“Put your best foot forward” is the kind of parental advice given to their impressionable teens beginning to make their way in the world from school events, college interviews or that search for the first job.

The origin of this tried and true idiom was first recorded in the second edition of Sir Thomas Overbury’s poem, A Wife, circa 1613.  Sir Thomas could not have possibly wildly dreamed of today’s exceedingly competitive job market, but his phrase rings loud and true.  With respect to the poet, I might add the phrase, …or you may not get another chance.

It would seem, based on what we all see, that a lot of candidates treat the resume as a necessary evil, almost an afterthought, when they decide to pursue a new job.

At a recent meeting with some of my colleagues at the annual American College of Healthcare Executives roundtable of executive recruiters, I repeatedly heard — in private conversations — how badly most resumes are.  From poor organization to a lack of examples detailing a candidates’ potential value, today’s resumes are not a very good example of career brand management.

Consider these points as you begin a job search, or as you tweak the resume you have trying to improve your chances:

  • The resume is your first interview
  • Just because Microsoft selects a default type does not mean you are required to use it. Recruiters and researchers who spend their days looking at resumes prefer a clean look. An easy to read typeface with some white space helps everything being equal, surveys show
  • .99999999999999999 percent of all resumes will be viewed the first time on a computer screen. If a recruiter’s initial impression is a cluttered mess of mumbo jumbo, your resume probably will probably end up at the bottom of the pile, or in the trashcan
  • Include a mailing address and designate your telephone numbers if you provide more than one. With regard to the latter, recruiters try to protect your confidentiality.  They like to know where they are calling to avoid an inadvertent mistake
  • Include your personal job search email address and your LinkedIn URL. First, major companies have email scanning programs that could create an embarrassing problem for you if you are using a company email address to respond to recruiters.  Secondly, in-house recruiters are relying on LinkedIn given that most corporate recruiters in healthcare do not like to call competing hospitals and “steal” their top performers.  I am not sure why, but they don’   LinkedIn is one of the better places to be to attract the attention of those post and pray recruiters
  • Using a small typeface trying to sequence the full story of more than 10 years of career successes on two pages is not helpful. I do not know who started this cockamamie idea but seasoned candidates who follow it do themselves a big disservice more often than not
  • Forgetting to turn off the paragraph symbol which shows the various paragraph and spacing marks, only clutters up the first impression on the screen
  • Failing to list the city and state of an employer, or an explanation of what they do, is a common failure. You may know where you worked and what your scope of responsibility was, but most recruiters will not, especially if you come from a smaller, secondary market
  • Use dot points for your quantifiable accomplishments, not a description of your duties. What you did is important, but summarize that in two or three sentences and focus on what value you produced for your employer.
  • It is not about you. So many candidates think that the job search is about them, but it is really about the client — researching, understand and meeting their needs.  I know, you have heard that from me over and over but I am going to keep pounding away on this point until we see an improvement.  Get ready, we have a long way to go