QUESTION: I heard that the top third of the resume is the most important? Why and what do I put there to have the most impact?
Your resume must move the reader to action (aka call you for an interview). A strong positioning strategy includes 3 elements: 1) a branded headline to stake your claim on your target(s); 2) a summary with distinguishing features from your background (i.e. years of experience, advanced degrees, industry certifications, career highlights); and 3) a list of technical and transferable skills.
The top third of your resume is your chance to draw the reader in and brand yourself as a qualified candidate for a specific role. It should include a job title (target title), an overview of your capabilities in the field/role, and specific examples of your successes in that field/role. You can also include a skills list here to get in critical keywords and make it easy for the reader to scan.
The top-third really counts, it needs to read quickly, be interesting, grab the reader’s attention, and entice them to keep reading. To create impact, bold/cap the title you’re seeking, compose an interesting 4-line branding statement that shows what you offer, and create a core competencies section for hard skills and to pack the resume full of professional keywords. No fluff here!
The top 1/3 of your resume should include your name, tagline, and your professional summary or selected accomplishments. This space is used to establish your personal brand and present your unique value proposition (UVP), so use keywords that highlight your target industry, professional acumen, and potential benefit to an employer. Include contact info too, but focus most on a strong UVP.
Recruiters and hiring managers spend 7 to 8 seconds reviewing a resume. You need to grab the reader’s attention immediately. The top third of the resume needs to present your value proposition, alignment towards the job target, and relevant keywords and concepts articulated on the job posting. Also, you need to showcase your most recent position containing your added value.
Six seconds. That’s how long a recruiter will look at your resume before they decide to keep reading or pass. In that time, their eyes will not stray from the top third of your resume. Highlight two or three accomplishments that set you apart from other candidates and are related to the job. Make the information short and easy to scan in order to grab and keep their attention.
Readers have short attention spans. They must be immediately engaged and hooked. Putting your best material first gives you the highest chance of demonstrating to employers that you are the right fit for the job. Saving your best material for last puts you at risk of losing the reader’s attention and earning your résumé a quick trip to the “trash” pile.
The resume content that appears first is what grabs the hiring professional, and also what scores highest in ATS systems. A headline, your branding statement, and career bullet points authored directly in alignment to the job posting will make you stand out as a candidate to be interviewed. Put the most relevant points first. Don’t assume the reader will get to the end of your resume.
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