Kick Start a Winning Résumé with a Dynamic Opening Summary Section

December 7, 2016 Steven Watson, PhD, CPRW Job Search Strategies

Résumés continued to be a critical tool for any job search campaign. It is true that many career professionals have declared résumés as dead due to other self-marketing approaches, such as personal webpages and social media profiles using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube. However, employers continued to expect and use résumés in determining applicants’ suitable for interviews and employment.

This isn’t to say that résumés have not evolved in regard to content and appearance. In fact, submitting a résumé using a format and narrative approach from even 5 years ago would not be very well received by today’s employers.

So what do today’s résumé documents look like? That is a rather broad question, so the focus here will be on the opening summary section and how it can be a critical component to grabbing the attention of prospective employers.

Maximizing the Impact of a  Résumé’s Opening Summary Section

Professional résumé writers will choose to create opening summary sections in different ways, but there are general features that add considerable value to the overall presentation.

  • Start with a target position title that can be changed to reflect a specific position announcement. This lets employers know that you are interested in what position they are offering and also provides a strong keyword phrase. Many résumé reviewers will not even read the document if it is not clear from the very beginning what an applicant is looking for in a position.
  • A branding statement is a great way to highlight one or two critical aspects that define what you have to offer. This statement should not be more than two lines. Think of it like a newspaper headline or even a tweet. Including a branding statement forces you to think about and condense your offerings into a very concise, but dynamic statement.
  • Keyword sections have become an important part of résumé opening summary sections. Generally no more than 10 keyword phrases are appropriate and they need to pinpoint critical knowledge, skills, and talents that are essential within your career focus. These keyword phrases can be revised to reflect those found in specific position announcements.
  • Providing a “Summary of Qualifications” or similar heading containing three or four bullets of information is a great way to complete the opening summary section. Brainstorm and then narrow down the most relevant things about your experience or background that prospective employers will most want to know about you. This information will serve as the foundation for this section. The bullets should not be more than two lines of text each, although three lines may, at times, be required.

The quality of a résumé’s opening summary section can mean the difference between being read and placed in the “to be interviewed” pile or being half-read and put in the circular file. Most job search and career professionals agree that résumé reviewers will spend about 10-12 seconds reading a document before forming opinions on an applicant’s value related to the position. That is about the time it takes to read a well-crafted opening summary section. It is clear that you skip or minimize a résumé’s opening summary at your own peril because it is essential in setting the stage for the rest of the résumé.

job search campaign, keyword phrases, résumé, résumé opening summary section,


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