Making a great first impression is crucial when applying for a new job. Presenting yourself and your skills in the best way possible can be the determining factor in how a potential employer will consider your application. In most cases, the first form of contact that applicants will have with employers is a professional résumé.

A résumé is a direct representation of an applicant. It presents one’s skills, knowledge and experiences in a concise but detailed format.

There often are two different kinds of résumés: a chronological résumé and a functional résumé.

Chronological résumés list educational and work experiences by the dates when they started. These types of résumés are ideal when applicants who already have worked several relevant jobs are applying for another job of a similar type.

Functional résumés present skills that may have been acquired over time through personal experiences or non-work related activities. This résumé format expands upon skills an applicant may have instead of focusing on a chronological work history. A functional work résumé is only necessary when an applicant has little work experience.

Regional Extension Agent Isaac Chappell has worked with Alabama Extension in the Family Resource Management and Workforce Development area for many years, and has advised countless individuals about the importance of constructing a professional résumé.

“Creating a personal résumé is important because it is often the first impression one will make on a potential employer,” Chappell said. “It can determine whether one will be called in for an interview or not.”

Chappell advises his clients to be honest in how they present the information on their résumés and to always send in a cover letter if mailing a résumé to an employer. Using a good quality paper that is white, cream or grey with a matching color envelope is important to the visual appeal of the résumé.

Résumés should be no longer than one and a half pages, and should be created with an easy-to-read font that is an appropriate size.

Chappell often encounters similar mistakes made by his clients on their résumés. “Failure to state objectives, clearly state the position sought and list the dates of employment are some of the most common mistakes people make,” said Chappell.

Other frequent errors include problems describing job titles with accurate depictions of what tasks and skills were required, or leaving out the job description entirely.

Heidi Tilenius, Extension coordinator for Lauderdale County, works for Alabama Extension in several areas: 4-H and Youth Development, Economic and Community Development and Family Resource Management and Workforce Development. Tilenius also has spent 12 years in management and has a significant amount of experience with hiring employees, examining résumés and evaluating applicants in the in-person interview process.

A common problem Tilenius encounters with applicant résumés is the use of a preset template format. These template options can appear professional and be user friendly, but often cause problems for employers trying to view them on their personal computer screens.

“When you go online to apply and upload a template résumé, the formatting often does not move, so you have this template résumé on the employer’s system and you cannot modify it,” said Tilenius.

Tilenius recommends creating your résumé in a way that meets the specific criteria that employers are looking for in a certain position. The jobs listed on an applicant’s résumé need to reflect the qualities that the employer says they are looking for in the job description posted online or on the official application form.

If an applicant is sending a résumé online, it is important to include whatever key words or phrases that the employer has listed in the online job description. “When you upload everything into an online system, the program scans for certain keywords and then chooses a selection of résumés for the HR representative to look at,” said Tilenius. “This takes the objectivity out of the picture, so employers don’t just hire who they personally know.”

Résumés that include quantifiable data in their job descriptions often are taken more seriously by employers because their skills and tasks are more clearly defined. Listing the exact number of staff members that an individual was in charge of through a managerial position is more informative than vaguely mentioning that he or she leads staff members as a manager.

“Employers want to see quantifiable numbers,” said Tilenius. “People discount what they do. They might not think that what they have done is special, but oftentimes it is and you have to be able to put that on paper.”

Creating a professional résumé is the first step in making a positive first impression with employers. Job centers and regional extension agents who specialize in workforce development are useful resources when designing a résumé. For more information about the Alabama Extension Agency and their services in workforce development, visit http://www.aces.edu/economic-development/business-careers/.

To assist local residents with this topic, Regional Extension Agent Emily Hines will present a free Job Prep workshop at the Gadsden Career Center Sept. 5 and Sept. 19.

Sept. 5, participants will be looking at job applications and résumé building. On the 19th, appropriate dress and interview skills will be stressed.

The classes will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., are free and everyone is welcome. Contact the Career Center at 256-547-4667 or Emily at 205-757-5393 or eah0047@auburn.edu to sign up.

Also coming up is a Making Money Count program. Emily again will be collaborating with the Career Center to present Decision Making & Communication/Spending Plan from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 15.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 29 at the Career Center, she will present a program on credit, banking and power pay.

All these programs are free; contact Emily or the Career Center to sign up. We hope to see you all there!

For more information on this topic and many others, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Amy Burgess is extension coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.