Oftentimes, especially in this day and age, the resume really is the first impression you have with a potential employer.

A resume is a summary of your skills, abilities and accomplishments. It is a quick advertisement of who you are. It is a snapshot of you with the intent of emphasizing interests and secure you a job interview.  A resume is not an autobiography, and should ideally be one-page long.

A resume should be tailored to your professional goals.  It is not uncommon for serious job-seekers to have a resume with 2 or 3 variations according to the job they are applying for.  Since it is a snapshot of you and a quick advertisement of who you are, it is necessary to make sure it is accurate, carefully written, and critiqued.  It should look good, but it should also be scannable.

In the “look good” department, there are many  templates you can get.  Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and similar word processing programs often come with resume templates you can use.  Similarly, you can buy templates from different websites, work with a graphic designer on creating one, or even buy one from Etsy.  Make sure, however, that the design is in line with the job you want.

Making your resume scannable is very important in this day and age.  Many employers don’t necessarily look at printed resumes anymore, and simply scan the resumes for keywords.  Be familiar with the keywords for your field, and especially familiar with the keywords for your desired job position.  Make sure, however, that they are in line with your experience, and that your resume looks good in every other way, because once your resume is picked for having the right keywords, it will undergo the same scrutiny as in the olden days before computers and keywords.

If you do get an interview, it is customary to have a printed resume ready to hand over to the employer.  In this day and age, too, it is becoming more and more common to simply hand over an electronic copy of your resume.  This can oftentimes be e-mailed in advance, though sometimes, it may be required to hand it over in a thumb drive or memory stick.  For electronic delivery of your resume, pay close attention to what format they want it delivered in (.docx, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, etc).

A good first impression is often the opportunity you need to open a door to the job you have wanted.  It’s not a secret, that you have to look your best for a job interview.  As if knowledge of your field and confidence in what you have to offer the company weren’t enough, you have to make sure that you don’t look sloppy, that you appear to take care of yourself and, well, we all know about that old adage of the interview suit and making sure everything from hair to toes looks well.

A well-tailored suit will be your best friend and easiest choice for the interview.  Make sure it is structured and fits right.  This is not the time to be vane and buy a suit that’s too small because the number in the size tag isn’t what you normally wear.  This is also not the time to be super-cheap (interviewers can usually tell the difference between a super cheap suit and a super expensive one, but more on this later).  Don’t be afraid to take it to a tailor to take in hems and make sure they fall in the right places.  If you choose a dress or a skirt, make sure it is not too short.  A pair of pumps will do the trick for a woman, and a pair of laced shoes (not tennis shoes) will suffice for a man.  The safest bets for colors of the suit are your dark neutrals, such as black, navy blue, and dark gray.

As a woman, your make-up should be mostly neutral (you don’t want to over-do it), and your hair should be conservative, but in line with who you are.

As for the price tag of your suit:  You don’t want to go to Wal-Mart or the equivalent to buy a suit or separates for a suit, because interviewers can usually tell by the fabric and the lack of lining and structure.  This will probably not help your case.  Remember that you want to dress for the job you want.  The job you want is probably one where you can afford better clothes.  (Not to mention that your wardrobe should be about quality, not quantity.)  You don’t want to buy an Armani suit either, unless you can afford to dress in Armani and the likes everyday.

There is no doubt that America is dressing down for work.  In many fields, especially IT, where my main experience lies, business casual and jeans are not uncommon dress code for everyday work.  However, as it has been my experience with interviewers I have worked with, part of the judging will undoubtedly be on that first impression and it includes dressing well.  It can be the deciding factor in hiring between to equally qualified candidates.