Lead your resume with a skills section. This sets s strong tone for the whole document, and lets people know right away. As I’ve mentioned before, the first people to read your application materials will probably be people from HR or from various other departments at the organization, so summarizing what you offer lets them know right away that you deserve to be interviewed. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a university academic advisor, your search committee might be composed of another advisor, a faculty member from a related major, someone from the university’s academic success office, someone who works in the study abroad department, and maybe even a student. Because these individuals will have varying levels of understanding of the role you are seeking, and will bring different perspectives to the search, your first job is to speak to them as clearly as you can. You can safely assume that these are all people who are good at their own jobs, but also that they do not have much experience doing what it is you are applying to do, so start by spelling out what you bring to the organization, as specifically and clearly as you can.
It’s also not unusual for the first people to evaluate applications based on points. If the job description calls for someone with at least 2 years of experience in a similar role and you have 5, you will likely get the maximum number of points for that part of the evaluation. The people with the highest scores are then the first round of applicants to get interviews. A summary section lets you demonstrate all these points-generating pieces up front so the evaluators don’t have to slog through your whole resume looking for where to assign points. And if you make their work easier, they are more likely to go into the interview with a good impression of you, which then starts your interview off on the right foot.
Finally, a nice, tidy summary at the front of your resume gives you room to speak to your own values, increasing your chances of winding up in a position that matches those values. If, for instance, you want to help individuals learn how to eat and exercise for weight loss, you will not be a good fit for an organization whose main goal is to sell weight loss supplements to their customers. Spelling that information out at the beginning of your application means you will not waste time interviewing for jobs that would make you unhappy, or talking to people whose work culture you just don’t fit. And I can tell you that your life is going to be much better if you can avoid those situations from the start!
In general, I am a big fan of simplicity. Don’t complicate things unnecessarily—remember that someone has to read this resume! I like a clean, bullet-pointed list that spells your accomplishments, skills, and values out in a straightforward way:
- Over 10 years of experience managing teams as large as 25 people and as small as 3.
- High level of skill with AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, ArchiCAD, and Workflow Max.
- Excellent customer service skills, demonstrated by multiple awards and commendation letters.
- Demonstrated ability to explain difficult technical information to a lay audience.
- You get the idea, right?
You can have as many of bullets as makes sense, but be sure you leave room for the rest of your information, as well, including your experience and education. When you have finished writing this part of your resume, go back to the job description and make sure you’re hitting the right notes. Did you tell them how you meet their needs? Did you show how you have gone above and beyond? Did you mention specifics like software, budgets, licensure, and legal issues? If you’re not sure, have someone else look it over and give you feedback. Remember, your resume is the first impression people will get from you, so make every effort to make it as good as you can!