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Résumé Writing Roadblocks

Grab Attention With A Keyword Summary

Job Seeker's Story

Anthony, a top-level sales and marketing Account Executive, had been in the job-search mode for the past year as he saw his start-up entrepreneurial venture struggling in a tight economy. Finally, as Anthony's resources began to seriously diminish, he put in a concentrated effort to get back into corporate account management by updating his résumé. After he had listed his past job history, dates of employment, and education, Anthony included the following Objective statement at the top of his one-page résumé:

Objective: A challenging and rewarding position that will maximize my experience in sales and marketing.

After six months of distributing this résumé for job openings both online and offline, Anthony had not received one request for an interview.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Although Anthony's résumé needed improvement in many respects, he had failed to garner initial attention from an employment reviewer by wasting prime résumé “real estate” (the top half of his one-page résumé). Instead, he chose to lead his résumé with a clear indicator of what he expected from the hiring company, not what he could do for the company. Unfortunately, this type of bland and banal Objective statement is quite commonplace and does nothing to positively impact anyone's candidacy. In fact, Anthony's “first impression” is both self-serving and unimaginative, two traits that did not endear him to prospective employers or recruiters.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

As a marketing tool, your résumé's first order of business is to grab the attention of the reviewer in a positive manner and highlight your value to the company. It is not about what you want out of a company. With years of great experience, Anthony could have started off his résumé with a powerful Summary section, rather than an Objective. The Summary section, in particular, can be an immediate “clincher” in evoking interest if it is done well. The following components are critical to writing such a well-done Summary:

  • Value Proposition: Your value proposition must connect with the reviewer's concept of what constitutes an ideal candidate for a particular job. It needs to go beyond simply relaying skills via a job-description excerpt. Instead, your value proposition needs to acknowledge the benefits the employer is seeking, which ultimately revolve around the bottom line (for example, how much money generated and/or how much money saved). Showing how you have a track record of delivering those benefits in previous jobs serves to segue the reviewer from the benefits employers’ want to the thought that you could be the candidate to provide those very same benefits. Providing brief tidbits of proof—similar to “dangling the bait” when fishing—entices the reviewer to read beyond the Summary section and into the body of your résumé, where more substantiating evidence of your value resides in terms of quantifiable accomplishments.
  • • Therefore, Anthony's Summary paragraph could have started with:
  • • “Top-Tier Account Manager in medical device industry with award-winning strengths in new business development, sales, and customer relationship management. Track record of $350 million to $500 million in revenue generation for the past three years and 10% year-over-year profit gains.
  • Personal Brand: Your value proposition tells what you can deliver to your prospective employer; your personal brand combines that concept with how you do it. That's what makes personal branding so “personal”: It is a reflection of the uniqueness within each and every one of us. Sometimes called a “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP), a personal brand can also be shortened into a tagline or slogan.
  • • Developing a slogan or tagline can only come after you discover your personal brand. Your personal brand is about authenticity and what is real about you; it is not about “creating” a brand out of thin air or developing a marketing pitch in a vacuum. Even marketers know to conduct focus groups of consumers who can give realistic feedback so that brand attributes and a slogan can emerge. In a similar fashion, Anthony could get feedback about his brand via an informal survey of people who know him well. Or he could use the 360Reach assessment, an online personal branding assessment from the Reach Branding Club (www.reachbrandingclub.com).
  • • An example slogan for Anthony that reflects his personal brand, based on both the sales results he has achieved in the past and his personal style of delivery could have read, “Consistent multi-million dollar sales results as the clients’ #1 go-to person.
  • Keywords: Keywords are usually nouns and noun phrases and are the current occupation and industry terminologies, similar to “buzzwords.” To be certain you are including these up-to-date keywords in your résumé, do an online search for at least 10 job postings in your occupational field and level, such as “Account Executive.” Make note of the number of times specific keywords appear in the job posting, especially the job description and the requirements areas. Then sort these keywords into required and desired categories. Required keywords are those that appear in almost every job posting; those must be incorporated into the Summary, as well as the body, of your résumé. For Anthony's chosen career (Account Executive), business development, sales, account management, and client relationship management are all required keywords. Desired keywords do not appear quite as often as required keywords; you can be more selective about which ones to use. By top-loading your résumé with these keywords in your Summary, you are providing a sort of Cliff's Notes to the proof of value to follow in your résumé.
  • Required and desired keywords must reflect your real experience. Do not add keywords to “pad” your résumé if you are not prepared to talk about your experience with those keywords in an interview. Keywords arise naturally from a vast array of possibilities, such as occupations, industries, job titles and levels, skills, strengths, attributes, degrees, schools, training, continuing professional development, work experience, geographic areas, technology skills, language skills, licenses, certifications, professional associations, community involvement, and leadership activities that prospective employers determine are intrinsically related to a particular job. Keywords are the “search string” of words a hiring manager enters into a database program or scans for visually on a résumé to quickly find the best “quality match” candidates.

The Summary section of your résumé is high-powered territory. You can use it to ensure your résumé does not linger in résumé-database limbo. By top-loading the Summary with a value proposition and keywords, you are signaling to the reviewer that you are a candidate to be taken seriously. By going the extra step of incorporating your personal brand, you can etch a memorable image of your signature style that allows the reviewer a glimpse of possible culture fit and leadership potential.

Because the Summary is typically one to two paragraphs followed by a separate Keyword area, it can easily be re-purposed for bios and profiles on online social networking sites. This tactic will immediately serve to increase your online visibility for career development and for job search throughout your work span. Consequently, a Summary richly laden with keywords, value, and personal branding can grab attention in both the online and offline worlds via social networking and social media, and job-search collateral materials, such as a résumé, respectively. Premiere visibility is the first step on the road to a job offer. Take that first step with a well-crafted Summary and watch the results pour in.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsRésumé Writing Roadblocks - Be Selective And Careful With Your Résumé Content, Caution: Résumé Typos Ahead!, Oh, The Tangled Web We Weave…