Ever leafed through stacks of resumes, looking for critical skills or words to catch your eye? Ever sat at a job interview and wondered why the company representative seemed lost going through your work history?
If you’ve experienced these situations, you already know why the top half of your resume is so important: it’s difficult to absorb much, if anything, from a quick scan, and the details often don’t register until the interview begins!
Even though most companies have automated the process of scanning your resume from among hundreds, managers eventually turn to the tedious work of sorting through each document, looking for signs of intelligent life.
Instead of fighting this trend, embrace it – and take steps to make your resume pop, right from the beginning:
1 – Tell employers what’s new or relevant.
Just earned your MBA? Fluent in more than one language? Able to relocate wherever you’re needed?
These are details that are meant to be put up front in your resume, as they quickly distinguish you from candidates who are less willing to move, or have a more limited repertoire.
As an example, “Cornell graduate pursuing Executive Leadership certificate at Northwestern” helps demonstrate a commitment to education. “Canadian citizen; no sponsorship needed” is another example of how to answer an employer’s critical questions (before they begin).
2 – Show your career progression.
If you’ve consistently been promoted, worked at a string of prominent companies, or quickly progressed into roles that show your unique blend of competencies, consider adding a short Career Progression section right up front in your resume.
For executive candidates, this may mean showing “Board of Directors,” “Committee Chairman,” “CEO,” and“Senior Vice President” in a Career History listing on the first page.
A rising star in banking could also list “VP, Strategic Programs at Citibank” and “Management Associate at HSBC Bank” in a resume summary—quickly showing how you’re qualified to move to the next step.
3 – Give your resume a title.
Instead of launching right into Professional Profile or Qualifications Summary (yawn), consider cutting to the chase with a title that spells out your goal.
Don’t protest; you’ll need to make your ultimate job target obvious to employers, or they WILL pass you by.
You can, of course, straddle the line between career levels with a general title such as “Business Development / Account Executive,” or try going for broke with specifics (“Director, Cloud Services & Managed Hosting Alliances”).
Either way, a bold title tells employers where to categorize your skills, and points them to seek out the reasons you’re uniquely qualified—by reading further, of course.
4 – Try a branding headline.
Also referred to as a tagline, a branding headline does exactly what it should: frame your peak value-add to employers.
Placed front and center on your resume, the branding statement can be as dynamic or conservative as you believe it needs to be, based on the audience for your skills. Keywords or references to your desired career level will help employers hone in on what you offer.
As an example, if you’re pursuing a new position in a highly regulated field such as the audit industry, an appropriate tagline could be “Municipal Audit Leader Behind Large-Scale Cost Recovery & Compliance.”
A sales professional, on the other hand, might try a headline with more energy, such as “Aggressive Retail Sales Expert Creating Multimillion-Dollar Deals.”
5 – Present your ROI right away.
There’s no law of resume writing that says you must hide the good stuff until later in the document. In fact, you can start off with a bang by describing achievements within the first few lines of your resume.
“$400M+ growth with launch of Cloud Partner offering in Q3 2012, leading to $800M forecasted 2013 results”says more about your ability to get results than a list of sales skills.
In short, don’t settle for writing your resume the same way, hoping for different results!
Recruiters and hiring managers are crazy-busy looking for the perfect candidate, with little time to read your resume and absorb every detail. The top part of your resume can be as important as the remainder of the document – all put together.
Make it easier for them to spot key qualifications by trumpeting core facts front and center, where they’re much more likely to land you a coveted interview.
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Laura Smith-Proulx, award-winning executive resume writer and founder of An Expert Resume, is a former recruiter who partners with CIO, CFO, CCO, COO, CTO, CEO, SVP, and Director candidates to win top jobs at Fortune-ranked corporations. A credentialed Professional Resume Writer, Career Management Coach, Interview Coach, Social Networking (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) Career Strategist, and Personal Branding Analyst, she is the author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips & Resources to Access the Hidden Job Market, with work featured in 8 career bestsellers. She serves as a media source to Wall Street Journal FINS, CIO.com, AOLJobs.com, LocalJobNetwork.com, and other outlets.