Maximizing the First Page – Headers

The top half of the first page of a resume is where the resume makes or breaks it for a candidate. Those five-and-a-half inches of text and white space are the critical part of the resume and the entire case for your candidacy lies within that area. The first page of the resume contains the most important information for the employer and the top half of that first page must sell the rest of the document. A resume grabs 35-60 seconds of attention by the hiring manager with the majority of that time being dedicated to the top half of page one. It is imperative that it be strategically written to win attention.

Most resumes begin with a header in which the job seeker’s name and contact information is laid out. Traditionally, that information was always centered and in the old days the word ‘Resume’ would often be at the top, center of the page. However, with the advent of word-processing and the ease of visual design, that tradition has ceased and now the header can be both informative and dramatic. Just pick up any resume design book and you’ll notice immediately that headers can be designed in all types of ways. Just remember when designing the header to make sure it is in context with the type of position you are seeking. A mortgage banker might do best to steer clear of dramatic, artistic designs and stick to something more conservative.

Whatever design is chosen for the resume header, it should contain some basic information including the name of the job seeker and a method of contact. Many people ask if the entire name should be listed or if initials are permissible. It really depends on the name and how the person chooses to be known.

A good rule of thumb is to use the name with which you sign checks. If you sign your name Joe A. Jobseeker, or Joseph A. Jobseeker, either would be fine. If you sign using initials such as J.A. Jobseeker, it is a good idea to write out the name by which you are called in order to make it easier for the employer to know what to call you. Of course, some people go by nicknames or shortened versions of their name. Shortened versions such as ‘Joe’ for ‘Joseph’ or ‘Bill’ for ‘William’ is fine. Steering clear of nicknames is usually wise.

With privacy issues becoming more and more worrisome every day and with the advent of the Internet, which contact information to place on a resume has become a debate in recent times, even among professional resume writers. Some resume writers say that all contact information should be included: address, city, state, zip, home phone, cell phone, and email. The argument for inclusion of everything is that it should be as easy as possible for a recruiter to make contact. On the other end of the spectrum is the completely confidential resume that not only lists only an email or a cell phone number but also eliminates the name of the candidate, replacing it with something like “Confidential – Name Withheld Pending Interview”.

As with most polarized issues, usually somewhere in the middle is the wisest course. A name, an email, and a cell phone number are the bare minimum. Including city and state also provides the recruiter or hiring manager with some idea of your location – a helpful tidbit if a relocation package is not possible to offer. ZIP codes can also be of assistance to recruiters when they are searching large databases for local candidates. A quick search on a ZIP code or series of ZIP codes can bring up a selection of local candidates. It is up to the candidate to decide how much personal contact information he or she is comfortable floating on the Internet and in recruiter databases.

Whether you decide on a fancy header designed with color or bold fonts, or if you go with a conservative layout and plain appearance, it is important to have the header in that first half of the first page. It needs to be readable and accurate. (A mistyped telephone number or email is a sure-fire way to kill your resume.) It should be easily noticed and of sufficient font size so that older eyes don’t have to squint. And most importantly, the header should be followed by powerful content.

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