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The most important section of your resume!


5 seconds and the clock is ticking

Resume, the most important section

How long do I look at your resume? It is a common fact that most recruiters give a resume about 5-10 seconds.  If you haven’t caught interest in those first 5 seconds, you probably won’t.  Simply stated, it’s an unfair reality.  Too many resumes’ in this economy puts me in a situation where I am not looking to find the best resume.  My initial task, my first task is to weed out resumes as quickly as possible, then look for the best.  Two different mentalities.

Your resumes most important real estate is the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the first page, “above the fold”.   This is the make it or break it area, and it is what is here that will determine if your resume will be read or recycled.  If you were to fold a resume into thirds as if you were going to put it into an envelope, the top line is the fold.  If you fold it in half top to bottom, much like a newspaper, that middle line is considered “the fold”.  You can guarantee that everything above it will be looked at.  I didn’t say it will be read, but it will be looked at.  Formatted correctly, it will be read.

Location, Location, Location

Too often this high-value resume real estate is being wasted on facts that I don’t need, don’t care about, or can be listed elsewhere.  I have posted “how I read a resume”, but I thought I would talk about the valuable target rich area on a resume.

Whether or not it is just human nature, most recruiters and hiring managers read a resume in the following order:

  1. Depending on how well it is formatted, the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the resume.
  2. Move quickly to the very end of the document.  I am not so much as reading the document as I am “looking for the endpoint”.  I want to know how much of a time investment this is going to take.  The section I am looking for is the last ¼ of the last page of the document.  This is usually reserved for the “education, interests, awards, etc”.
  3. On the search for the end of the document, there is a cursory glance at the middle section of the resume.

Total time elapsed, maybe 5 seconds.  Probably less.

Take advantage of how you go about writing your resume

  1. You absolutely know that the top 1/3 of the resume will be given “a look”  (not read, “a look”).  If this is easy to read and clean, it will be read.
  2. Stop number two is the end of the document.  Whether to see how long the resume is or to see what the education section reads like, you can be confident that the last section will at “least get looked at”.
  3. Step number 3 is to go back through the document looking over the experience.  Hopefully, something stood out (on my way to the education section) that is relevant and catches my eye.

With the above psychology in mind, think about writing your resume this way.

1.  Top 1/3 to 1/4 of the first page:  Contact info and “summary”

Keep this as absolutely CLEAN AND EASY TO READ as possible.  If it doesn’t need to be there, take it out!  I see resumes every day that list a full physical address.  Leave this out because, at this point in the game, it only leaves you with a downside.  I don’t know of any company that is going to use the postal service to send you a declination letter or schedule an interview.  Let’s face it; you will be lucky to get an email acknowledgment that your resume was received.  Just list what is needed.  Name, phone number, and email.  The city if you are local. If you have an advanced degree or certification, list that after your name.  Listing your full address can knock you out of a job.  If you live too far away from the company, the recruiter is going to think about a number of things including but not limited to:

  • If you have a long commute, are you going to be able to get to work on consistently on time?
  • Do I have to worry about the weather?  If it snows, can you make it into work?
  • Will you always be on the lookout for a job closer to home?
  • If you are not local does this require a move and how much will it cost? Don’t even get me started on the spouse or children making a move.

You can use the “physical address” space to make room for accomplishments that WILL help your job search.

Make it easy to find you

The other thing that should be there if applicable is your LinkedIn address and any website or blog you have.  Make it easy to do research on you.  Help me help you.

I see a lot of obvious effort put into the “objective statement”,  “value statement”, or “summary of skillset”.

Carefully crafted paragraphs that try to capture the ENTIRE document and cram too much into too little area is common.  These are word dense sections with big, descriptive adjectives that need a cryptographer to decipher.  When I ask for an interpretation I get a long litany of accomplishment that correlates their experience with something they read in the job description.   (The last 3 sentences are an example of cramming too much in too little an area.)  9 times out of ten they mean something to the author only, and no one else.  Trust me, I didn’t get it.  If your mother doesn’t get what you are pitching, I don’t either.


The goal of this top 1/3 of the resume is to capture attention.  This is high-value real estate so make the most of it.  Inspire the reader to continue with the rest of the document.  If it looks like the Iliad, I am going to be overwhelmed.

A format that is easy to read will list just a few, key, one-word skill sets at the top followed by a few bullet points that go into more detail.  This doesn’t mean 15 or 20 skill sets listed in 5 columns of 3 or 4 columns of 5.  It means 4 – 6 skill sets “period”.  You are not being hired for multiple positions.  Your resume should be applying for one specific job.  No one job needs 15 KEY skill sets.    

Bullet points are easier to read than paragraphs.

Subconsciously, my job and the hiring managers goal is to be able to read your resume as quickly as possible.  I want to be able to get as much information as possible in as short a period of time.  If I can not get that information, or there is too much: “NEXT!”  Don’t make me work.

2.  The middle section (experience):

Bold significant accomplishments that are related to the job so that when I am scanning the resume between the beginning and the end, something related to the job will stick out and subconsciously tell me I need to come back and check that out.  Make it stick out from the rest of the document and it will catch my attention.

Again, bullet points are easier to read than full paragraphs.  The more numbers you can use the better.  Numbers quantify actions because everyone says they work hard.  There is a difference between “I am a hard worker” (I hear this every day) and “when I was in school, I took 17 credits a quarter and worked 2 jobs for a total of 22 hours a week while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.”  There is a huge difference between:

  •  mowed lawns during the summer


  • Mowed 10 lawns a week, made 15 cold calls a week to generate new business and took 10 credits a quarter.  Increased month over month revenue by 10% each month.

3.  Education, certifications, outside interests section

The last section will be read so maximize its use.  It will be read, because it is human nature to flip to the end of a document and see how long it is, how it will end, etc.  Listed at the end, because of human nature wanting to look towards the end, the education WILL be seen.  As an HR pro, I am subconsciously trained to see it.  I am looking for it.  Trust me, every hiring manager will LOOK for the education no matter how deeply buried.  For this reason, I recommend that education is listed at the end of the document and before awards, industry related classes, extracurricular activities, certifications etc.   The latter can get lost if they are somewhere else.  If you have more than 2 years of experience, you will be hired for the experience, not the education.  The experience is your most important accomplishment.

Recent graduates

If you have any job, project, or internship experience, list it first, before the education.  Too many recent graduates list their education at the beginning of the document and I believe that space can be used for accomplishments.  For the most part, everyone that is applying for your position has the same education.  Generally speaking, education will not be a deciding factor.  If you attended an Ivy League school, have a high GPA, etc. and want folks to know it by listing it on the front page I ask you to reconsider.  Know that I will see this even if you have a 2-page resume with the education at the end.  I am conditioned to skip to the end and see this.

Keep the area above the fold CLEAN!

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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