A Section-by-Section Look at an Effective Resume: 5 Reasons it Just Works

You have 12 seconds to capture the attention of whoever is looking at your resume — that is how long they will spend with it. Given that sad truth, an effective resume must capture the reader’s attention in that amount of time. The aesthetics and content you create have to be clear and crisp. No fluff, no bs, make sure you get to the point. To watch this content in video format, click below:

An Effective Resume Starts with a Great Tagline

The tagline on this resume is Business Intelligence Executive | IT Strategy and Execution. That tells the reader exactly how to bucket this professional. There is no ambiguity.  If you don’t want to bucket yourself, that is going to work to your disadvantage because you will lose readers right at the top. They will try to pigeonhole you from the get-go, and if their brains are working too hard to do it, they will lose interest immediately if not sooner. So, if you have multiple professional buckets, have multiple versions of your resume.

Section 2: Select Accomplishments 

A Professional Summary section that is chock-full of buzzwords simply won’t be read if it is in paragraph format. Remember, you have 12 seconds to make an impression. Choose 3-4 bullets that display all the main skills necessary for the job your are seeking. Notice that’s skills for your target job, NOT what you think are your greatest skills. Transform your resume mindset: this document is meant to communicate why you are the best candidate for a particular position, not why you’re a generally wonderful human being.

In this example, notice the multiple metrics of dollar savings, team and vendor management, and reference to working with business units. So well-rounded! With an opener like this, the reader has 90% of what they need to decide whether to keep reading.

Organize Your Resume with Themes

With almost all of my career coaching clients, we create resumes that are broken down by themes. This shows consistency across career positions, highlights skill development, and creates another opportunity for emphasizing those aspects that are relevant to the target position.

In this resume, notice how the first position is broken down by themes, highlighted in bold:

  • Developing IT Strategy
  • Driving Insights
  • Work Cross Functionally
  • Provide Leadership

Bullets and sub-bullets now flow within each theme, allowing the job seeker to effectively communicate their skills and accomplishments within a well-organized framework. Aside from lending itself well to a strongly structured document, this format also helps the resume reader (who, if you recall, is dedicating all of 12 seconds to your document) register important information quickly. This transforms the way the reader receives the resume.

Structure an Effective Resume with a Bullet/Sub-Bullet Structure

I know that I said that bulleted lists are the best thing for your resume since sliced bread. But with that said, please, please, please do not ever put more than 4 bullets/sub-bullets in a row. The human eye stops reading a list after four items, and sometimes just three. The reader will skip bullets 5+, guaranteed. If you need to communicate more information, use sub-bullets. Sub-bullets are a perfect way to respect the reader’s attention span since that gives them a way to learn more by reading a manageable and digestible amount of text.

Final Section of an Effective Resume: Education at the End

Unless you are currently an undergrad or a very recent graduate, never put the education section at the beginning of your resume. Never. I went to 2 pretty fancy Ivy League schools (thanks Mom/Dad). However, nobody really cares once you have been in the workforce 3+ years. Functionally it matters because you can lean on your alma mater for networking, but that’s a different topic. For the purposes of your resume, nobody cares. Your high GPA? Your advanced Finance Class? Your semester abroad in Copenhagen? Nobody cares! Prospective employers want to know what they can pay you to do for them now, not what you paid to do for someone else years ago.

Knock Their Socks Off

Now that you know how, go forth and write an effective resume! If you need help, you know where to find me.

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