Make a Good Impression on Your Job Search

In my line of work, first impressions are everything. As a professional in the executive search industry, the first introduction to candidates comes in form of a CV/resume and a cover letter. Think of it as a blind audition where words are the only means of persuasion. Sadly, great candidates get passed over because their application materials are poorly formatted. 

Writing is no easy task and we are all guilty of the occasional typo and grammatical error. However, such errors should be avoided at all costs through editing and re-editing, especially with job application materials. If you are willing to put in the work to make a great first impression on a recruiter, here are a few tips to help improve your application materials.

Be clear and concise

In crafting your application materials, it is important to think about what you are trying to convey to the reader. The goal is to paint a picture of a qualified and professional candidate with the right set of skills to function in the position advertised. 

Do your research on the company

This is the most important step. There is no use applying for a position with a company you know nothing about. This point may seem mute in a place like Nigeria, however, there are solid companies that appreciate an intelligent and informed candidate. A well written resume and cover letter won't mean much if you show up oblivious to what the company does.

Tailor your resume and cover letter to the job description

Most people have a steady resume which they use to apply to every available position. Tailoring your documents might give you the edge over other applicants depending on how serious and attentive the recruiter is (we know that some people don't take their jobs seriously). Ensure that you read the job advertisement and evaluate your qualifications and skills with the requirements of the position advertised. Once you have determined there is a fit, develop a resume that shows how your previous experiences are a good representation of what the recruiter is looking for. Your cover letter should not be a repeat of your resume, but rather a statement of how your experiences make you a good candidate for the job.

Create visually appealing and easy to read documents

This is where your knowledge of Microsoft Word comes in handy. Choose a simple page layout and use a consistent font/font size (between 11 and 12) throughout the document. It is advisable to stick to fonts such as Times New Romans, Arial, Garamond and Cambria. Bolded underline headers/titles are a good way to section off your resume. Paragraph spacing can be used to achieve the same results in cover letters.

Make use of simple, concise and descriptive words

The goal is to make your resume easy to read in a few seconds. Recruiters have a lot of application materials to go through in a short time. A simple and well designed layout makes your resume easily accessible to the recruiter. Bullets points when used correctly are a good tool for highlighting notable experiences.


There is only so much a resume and a cover letter can do, look for avenues to network. Companies are more likely to be favorably disposed to someone with whom they have some kind of prior relationship. Researching the company and its  top level personnel may uncover bits of information about challenges or problems that the company might be facing. Reaching out to a key executive with great ideas is a good way to get yourself noticed. Never turn down an opportunity to engage in professional conversations; you never know who might be paying attention.

A lot more can be said about making the right kind of impression in all aspects of human engagement. It is important for any aspiring and practicing professional to always project excellence in speech and writing. A well written resume and cover letter will not only make you stand out from the crowd, but also increase your chances of getting to the interview stage.