5 Ways to Start Your Resume With a Bang

Everyone tells you that it’s important to start your resume with a powerful introduction that makes a strong first impression … “you only have 20 seconds” goes the standard advice.

And it’s true. Employers are busy and they get hundreds of resumes for most positions which means standing out is vital.

But how do you actually do that?

The good news is that it’s not as hard as you might think.

I’ve written before about the importance of starting your resume with a strong resume headline. But here are 5 additional ways to start your resume with the kind of bang that makes it impossible for employers to ignore you.

1. Be Yourself

If you’re like most people, when it comes time to write a resume, you spend time browsing the web looking for ideas. (In fact that’s how you may have come to this website). But it’s a really bad idea and here’s why. You are not like any of those other people. On our samples page, you’ll find over 50 sample resumes, each one carefully crafted to communicate the strengths, personality traits, experiences and unique value proposition of one individual – an individual who is not you.

So if you\’re spending time looking around the web for resume examples, stop it. Seriously. Stop it!

You are amazing. You have talents, skills and life experiences that no one else on earth has – at least not in that unique combination. So instead of looking for things other people have said about themselves, start your resume by telling people exactly what makes you uniquely valuable.

2. Focus on Value

Notice I didn’t say ‘tell people what makes you unique.’ The fact that you own the world’s largest collection of Dr Who figurines makes you unique, but I wouldn’t recommend adding it to your resume.

No, unique isn’t enough – the phrase I used was “uniquely valuable.” Ask yourself: what combination of skills, experiences and personality traits makes me valuable to my target employers?”

When you have the answer, you have the core message that will compel employers to call you in for interviews.

For example, if I was to apply for a position creating an online training program for job seekers, I would want to highlight several things that, in combination, make me a pretty unique candidate:

  • I have 15 years of recruitment experience at all levels of an organization
  • I have an in-depth understanding of the resume screening and applicant tracking systems used by so many companies today.
  • I have 10 years of experience in curriculum development and training design
  • I have 10 years of experience running Blue Sky Resumes and during that time my company has helped thousands of job seekers to find new jobs.

This outline of my experience is what marketers might call ‘the product features.’ These are the facts about my experience. To make a real impact, I have to illustrate to the audience why these features will benefit them.

So I might say:

I offer a rare combination of hands-on recruitment, training, resume writing and career coaching experience, which means that I have an in-depth knowledge of the hiring process from both sides while also knowing how to create adult learning programs that really work.

Do this for yourself, and your resume can’t fail to make an immediate impact because it will directly address the core needs of your target employers.

3. Break the Rules if Necessary

When you write your resume, you’re immediately constrained by all kinds of rules that you’ve heard from other people. For example, my favorite is the “your resume should only be one page long” rule.

Who says? Did all the hiring managers, recruiters and HR managers go to a training course where they were all told this was the rule and not to consider anyone who didn’t follow it? Of course not! It\’s just a thing someone said one day and it got picked up and communicated to others and now it causes millions of people around the world to write resumes that are less effective than they could be.

The truth is that you can’t write a powerful resume that expresses your individuality if you are also following conventions and rules. The two just don’t go together.

Notice in my example above that I wrote my value proposition summary in the first person. Here it is again:

I offer a rare combination of hands-on recruitment, training, resume writing and career coaching experience, which means that I have an in-depth knowledge of the hiring process from both sides while also knowing how to create adult learning programs that really work.

Standard resume conventions say this is wrong – that you should never use “I” in your resume. I say that\’s rubbish. Sometimes, using “I” is the perfect way to speak directly to the hiring manager with a powerful sales message.

This doesn’t mean your resume should be two pages (maybe it should be three? Or one?). Nor does it mean that you must use “I” in your resume. Far from it. All it means is that you should always make decisions about your resume based on what\’s the best sales message for you and not based on an arbitrary rule designed to make everyone conform.

Here’s one example of a resume that uses “I” effectively to introduce the candidate to potential employers.

4. Use Testimonials

Employers are risk averse. They want to be very sure that they don’t make a mistake when hiring. Therefore, one of the most powerful things you can do is to provide evidence, right upfront in your resume introduction, that you will be a good choice. I like to do this by using testimonials either from LinkedIn or from performance reviews or reference letters. If you can use the referrer’s name, your pitch will be all the stronger. (See here and here for examples).

5. Show Don\’t Tell

If you’ve ever attended a creative writing class, you’ll know the old adage “show don’t tell.” In creative writing, this refers to the fact that it’s more powerful to show a character’s feelings through action rather than describing those feelings. (So an author shouldn’t say “he felt sad” but should rather say “tears welled in his eyes.”)

When I use this phrase in relation to your resume, I am referring to roughly the same thing. Instead of telling people that you’re fabulous, I want you to show them.

Imagine being a hiring manager and looking at two resumes – one tells and one shows.

The “tells” resume begins with the following statement:

I am a powerful leader who consistently delivers results even in challenging situations.

The “shows” resume starts this way:

I have held 3 jobs in the last 10 years and have always increased sales by at least 50% – this is true even in my most recent role where I grew sales 62% despite a general industry downturn.

Which of these two candidates would you be most interested in meeting? (And would you really care that he used the “I” word? Or if his resume was 3 pages long?).

Of course, not everyone can quantify their impact in this way as we don’t all work in sales. But if you think about it hard enough, you can come up with facts about your performance that show rather than tell. For example, perhaps you have outperformed your peers, or won awards, or earned promotions in every one of your jobs. Perhaps you’re the teacher who always goes the extra mile, or the sales associate who gets 100% on mystery shopper visits. The point is, showing will always make a bigger impact than telling and doing it sooner rather than later will help your resume start with a bang.

It Comes Down to This

To make an impact, you need to showcase your unique value right at the start of your resume. Do this and you will find that your resume response rate skyrockets.

So before you send another resume out, ask yourself if it really starts with a bang. If it does, you’re already overwhelmed with interview requests. If it doesn’t, use one of these tactics – or find your own – to make the desired impact.

Good luck! And if you’re interested in professional resume help, just shoot me an email with a copy of your resume and I’ll get back to you with feedback and a price quote. The best bit? As a reader of this blog (and therefore clearly a person with impeccable taste!) you are entitled to claim a 15% discount on our resume writing service. Just mention the blog when you email me.

You might also be interested in:

The One Rule of Resume Writing You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Resume Writing: It’s All About What You Leave Out

Why Rewriting Your Resume Will Open Doors

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