Top 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Resume – What’s Your Hook?

By Janice Burch, Co-founder, Pro Resume Center, LLC


Do you stop and read every article in your social media or news feeds, word for word, to the end?

I am guessing not.

If you are like most – you skim. You glance at the headlines, and then if it grabs your attention, you MAYBE read the first paragraph. If there is enough there to pique your interest, you keep going. If not, you move on.

A recruiter, company owner or hiring manager thinks much the same way when it comes to your resume and cover letter.

How important is it to get your hook in at the top of your resume? Read on.

A recent discussion with a successful Chicago-based Fortune 500 company owner who hires his own star management team, drove home this point. While hiring phenomenal teams to represent his company is his number one task, he also has to balance that task with the fact that he ultimately has to build a product that sells, nurture his major client relationships, hustle for new business and manage the endless stream of people who walk into his office with every issue you can imagine. So, his time is short to look through resumes.

“Bottom line? While I wish it were not the case, I spend no more than about 7 seconds glancing at a resume and if something doesn’t pop out at me in that time, it gets pushed into the ‘thanks but no thanks,’ pile,” he said. “Best advice for the folks you work with? Hook me right away and make me want to keep reading.”

He expanded. “If you have 20 years of sales experience? Give me numbers, quotas exceeded. If you are telling me you have 10 years of HR management experience, hiring, firing, managing, tell me why you were successful. Did you establish a new recruiting method for your company? Did you implement an incentive program to encourage new hire referrals  – by how much? – or did you help the company increase staffing by 15% to handle company expansion and sales? Hook me with details and I’ll want to learn more.”

resume writingYou have such a small window of time to make yourself stand out among the dozens or hundreds of resumes they are reviewing, that it helps to have a hook. When I was a journalist, the hook, the lead, the first paragraph was as essential as the headline to capture the reader. If you can’t get the reader’s attention in those first few seconds, they simply are not going to keep reading.

Let’s look at the top five things you can do to develop your hook, strengthen your resume and fine-tune this important component of your job search strategy to help you stand out:

  1. Lose the job objective – draft a career statement or profile. The top of your resume is the most important real estate on there – use it wisely. For decades, job applicants have heeded advice to create a compelling job objective to put at the head of their resume. But HR execs and studies have weighed in – it’s time to get rid of these often cliché phrases and replace with words that have meaning for potential employers. Discard the “in search of challenging position where I can use my experience in a progressively responsible position to further my career.” Instead, do your research on the company and figure out how YOUR experience can help them – tell them what you can bring to the table to help that company’s bottom line. Convey to the reader how your qualifications can enhance their company’s goals as well as nail the responsibilities for the open position. But note that a poorly written, vague or inconsistent career statement/profile could hurt your chances of getting an interview. You should only include a career statement/profile on your resume if you are confident enough in your writing skills that you can be sure to do it well. If you can sum up what you have to offer as a candidate in 50 to 200 well-chosen words, this paragraph at the top of your resume can improve your chances of being selected.
  2. Include career highlights: Beneath your new career profile, provide three top points that highlight your career achievements and then a brief one or two sentence on WHY these are career highlights. Example: Successful operations management: Created a lean manufacturing facility, decreasing costs by 20% while increasing floor productivity by 25% and product sales by 42% resulting in overall 50% profits over a period of five years. (be truthful and be ready to back up your numbers).
  3. Take another look at your work history – How did you make a difference? Don’t write a list of responsibilities. Write about your achievements. Instead of listing your job duties and responsibilities, focus on what you did at the company to stand out, make improvements, and make a difference in your job history. Remember, an HR person is going to know what your responsibilities were for the most part – so if you list your tasks in this section, you WILL look like everyone else. Hook them with what YOU did while in that role. We advise starting with the most recent position first and then working backward, however, if the position for which you are applying is most closely tied to a position you held three jobs ago, consider this in how you lay out your job history.
  4. List only those skills you really know, and want to use in the position for which you are applying. If you type 80 wpm but don’t want to get pigeon holed into an entry level admin job and are hoping to get hired as a junior or account executive, leave out your typing speed. Do focus on your project management skills or software acumen for job or inventory tracking, proposal writing, research skills, etc.
  5. Last but not least – be honest. Make no mistake. If you lie on your resume, it will most likely come back to haunt you. Wouldn’t it be terrible to be promoted up to a management position, be considered for a director position, only to have the HR director go to the owner of the company and say “he never even attended college, let alone got a degree.” Build yourself up, showcase your mad skills, talents and experience but don’t outright lie. It may be found out during the interview process or, gulp, ten years down the road by a diligent owner or HR director.

Stand out from the crowd. Develop your hook – what makes you so unique? Work it into your “about me” or elevator speech you will need to do with each interview. You have many qualities and experiences that can set you apart from the rest. Just have to know where to look (your volunteer efforts, the special requests clients make that you deliver before deadline, the additional business you were able to draw from your existing client base over the course of two years, etc.)

Don’t fret though. Many job seekers share a similar problem when trying to write their own resumes. They either don’t see the traits and value they can add to their resume, are too close to the trees to see the forest or are too overwhelmed trying to present themselves in such a positive, concise format.

If that’s the case for you, seek out an experienced professional resume writer to help. The investment is minimal, especially considering the payout – getting hired and earning a salary possibly weeks or months sooner than if you try to do it yourself without the help of an experienced professional.

Good luck to you! Go get it!


We love to hear from our readers and clients. Please let us know what you think of this article or if you have something valuable to add by commenting below. In addition, share this article by using any of the social media sharing buttons below.

Pro Resume Center, LLC offers the best resume writing and cover letter services available, along with personal consultations and coaching for every stage of your career. We provide one-on-one service via phone or Google hangouts and Skype with EVERY purchase, connecting you with experienced, seasoned professionals who understand how to strategically position you for job search success. To find out why Pro Resume Center, LLC is the best choice to help with your job search CLICK HERE.

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  • James

    Reply Reply January 22, 2015

    Great article, thanks for the advice and I will be applying your ideas now.

    • Janice Burch

      Reply Reply February 23, 2015

      Hello James. That’s great! There’s no better way to take in information than to implement it right away. Glad that you enjoyed the read.

  • James Paul Hill

    Reply Reply January 20, 2015

    Awesome article! This matches all the other articles I’ve read that get me excited about writing my resume. I just started the job hunting process and have read a lot of articles, books, resumes and other peoples’ profiles to help sculpt my “style.” I can’t help but agree that reading about what someone *should* have done isn’t nearly as exciting about reading about what they *have* actually done. Thanks for writing the article!

    • Janice Burch

      Reply Reply February 23, 2015

      It sounds like you are truly doing your due diligence, James. I love to hear when my articles bring value to the reader. Thank you for the feedback, and good luck with the job hunt! Let me know if I can be of any further help.

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