. Even the slightest spelling, grammatical or punctuation error can mean the difference between getting a phone call and getting a one-way ticket to the trash bin.

5.  No Mass Mailings

While most recruiters are aware that job seekers are most likely applying for positions at many different companies, there’s nothing that implies carelessness (or even laziness) more than seeing a slew of email addresses in the “To” line of a job seeker’s email, with a cover letter and résumé that have clearly been generalized to fit a variety of companies and positions. Though it can be time consuming to send out individual emails with your cover letter and résumé tailored to each position, it is still in good taste to do so.

6.  Professionalism Counts

Making a statement is important, however, it’s best to leave the glitz and glamour for another occasion. For instance, using funky graphics on your résumé or flashy colored backgrounds in your email tend to portray the opposite of polished and professional. Similarly, is not the email address to use when applying for a position. Remember: keep your communications at the height of professionalism at all times.


About the Author: Sheryl Coonan is a communications and human resources professional and career, lifestyle and wellness writer living in metro-Detroit. You can reach Sheryl via her LinkedIn profile.

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