Do You Know the Most Important Part of a Resume?

resume tipsBeth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

A tough job market means piles of applications for open positions, so it is no surprise that hiring managers are looking for ways to screen candidates quickly.

"Recruiters typically devote only 10-15 seconds to read any resume," says Wil Lemire, director of career services at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass. To make that precious time count, job seekers need to create concise, attention-grabbing profiles that make employers want to know more.

Things to include

"Some people refer to the professional summary as the resume equivalent of a 30-second sales pitch or an elevator speech," says Carolyn Yencharis Corcoran, assistant director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. "We recommend that our students take great care in writing this area, as it is yet another way for them to demonstrate their ability to communicate pointedly and efficiently and to exude professionalism by using industry-specific keywords in the proper context."

Experts generally favor the profile being placed right under contact information at the top of a resume. (This well-crafted skills summary also can prove useful as a networking intro or as part of an online profile.) Among the items candidates may wish to include are:

  • Keywords that match those of the job description
  • Hard skills (professional and technical experience)
  • Soft skills (personal attributes)
  • Advanced degrees
  • Years of experience
  • Interesting achievements
  • Anything that sets one apart from other candidates

"Like any other section of your resume, the professional summary requires some self-reflection, time and attention," Corcoran says. To get the creative juices flowing, she suggests:

  • Asking co-workers, family members, professors and friends what qualities they like most about you.
  • Thinking about positive comments you've received from employers or teachers.
  • Reflecting on awards received.
  • Remembering instances where you handled an emergency, presented or taught something, made something more efficient or contributed to a change.

Things to avoid

Cynthia Favre, director of career management at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn., offers this precaution when creating a summary: "Don't include things that most everyone can do (such as use the Internet or Word). It actually makes the candidate look like he doesn't have useful skills."

Favre also cautions against using vague adjectives, such as "excellent" and "great." "Such words encourage the reader to compare the candidate with others. Take the phrase 'an excellent communicator.' Compared to whom? Barack Obama? Your college roommate? It is better to state the skills as factually as possible and let the reader determine if they are excellent and of value to him."

Putting your best self forward

While seasoned workers can use their skills summary to describe past job accomplishments, novice job seekers often worry that they will appear lacking. While it is inevitable that different candidates will bring different attributes to the table, the main thing is to focus on what you can contribute.

"It's important that the job seeker know what the job requirements are in order to properly sort and rank his own knowledge, skills and abilities," Lemire says. "Recent graduates should use skills and knowledge gained from part-time jobs and summer jobs, internships, classroom projects and activities on and off campus."

Corcoran agrees that it is up to each individual to identify and present her own strengths. "While a seasoned worker will have more hands-on experience to include in a professional summary, new grads will want to highlight the things that set them apart -- such as possessing skills in the newest and latest technology, energy and drive, openness to multiple areas and an eagerness to learn."

Remember that whether this is your first job or your tenth, you only have a bit of space to get yourself noticed. Choose your words carefully, and chances are an employer will want to hear more.

Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.

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Its an employer market out there & they can get the cream of the crop and have people with degrees working minimum wage jobs today due to this economy. I've been told by members of my family that resume and job applications after someone leaves are immediately put in the trash, not even looked at by anyone. So its a no wonder why people aren't being called for interviews, they weren't given a chance. The problem is we need to bring back our outsourced jobs and get manufacturing jobs back here in the United states. Get real, our jobs have been outsourced & all we have left is retail jobs and food industry jobs left. We need to stop encouraging employers from outsourcing all our jobs. Retired people retire & go back to work because they can't afford to live on Social Security and everything going up such as Health Insurance. No one gets yearly raises from year to year anymore & people make $10,000.00 less a year than they were making 10 years ago yet utilities go up, food, etc... Retirement is a thing of the past. College students are lucky if they make $40,000.00/year when ten years ago they made $90,000.00 to $100,000.00. Manufacturers continaully shrink what they give you & charge you the same price & they think we don't notice becauuse they are afraid we won't buy their product if they increase the price so they give you less. Everyone is laughing at us because we give our jobs to other countries & they're watching us go down the tubes & the politicians just get in there to get what they want & don't worry about creating jobs which should be the #1 priority on the agenda. Its not that we aren't qualified for jobs, we just need employers to stop sending out jobs elsewhere. Until we address this we will continue down the wrong path. don't put this blame on the people looking for jobs as their problem, bring the jobs back home.

November 10 2010 at 11:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Many employers post on CL and similar sites and get flooded with resumes. The vast majority do not meet the job criteria and the employers then ask "didn't this person read the job description?" The answer is no. Employers want to go cheap in their recruiting trusting in keyword scanners. The local state employment office with screen job seekers for an employer, they already paid for the work in their B&O tax. Let the HR professionals do the work they do best.

November 10 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

where, when & how do I explain my 1 1/2 years of unemployment. Do I explain I have been caring for an aging parent

October 28 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a professional resume writer and career counselor for 13 years, I have some advice that might help.

#1 remove anything that you wouldn't send your mother off your Facebook, MySpace acct etc. This is the 1st place HR goes to get info on you. Now, attorneys can also use this info against you in court! So, you may want to give this some serious thought.

First, on your resume, quantify with $, %, and # as much as possible. This shows accomplishment and captivates the reader’s attention immediately. This type of factual information jumps off the page.

Provide an Objective statement and Career Profile (6 - 9 lines of your most marketable attributes as it relates to the position.

Second, get rid of the negative attitude by reading positive, inspirational books to prepare for your interview. If you are not in the right state of mind for an interview, it will show.

Third, put all thoughts of race, age, etc., aside, and reflect only on your skills, education, and experience that you can bring to the table.

Fourth, prepare for the interview. Dress modestly and have 3 good questions to ask the interviewer.

Fifth, send a hand written thank you letter.
Second, prepare for the interview. This is more important than resume in many cases.

Sixth, network, network, network. Network equals Net Wealth. Most people didn't obtain their jobs through the internet, recruiter, or newspaper. Get out there and project yourself.

Seven, stop complaining about race, age, discrimination. Acknowledge it and move on. There is little you can do to change this. You will burn more bridges than build, worrying about this.

Getting fired is a big ego buster for anyone. Take it as a learning experience and move on. The longer you dwell on it, the more it will eat you up and make it difficult to find employment.

Finally, have your resume on a thumb drive with you at all times; you never know when the opportunity will occur. Hope this helps. :)

October 27 2010 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to SLO's comment

cc: SLO _Thank you for taking the time out to write your helpful and insightful comments and advice on this subject. It's a breathe of fresh air to read advice that isn't full of self-pity and laziness. Once again, thank you.

October 27 2010 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
A. Citizen

Thanks for the motivating letter. I am currently reading "The Power of Positive Thinking", and I believe it to be helping me. The book was written the same year I was born (52 years ago) but the concepts and truths are still valid. Attitude comes across to an interviewer (body English, inflection of voice, confidence, etc.) so it does play a BIG part in the physical interview. I cannot agree enough with what you stated! O.K, Now the selfish part, can I get you to critique MY resume?Even if your answer is "NO" I appreciate the refreshing comment. Thanks, Tony

October 27 2010 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have gotten 98% of all jobs I ever applied for. Assuming all applications contain most of the hard skills the employer is looking for, I figured the thing that will set me apart is the personal impression I make on the interviewer. I'm not talking about expensive clothes, etc. To put it simply.....plain old "likability". Most employers, especially those who would have to train and work around an applicant, seem to prefer a candidate who if easily relatable and a pleasure to be around. You can have all the hard skills in the world, but if the interviewer doesn't like you, then you are not going to get the job. And I'm not equating "likability" with butt-kissing either. Likability is all about being open, honest, approachable, engaging, relaxed, positive, and genuinely interested in the interviewer and the ins & outs of the job. There's a fine line between being relaxed/lazy, interested/desperate, engaging/pushy, etc. So forget about trying to "getting" the interviewer to like you (that's pushing) and just be yourself, show the same respect you would like to be shown, and concentrate on being genuinely interested in the job and the interviewer(that's engaging).
p.s. The biggest mistake a person could ever make (IMHO) is to finish an interviewer's sentence, or cut him off in the middle of a sentence. Big no-no. The next biggest mistake is to go in with a chip on your shoulder. (ie: prejudgments about your interviewer...."He won't hire me because I'm..." ... under qualified/over qualified, old/young, white/black, poor/rich, able-bodied/handicapped, single/married, no kids/kids, etc.)

October 27 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think they look you over first...see if you are clean and neat.
Then they want to hear you speak..Are you a moron or intelligent.
Also, the one question "are you related to anyone here?" That's a big plus !!
If they like your 'brother' or your 'uncle' you get a point for that.
Then they look at your resume and see if anything on there is good.
Truly I believe first impression makes it.

October 27 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Cahill Kurpiewski

You can stop looking for that valued employee. I am here! I’m a mature woman (elderly chick) so most of my references are already in heaven. I have worked in credit and collections in the past. I have worked for IRS as a tax examiner. I am a self-starter who has had her own businesses including a catering company and a preschool. I have been a Private Detective and a 4th grade teacher. I am quick on the keyboard and I am comfortable around an office. I have even done stand-up comedy. I am an author working on my 2nd book and I volunteer on the Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Hotline.
So, to put it in a nutshell, since I only have 5-l0 seconds for you to sum me up: I can check your taxes, train your child, make you laugh, talk you off a bridge, make you a meal, get money that's owed to you and stake out any situation. Thanks for any help you can give me and please get back to me fast—remember-- I am an elderly chick! Mary Cahill Kurpiewski

October 27 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is very easy for some people to give advise when maybe they haven't lost their jobs. I have been suggested to shave my goatee (which I keep well trimmed all the time), others are talking about tatoos and piercings, that is for interview time. The fact is that no matter your resume & skills, employer are not reviewing them like they should, they don't care about quality anymore, just expenses, look & age. again, from hundreds of applications I have landed only 7 interviews. I'm 45 & look younger & well fit, but as soon as they see my weel trimmed black & white goatee & my hispanic tanned skin, their attitude change, and one can notice when they try to finish the interview as soon as possible. That is reality & only people with a narrow mind dare to deny. They rather have a young buck so they can train like a circus dog & willing to work for food.

October 27 2010 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had to take a job for $9.90 per hour pick and shovel because the job I went after was $16.00 ,they saw my age and I was told that I was over qualified they did not even look at my resume, but try and prove age discrimination.

October 27 2010 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

over fifity your not going to get the job because your a liability and you might sue if you get hurt.

October 27 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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