Thou shalt have a strong opening statement.
Call it what you will: opening statement, objective, professional summary, you'll want to present a short, yet powerful summary of your experience, strengths, and skills. Again, being concise, yet thorough, is going to require some work. Remember that your resume gets, on average, 8 seconds of review by a human being. That's enough time to look at the top half of your page 1.
Just as discussed in yesterday's blog about accomplishment statements, you need to be concise with your words AND be thorough. It's not easy and will take some time to develop a statement that accurately and powerfully conveys the value you bring and entices the reader to continue reading. Let's take a closer look at what's required.
1. Shoot for 3 to 4 sentences. Any less, and you probably haven't said enough. More than that, and you've probably said too much. Now, as with everything, there are exceptions. I've seen perfectly written statements that were 6 typed lines on the resume because this person simply needed that much. Could it have been shorter? Probably, but in this case, it worked.
2. Don't use 'I' statements. This one can be a matter of taste. Some prefer to use them, others don't. They save 'I' statements on your LinkedIn profile where it's perfectly acceptable, and in fact, encouraged to put more of your personality into the summary. The header photo for this blog shows a nicely written example without using 'I' statements.
3. Start by stating what you do. Are you a Financial Analyst? A Software Engineer? A Sales Representative? Put it out there so they can see you in the job. Again, there are some different thoughts on this one too. Some prefer to use a generic title, such as Accounting Professional. Others prefer to put the job title they are applying for here. This modification of the resume is best practice and we'll discuss it more thoroughly in Commandment 9. But, beware, while customization will work for the resume, your LinkedIn profile needs to be more global so it can accommodate more than one potential job. Look for information online about LinkedIn. There are plenty of great pieces already written on this topic. Click HERE for one such article.
4. Next, tell the reader where you specialize. Non-profits? Start Ups? Fortune 500? Small Business? Or, perhaps, particular industries. If you are targeting high-tech companies, include your experience in high-tech. Many people can list more than one. Again, it helps frame your experience and allows the reader to start envisioning you in the job.
5. Now, we're at the point where you tell them what your special skills are that will allow you to stand out from the competition and demonstrate why YOU are the perfect candidate for the position. I advise clients to compile a list of all the skills they have. Then, for each job, include those that apply to the job. You might be a skilled negotiator, but if that skill isn't highlighted in the resume, it's probably not one to include.
6. Finally, my preferred final sentence begins with 'Known for'. I like it because it allows the statement to go beyond what YOU say about yourself. It tells the reader what others say about you. Look at old performance reviews, ask colleagues and coworkers. It makes the statement a bit more powerful.
So, there you have it. Follow the steps, work with the words, have someone else read it, and you'll have a concise, yet compelling, opening statement to your resume!
Tomorrow, we'll cover Commandments 7 and 8: Name & Contact information and Key Skills.
I appreciate all the comments coming on this series and love hearing your thoughts and preferred best practices. I believe resume writing is an art, so it's fun to learn what others prefer. Keep them coming!