As I opened up the page today to write down some thoughts, I simultaneously picked up my cup of coffee. Well, in my case, it's actually chai, but the concept is the same... The paper it was resting upon was a project I've been working on for sometime. I've been sharing the concept with others in the organization and somehow my point was just not really hitting home.
Glaring down at the paper the cup had been resting upon, I noticed a ring. I realized that the ring was circling some wording towards the bottom of the page. And then it hit me. It was like a sign. That area that was circled was actually the most important thing on the page. And it was at the bottom of the page. I had made a major mistake in forgetting my own writing rule... the "Rule of Thumb."
To demonstrate the Rule of Thumb, pick up a piece of 8-1/2x11 paper. If you grabbed it naturally, about 1/4 to 1/3 of that paper will be resting above your thumb. What is above the thumb is the area that is most likely to get read and noticed. Therefore, that's how much room you have to make an impact on your reader. I realize today that most resumes are actually reviewed on a computer screen, but the Rule of Thumb still applies. In most cases, this is approximately the same amount of space you have on the first screen of a computer without having the reader scroll down. It's the first impression of yourself on paper.
Yes, looks do matter.
What to Highlight
Well, of course there are a lot of schools of thought on this one, but here's what I've seen... There is no real secret or right way, but it is important to customize the beginning of your resume to really fit the job for which you are applying. Just because you have done a lot of varied things, you don't need to share them all. Just the ones that that particular recruiter is interested in. For instance, perhaps you are applying for a role as a Customer Service Representative. In your work history you have also been in warehousing and a government role, neither of which included any public contact. These are both great experiences, and you will want to include them in your work history. However, in the opening, I recommend highlighting your previous work history, experience and skills that can be directly transferrable to the new role for which you are applying. These might include other customer service positions, retail, hospitality, entertainment or other public contact types of roles and experiences.
Now what do you call the opening? Some recommend calling it an Objective, others say use something like Summary of Qualifications, others say not to title it at all. It's really up to you. My personal recommendation is to use a heading that includes the job title for which you are applying. Maybe something like "Qualifications as a Customer Service Representative I." Now remember, my point of view comes from the digital age of keywords. If you want to get noticed, keyword it.
Good luck in your job search!