Newspapers and magazines use eye-catching banner headlines to sell copies of their publications. You can use this technique to sell yourself to prospective employers.
Whether you’re mass mailing your resume or responding to newspaper advertisements or Internet job postings, you’re competing for readers’ attention. For example, a job appearing on the Internet or in an ad in a major metropolitan newspaper can draw between 500 and 1,000 responses. Additionally, human-resources professionals and hiring managers are busy with many tasks other than screening and interviewing candidates.
As a result, employers can’t scrutinize each resume they receive and meticulously search for specific experience and accomplishments. Books, magazines and newspaper articles advise job hunters that most resumes receive only 10 to 15 seconds of an interviewer’s time. How can you make your resume stand out and be read through to the end?
Your challenge is to write your resume so that an interviewer can’t miss your qualifications, regardless of how little time has been allotted. To distinguish yourself from the competition, lead off with a banner headline. The following is an example of a resume using a banner headline.
Emmett J. Maxwell
SENIOR EXECUTIVE: RADIO STATIONS
WJBX FM, WMOT FM, WEPV AM, Sarasota, Fla. July
When you first look at this resume, your eye lands on "Senior Executive: Radio Stations." The words are centered, boldfaced, italicized and underlined.
The headline draws readers to the bullets and the words that follow and curiosity compels them to keep reading. The reader’s attention is where you want it, and your resume makes a powerful impression by conveying your most outstanding accomplishments. By the time four seconds have elapsed, a reader has read less than a third of the page and grasped your point. As a result, the hiring manager may interview you or keep reading your resume, believing that he’s found the right candidate.
"Today, HR people and hiring managers just don’t have the time to carefully read each line of every resume they receive to see if someone has the right experience," says Susan Van Buren, vice president of human resources at Restaura Inc., a dining services company in Phoenix, Ariz. "The savvy job hunter is aware of this and makes employers’ screening task easier -- and increases the likelihood of an interview -- by beginning their resume with a section that contains compelling statements showcasing their key qualifications."
Developing Your Introduction
To develop a powerful introduction, follow these guidelines:
For creating your banner headline, use the title of your current or most recent position, the title of the job you’re seeking or a few words to communicate your expertise, such as "Senior Executive: Radio Stations."
Place your name and address at the left margin and your home phone number (and fax number or e-mail address) at the right margin. This layout creates white space in the center of the page, increasing the prominence of your headline. Many job hunters believe their name should be prominent and place it in the center of the page or highlight it in large, bold-faced letters. Your name is the least important part of your resume. You’ll be hired for your experience and capability, not your name.
Use bulleted statements under the headline to describe your most important achievements as they pertain to the position you’re targeting. You can draw from any part of your experience and list your successes in any order you wish to achieve the impact you want.
Quantify your successes to express the magnitude of your contributions. For example, "Dramatically increased sales" or "Significantly reduced operating expenses" won’t deliver the same impact as numbers or a creative way to convey the extent of contributions.
Larry Roder, a former engineering manager in Columbus, Neb., experienced disappointing results when he contacted recruiters and prospective employers using a resume that started with his work experience. He revised his resume. See the excerpt below for an example.
MAXIMIZE PROFITS THROUGH INNOVATION
Engineering/Manufacturing Operations • Cost Reduction • Start-up & Launch
"Larry Roder is one of the two best program launch managers in the automotive systems industry"--Ralph C. Blayek, corporate product design engineering, Ford Motor Co.
Mr. Roder’s resume landed him a senior manufacturing position at Dell Computer, a Round Rock, Texas, computer maker, leading the planning and implementation of new manufacturing processes.
Because some computer scanners have difficulty reading underlined words, leave between one-fourth and one-half a space above and below the horizontal line. Don’t be concerned about computers’ inability to read italics. Using capital letters in 11- or 12-point type will eliminate this problem.
At this point, interviewers will have several compelling reasons to meet you. However, you can create an even stronger case for your capability, by writing beneath the bulleted statements two or three sentences that describe your salient attributes. The following resume excerpt below demonstrates this tactic.
Entrepreneurial and visionary leader accomplished at strategic planning, supply chain management, plus reengineering sales, marketing, and manufacturing processes. A skilled communicator, team builder and negotiator who maximizes efficiencies and productivity through boosting employee morale and performance.
Be sure your descriptions contain key words from your field in case your resume is scanned by a computer program looking for such words. In the example above, these are: lead times, labor expenses, strategic planning, supply chain management, reengineering, processes, team builder and negotiator. While glowing statements often are viewed skeptically because so many job hunters make them, your claims will have credibility and be taken seriously since your list of quantified accomplishments has established your expertise.
"My first resume contained an introductory section that listed my key competencies but didn’t say anything about my strengths and attributes as a businessman," says John Cellucci, former director of international business development at Fedders International, an air-conditioner manufacturer based in Liberty Corner, N.J. The document failed to produce results. He revised it, beginning with a section on his functional strengths and a narrative describing his salient attributes, ending with listing his M.B.A. and J.D. degrees.
"The new resume not only tripled my interview rate -- from 5% to 15% -- it also led me to Public Service Enterprise Group," Mr. Cellucci says. He’s now the manager of business planning and capital projects for the Newark, N.J.-based utility holding company.