When applying for a job, do not list your mother as a reference — even if you put her maiden name, and claim you worked for her in a café, just don’t do it. And for heaven’s sake, run your spell-checker.

Such mistakes are among the many reasons employers may move a resumé from an “interview” pile to the garbage can, say Tracey MacCharles and Sean McKenna at Focus Recruitment in Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen resumés that have come to me that are written to another company,” says McKenna.

Keep in mind that your application has only 30 seconds to catch the eye of a hiring manager. A top-notch resumé can not only land you an interview, but can also pave the way for a higher salary. A clean, tailor-made document of one or two pages is key, as is aiming well:?A few custom-made resumés will hit more targets than dozens machine-gunned into the job market.

MacCharles likes to see bullet points and eye-catching numerals used to highlight an applicant’s accomplishments. Put your best bullet last, she advises, “Because if you just scan (the application), the last point will catch your eye.”

On your employment record, use both months and years to indicate the duration of prior jobs — listing years alone makes it look like you’re trying to hide something.

And if you do want to hide a patchy era in your working life, MacCharles suggests using a different strategy. “If you’re covering it up, you might want to do a skills resumé rather than listing 20 jobs,” she says. Highlight what the job you’re applying for requires, and how your skills meet those needs.
Testimonials are good, too, but attribute a quote to a specific person to add weight. “If you have any (testimonials)?in whatsoever, you shouldn’t be ashamed to drop that name,” says McKenna. A cover letter can be a good place to do that.

Some companies use “straining tools” to weed out applicants. “If there are key words that they’re looking for that aren’t in your resumé, you don’t even get past the gatekeeper,” says McKenna. Repeat the words used in the job posting.

And supply an active, grown-up e-mail address. McKenna recalls one client who was baffled by the lack of response to her job applications and had never considered that her e-mail user name, “toosexygirl,” might have been a factor.

So set up a gmail or eastlink account using only your name. McKenna says Hotmail and Yahoo addresses appear unprofessional, and a lot of employers won’t even open applications sent from such accounts.