When you’re looking for a new job, your resume is typically the first contact that potential employers have with you. Your goal is to use your resume to create a great first impression–not by lying, but by putting your best foot forward and showing people exactly what you can do. These tactics will allow you to create a stronger resume that will help bring you to the top of the stack.

1. Build your experience. You know that you have to have experience in order to get a job, and you have to have a job in order to get experience. There are, however, some other ways you can get some great experience that’s relevant to your job. In the hospitality and restaurant industry, this might include:

  • Volunteering for events that require a great deal of customer service
  • Finding opportunities to cook for friends, loved ones, and other events–especially if you get paid to do it
  • Organizing local events, including those that aren’t for profit

2. Put the important details first. You have approximately six seconds to catch the attention of the manager or recruiter reading your resume. That means you want to put your most important details at the top of your resume, where they’re easier to see.

3. Keep it clear and simple. It’s tempting to pad your resume with extra words, especially if you happen to have, for example, a page-and-a-half long resume that you’re trying to stretch to two pages. Instead, cut it down: a clear, concise resume is much more appealing than one that appears to gush or to contain unnecessary or excess information.

4. Personalize your resume. Think about the specific job you’re applying for, then put relevant information first or emphasize it more clearly. For example, if you’re applying for a hospitality position, your time as a customer service representative at a call center might showcase your ability to prioritize customer service and handle high-stress situations. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a job as a restaurant manager, you might be better suited to discuss your previous experience in the restaurant industry at the top of your resume.

5. List accomplishments, not skills. It’s great that you have customer service skills–but what have you done with them? Instead of a rote list of your skills, use active language to describe what you’ve actually accomplished with them. Which sounds more appealing: “good at dealing with customers” or “effectively managed customer interactions and diffused tense situations” as you describe your previous management position?

6. Keep it real. Don’t lie on your resume. This seems obvious, but all too many prospective employees fall prey to the urge to exaggerate or even manufacture information about their previous positions. If you want the job, be honest: chances are, someone will check before you’re offered the position. Lies will make it evident that you aren’t a suitable candidate.

7. Proofread. This is a critical step in the resume writing process–especially if you’re using a template or copying and pasting from someone else’s resume. You must be sure that you’ve checked your spelling, avoided major errors, and, most critically, put your information in your resume, not the person’s you copied.

Crafting a strong resume is the first step in attaining the employment you’ve always wanted. Don’t just slap it together; instead, take the time to do it right, building a strong resume that reflects your accomplishments and explains to a potential employer why you’re the right fit for the job. Don’t forget to include a cover letter detailing your interest in the position and why you think you’re a good fit, if relevant. Your ability to get the job of your dreams could hinge on the quality of that first communication with a prospective employer.

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