Will This Résumé Tip Get You the Job?

Grab the HR professional's attention with a snappy, confident headline.

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Job seekers often feel like their tireless search for the perfect job is matched by an endless quest for the perfect résumé. Should my font be consistent? Is Garamond too much? What should be in bold? Did I describe my current job correctly? And what about my objective statement?

To that end, G.L. Hoffman of the What Would Dad Say blog, has a fresh suggestion (supported by research that says HR people reportedly spend only 15 seconds on a résumé):

Instead of putting your name and objective at the top of your résumé, try this technique. Make a single-sentence headline about yourself that is so intriguing or funny or descriptive or unique or creative that it breaks through the clutter and gets read. The hiring manager's reaction you want is "I have to read more about THIS person." Typographically, make it bigger or bolder than anything else on your résumé, so that it is the first thing read...remember, you have 15 seconds.

Hoffman recommends disposing of your humility, scanning magazine headlines for lines that grab your attention, and considering both what your parents think of you and what makes you most proud of yourself. He says the headline could look something like this: "I married the prettiest girl in my small-town high school, proof positive I can sell myself; just think what I can do for the widgets of ABC."

I've never used a headline, but my dad—who has read his share of résumés—advised me to make a bold objective statement that said more about me than about the job I wanted. When I finished grad school, I tried this: "Enterprising and persistent reporter with strong business interest."

Looking back on it now, I see weaknesses. Shouldn't all reporters be enterprising and persistent? That doesn't stand out. And how strong is this "strong" business interest? The word is too wimpy. The whole line rings wimpy now.

The résumé I sent to my first employer bore this statement: "Enterprising and persistent reporter looking to slay dragons." The second half was bolder: an improvement.

There's a lesson here. When I went for a round of interviews, one of the editors smirked and asked me: "So, what's this about you 'looking to slay dragons?' "

If you're going to use a bold statement/headline at the top of your résumé, you'd better be ready to explain yourself.


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