Approved Resume photo from ShutterstockPart 1 in this series discussed the importance of your resume passing the “15-Second Skim Test” and I shared suggestions to avoid being instantly rejected by recruiters and other humans. In Part 2, we began the process of walking through the typical professional or executive resume from top to bottom and discussed the header and (optional) objective sections.

In this, Part 3, let’s look at the area of the resume that comes next… before we get to the reverse chronological work history section. The area in question is one of the most non-standard and chaotic considerations for both professional resume writers and amateur writers (job seekers and their friends). Amateurs ad-lib a wide variety of information in this section and change their minds on whims, which frequently makes their resumes confusing, laborious, and ineffective for HUMAN readers.

Human or non-human resume reader?

An important question you must ask yourself at this point in the composition of your resume is whether you are writing your resume for a human or a machine (ATS screening software). If you are writing for a machine and trying to win a “battle of resumes” for a posted job (yuck!), then many of the options that follow will work as long as your content is relevant to the job posting. My comments that follow assume you are writing for a human reader. Please keep this in mind.

Here are a variety of informational groupings (sections) I have seen preceding the reverse chronological work history of a resume:

The summary/objective/profile section

I recommend you omit this section… because most people won’t read it. If you feel compelled to include it, you will do well to omit these items:

– A description of what you want (“An opportunity to apply my skills…”, “A growing company…”)

– Glowing self-promotion (“An innovative thought leader with strategic vision and…”)

– A broad description of yourself that lacks focus (“Expertise in sales, marketing, and business operations.”)

The skills section

This section usually consists of bulleted phrases in two or three columns. If you are a worker bee or first level manager, then this can be helpful. If you are a software developer then readers want to see your programming languages and your technical credentials. For those at the mid-levels through executive levels, however, I generally recommend you omit this section… or at least move it to the end of your resume.

The functional areas section

The functional areas section typically contains three to five sub-section headers like “Sales Operations” or “Software Development” that have bulleted items under each of them. The three conventional resume “types” are (1) reverse chronological, (2) functional and (3) combined. The inclusion of a functional areas section in your resume immediately “brands” yours a functional resume. And, guess what? Most recruiters, hiring managers and other resume readers HATE functional resumes. So, my general advice is don’t use a functional resume… which means you can omit this section.

The qualifications section

As I noted in Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),

“… try replacing the Summary/Profile section with a summary of qualifications section.”

The qualifications section, as the name says, lists relevant qualifications. I don’t see this used very often, but it is the number one option I recommend as the precursor to the reverse chronological work experience section. Because readers like to skim rather than read resumes, this section will be more effective if you use bulleted items that are brief and contain key quantifications (annual revenues, % quality improvement, etc.).

In summary

Human resume readers want to skim quickly and get to your work history efficiently, so adding too much preliminary information can be distracting and counterproductive. Be careful in choosing what information and what volume of information you include prior to your work history. Worker bees, include a skills section. Professionals and executives, include a qualifications section and skip the other options discussed in this post.

Good luck and best wishes.