A resume often represents your first impression on a potential employer, but you’re so much more than that sheet of paper-especially when you’re a massage therapist, whose qualifications are best showcased by your hands-on work.
Despite the subjective nature of massage therapy, a stellar resume is still critical, even more so when you’re trying to land your first job in the field.
The First Rule of Resumes
According to Melinda Nikolovski, a former hiring manager who became a massage therapist, your resume has one goal: to make an employer want to meet you and learn more.
Your resume is the tool you use to sell yourself to employers. Just as you’re more lured to the packaging of brand-name products than generic ones, employers are more attracted to candidates with resumes that show off their personal brand. Here are eight tips for doing just that.
1. Yes, Write a Cover Letter
Cover letters are cumbersome, boring and stressful to write-and they’re also a big helper in getting an employer to give you a second look. A cover letter is an opportunity to highlight your experience; give employers a taste of your personality; and explain employment gaps or lack of experience.
Your cover letter should highlight your most impressive achievements and outline your experience in an interesting way. Nikolovski suggests that if you lack experience, illustrate your passion for the job in your cover letter by writing about how much the position interests you. An employer will be able to tell whether you’re invested, which is a step toward an interview.
2. Think Minimalist
Many employers suggest applicants forego the objective, or summary, traditionally included at the top of resumes, and skip straight to experience. If you’re afraid you’ll sacrifice information that could help the employer get to know you, don’t be. That’s what your cover letter is for.
Additionally, some managers look for a little extra creative touch that shows your personality and that you’ve put in effort to make your resume unique. This could be as simple as your initials in a band at the top of the page.
Don’t clutter your resume with too many designs or words. Hiring managers don’t want to read a novel about your experience. They want to hire the most qualified candidate as soon as possible.
3. Watch Your Wording
Read the job description several times. Take the keywords and qualifications out of it and work them into your resume and cover letter. Tailor your resume to fit the job you’re trying to lock down.
Though you may not have years of experience in massage, you can leverage experience in other areas to make yourself look like the awesome candidate you are. Include experience related to customer service, internships and volunteer work; they demonstrate you’re a people person who has a knack for helping people feel comfortable and at ease.
4. Make Lists
People’s attention spans are incredibly short; hiring managers are no different. Using lists with bullet points makes it easier for employers to scan your experience and hit the highlights-just make sure each point is only one sentence long.
People tend to recall the first and last items in a list most clearly. This is called the serial position effect, a phrase coined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, author of Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. Use this phenomenon to your advantage when highlighting your accomplishments.
List your experience in reverse chronological order: Begin with the place you presently work, then go back in time. Write the details of your current job in the present tense. For past jobs, use the past tense.
Leave space between paragraphs of text and lists. This is extremely important for creating a readable resume; it should be obvious to the reader when she transitions into a new section.
5. Be Active
Active, detailed language makes a subtle but major difference in the way an employer views you, even if the hiring manager doesn’t realize it. It’s a marketing tool you can use to convince potential customers to carry out a call to action. In this case, you’re marketing yourself, and you want employers to follow your call to action to hire you.
Write your points as accomplishments, not responsibilities. Compare these two statements, for example:
Responsibility: “Conducted meetings and organized staff schedule.”
Accomplishment: “Increased work productivity 25 percent by creating and implementing a staff scheduling system using online spreadsheets.”
If these belonged to two candidates with the same qualifications, which would you hire?
6. Avoid Artistry
Limit your fonts to one family and two sizes, maximum. Be sparing with bold and italicized words, and steer clear of underlining. The text isn’t there to be art-it’s there to communicate the skills you offer.
Also, a pop of color can set you apart, but too much can make your resume look busy and crowded. Both you and the interviewers may print several copies, so it’s in your best interest to save everyone some ink and stick to black and white, with minimal color.
7. Eliminate Errors
Grammar is a very important part of your resume, and one of the easiest places to slip up. Many employers, consciously or not, use these mistakes to eliminate candidates. As a refresher, some basic rules to remember are:
Make it error-free. Errors suggest a lack of attention to detail. No matter how many internships you have had or hours of practice you have logged, if your resume has typos, it may not make it past the screener’s desk. Use spell- and grammar-check on your computer to catch obvious errors, then ask at least two people to read your resume.
Spell out numbers below 10; write numerals for 10 and above (three; 32).
Format consistently. For example, if you choose to write a full sentence for each bullet point, make sure each ends with a period.
8. Get Personal
Nikolovski highly recommends handing your resume to the hiring manager in person. Even if you’ve just finished school and have little experience, hand-delivery shows you’re passionate and truly care about the position-and could make a good impression on the manager even before she reads the words you’ve written.