Your Resume - the very first section

Don't blow this golden opportunity.

We’ve said we don’t recommend that you create your own resume. As our friend who is a  licensed mental health counselor, often says, “You are in the worst possible position to understand and appreciate your own value.”

That said, you might be determined to do it yourself, and that means you’ll have to create the very first section. It might be the only section of your resume that is ever read. You’ve heard the old saw: You have only one chance to make a good first impression. And surely you’ve heard the terrifying statistic about any given resume being moved forward or tossed after a review of no more than 15-30 seconds. The first section of your resume, then, might be absolutely critical in your job search. Don’t blow it.

A quick review of online resume preparation advice suggests the opening section might be called “Summary of Experience” or “Career Objective” or “Core Strengths.” Whatever you are advised to call it on your resume, these are the critical things your opening statement must accomplish:

·       A clear, concise statement of your two or three most critical strengths

·       A link between what you have to offer and what the employer needs and wants

·       A compelling appeal to make the reader want to read more

You’ll submit this resume (i.e. a tweaked version of it) for a variety of jobs, and you’ll want to tailor it slightly for each. But your two or three most critical strengths do not change. You are who you are. You are seeking a job that will call on those strengths, understanding, of course, that you might apply to numerous companies or organizations with varied needs and preferences. So you keep those key strengths general so they are applicable in myriad work situations. For example, a list of the software applications you have mastered is not general; if you have mastered more diverse software than anyone you know, however, then your critical strength is your ability to adapt to and master any software on any platform. (But don’t say that unless it’s true.)

Broad strengths that can be applied in most of the work situations you envision for yourself are important. On the other hand, they can be too broad: a. Anyone your age can say they have developed this skill; b. What does something that broad even mean? C. How can the reader imagine you doing this? For example, if you have developed, over your career, the gift for successfully leading teams, well, so have a lot of other people. The question is exactly what are your team-leadership strengths? Do you excel in forming strategic teams, or do you motivate teams better than most, or are you exceptional at managing team progress for on-time delivery, or have you developed an awesome ability to provide and maintain team vision? You see, you want to be general enough to adapt to all your desired work placements, but specific enough in each submission to evoke a clear image in the reader’s mind of you – on the job, succeeding in an identifiable way.

And this vision you create for your reader must link to that employer’s needs and preferences. Ideally, every section of your resume, every statement, every word will be carefully considered in light of the requirements and preferences of the job for which it is being submitted. So, this first statement must lend itself to such tailoring, and the resume preparer (you) must be willing to thoughtfully review the opening statement before each submission and ensure your stated key strengths or “gifts” correlate directly with the employer’s requests. For one submission, it might be appropriate to state that you are a skilled creator of online marketing messages. For another, it might be important to state that you are a skilled creator of both online and print marketing messages. For a third, you might need to add a sub-skill you’ve also developed: skilled creator and editor of marketing messages. There are two components to this link: 1. What do they want? 2. What can I honestly offer them that they want?

And finally, the way it’s stated is absolutely critical to compelling the reader to move on to the next section. We recommend one sentence, possibly the only complete sentence on your resume, stated concisely (telegraphically?) and powerfully. Here are a few examples:

·       A mature problem-solver with recent nursing experience following a career track in business operations, I hope to combine my passion for health education and care management with my customer service and business operations knowledge developed over a 15-year career of increasing responsibility.

·       A team builder with excellent communication and collaboration skills, I lead consumer and platform software development, especially at the intersection of computing and media.

·      Skilled in the editorial oversight process, including developing and monitoring publication content, assignments and tracking, and global production management.

Remember: Two or three key “gifts” you bring, tweaked to address the needs and preferences of the job you seek, and stated concisely and clearly, making the reader want more.

Do you have some good advice about resume preparation? Please join the conversation.