If you want to land job interviews, your entire resume needs to be great, but only one part of it has to be really great. Think of it this way: recruiters and hiring managers are most likely to encounter your resume as an email attachment or a PDF you submit through a company’s online submission form, right? When they open the file, only the top half—at most—is going to fill their screen. That’s the part you need to lavish the most attention on. If you don’t give them a reason to scroll down and read more, it’s all over for you.
Here’s what it takes to make the best use of that high-value real estate.
Use Limited Space Wisely
In web design, this section is referred to “above the fold”–an expression that originated in the newspaper industry, where the most important headlines were printed literally above the part where the paper folded in half. For designers today, the same principle holds true: What’s visible to a reader when they open a webpage or document is the part where those crucial first impressions take place.
On your resume, the area above the fold sits within the red-dotted line in this example.
Since you can only fit so much into this amount of space, you’ve got to choose wisely what goes in there. Keep your page margins to a minimum and your contact details brief, this way you can squeeze the most critical info into that area.
But don’t just cram in as much as you can. Think of your resume’s top quarter as your shop window. You want to place the most attractive items inside it, to entice more visitors into your store. That means you want to use this space to introduce yourself in the most compelling–though not necessarily the most comprehensive–terms possible, bullet out your core skills, and still have some space left to show off your most recent role.
Sell Yourself With A Punchy Profile
Your resume is essentially a marketing document for your services as an employee, so starting with an elevator-style pitch is a great way to reel people in.
A profile section of around five to eight lines that gives a high-level summary of your abilities in a well-written, persuasive manner, can set the tone for your resume.
Just make sure that your profile doesn’t read like an objective statement–employers don’t want to know about what you want (presumably, that’s the job you’re applying for). Your resume should be written purely to sell your talents and get your foot in the door. A profile, on the other hand, while a little unorthodox, lets you summarize your experience and skills persuasively and tells the employer the benefits that you can provide to the role.
If you decide to write a profile section, avoid tired clichés like, “hardworking team player, dedicated to achieving results.” Although impressive-sounding, this overused, generic expression doesn’t describe what you’ll actually do in the workplace. You may well be a hardworking team player, but it’s better to demonstrate this point with evidence, rather than simply stating it. Instead, try something like: “established IT sales consultant with five years of experience providing multimillion-dollar database solutions to global retail organizations.”
The key is to offer a concise snippet of context, factual evidence, and even metrics, while giving the impression that you’re a results-driven hard worker—all before getting to your work experience section.
Add A Core Skills Section
A core skills section is a simple bulleted list that sits underneath your profile and highlights your most in-demand skills and knowledge. This section should give recruiters an instant snapshot of your skillset at a glance.
Make sure you do your research to determine which skills to promote here. This section should be reserved for essential talents only, and each point should be kept short and punchy–at three words or less.
Highlight Your Most Recent Role
If your most recent role is the most relevant one to the vacancy you’re applying for, then you should make sure a good chunk of it is visible when someone opens your resume.
Head the role up with an outline giving a description of the organization you work for, where you sit within the hierarchy, and an overall summary of your accomplishments on the job. The key here is to demonstrate as many sought-after talents above the fold as you can.
If possible, try to add some impressive achievements with quantifiable results to prove the impact you’ve made. Any instances where you saved costs, generated revenue, or improved efficiency are always worth noting. For example: “negotiated new supplier deals resulting in a 10% decrease in budget spend annually” or, “delivered all project deliverables three months ahead of scheduled deadline.”
Statements like these allow recruiters to see the true scale of your work and benchmark you against their own standards.
If you can create a well-structured resume that highlights the best you’ve got to offer all within the first third or so of the document, you’ll increase your chances of landing interviews. Remember, if you can’t get recruiters interested in the first few lines of your resume, they’ll have no reason to read the last few.