What’s at the Top of Your Resume?

What should go at the top of your resume under your name and contact info?

A.  Your Education?
B.  Your most recent work experience?
C.  Your objective–the kind of job you are seeking?

Answer–None of the above.

Why?  Because right at the beginning you need to give your resume a direction, a focus, a theme which a potential employer can skim and know what to look for in the rest of the resume.

You also need to show that you know your strengths and how they relate to the job you are seeking.
You also need to include those keywords and phrases that computers will use if they are the first level of screening.

The section that does all that is your profile or highlights of qualifications section.  You don’t want the others first because:

A.  Your education is generally very old hat, unless you just finished college.  Even if you did just graduate, if you have solid interning and volunteer or work experience, education may not go to the top. If you worked for at least a few years, it really belongs at the end.

B.  Your work experience goes after the profile and is the source of the profile highlights,t he explanation and proof of them.

C.  Your objective has been replaced in recent years by a profile.  Employers reading dozens or hundreds of resumes and cover letters aren’t going to be impressed or very interested that you want a “challenging management position where leadership and self-starter skills are essential.” Yet that’s the kind of pabulum that traditionally is written for the objective statement.

Instead, look at what strengths you want to highlight in the details of your resume.  Then, repeat or summarize the best points in shortened fashion for your profile.  Just make sure these points touch on qualities, skills and experiences that the potential employer is seeking.


At the top of the profile, start with a title that matches the job you are looking for–yes, it is best to customize resumes for each job.  For instance, if the job is for regional sales manager and the keywords you need include: problem solver, entrepreneurial, minimum 5 years experience in sales management, your profile might look like:

Entrepreneurial Regional Sales Manager

  • Problem-solver with 10 years experience in sales management who developed new events to motivate demoralized regional sales force.  Event success resulted in company-wide adoption.
  • Entrepreneurial self-starter, opening new markets in 4 cities that resulted in 10 new clients for more than $250,000 of sales
  • Savvy manager who has successfully led small and large (25) sales forces, promoted 4 times in just 5 years for managerial skills

Then you would expand on each of these accomplishments in your specific work experience sections.

You can also consider adding a Skills or Key Competencies or Areas of Expertise section right after the profile information.  These too can be keyword rich according to the job description and your knowledge of what’s required for each job you seek. Again keep it specific—not just good communicator, but Consensus Builder or Conflict Resolution Expert or Motivator.

This is just one way to write a profile.  It could be more of a paragraph.  It could include more emotional terms– “passionate about…” but it needs to remain clearly focused and accomplishment oriented.  Remember that you are offering solutions to a particular employer, not reciting your history.

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