Recruiters are busy, and they might receive hundreds of applications for one position in a single day. Studies have shown that employers spend an average of 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume before tossing it in the “yes” or “no” pile, and with such a slim margin, it’s important to have a resume that grips the reader from the start. One great way to draw in a recruiter is through an opening statement on your resume.
What is a resume opening statement?
An opening statement is a short paragraph at the beginning of the resume that gives the employer a snapshot of what you can bring to the table, and why you are the best choice for hire. It’s your elevator pitch, it’s the first impression you make in an interview when the recruiter says, “So, tell us about yourself.” There are various types of opening statements, from resume objectives to summaries, titles, etc, and we take a look at what makes them unique, and which one applies to you.
When is an opening statement appropriate?
You might be asking yourself, “Does my resume need an opening statement?” and the answer is, maybe. If you have 6 years of receptionist experience and you’re applying for another run-of-the-mill receptionist role, then your resume will speak for itself, and an opening statement runs the risk of taking up unnecessary space. However, if you have 6 years of receptionist experience and you’re applying for a hotel manager position, then an opening statement is a great opportunity to sell yourself on this change of direction.
Students generally need not include an opening statement on their resumes, as they will usually not have enough experiences to warrant summarizing. Instead, make sure your education is listed front and center, along with industry-specific internships or other jobs showing your talents and abilities. For more information on where to place your education on your resume, check out our article on listing your education.
So, who should definitely include an opening statement on their resume? Let’s take a look.
1. Changing jobs
Like our receptionist-turned-manager above, changing jobs is one of the key moments when having an opening statement would be advantageous. This is the moment to explain how your past experiences—albeit in a different field—have actually given you the necessary skills to succeed in this new position.
A couple examples:
“Ex-Head Receptionist for XYZ Firm transitioning into Hotel Manager position. Previous experience in managing a team, organizing and overseeing large company events including planning menus and contacting caterers, handling finances and administrative records, and ensuring health and safety standards remain up-to-date.”
“Social Media Content Creator seeking Digital Marketing position, with experience in SEO, graphic design, digital communication, photography and video editing, writing, and managing a small Sales department.”
Notice how both these examples show recruiters and hiring managers in the new field that they have transferrable skills and relevant experience for the new role.
Read more on resume summary advice for career-changers here.
2. The employer is looking for a specific skill
Sometimes a job will require a very technical or unique skill which you possess, but which might not come out otherwise in your resume. This can include something like speaking a foreign language, or having a certain type of driving license, or being proficient in a certain type of machinery or computer program.
By including this skill in the opening statement of your resume, you are ensuring that the recruiter will see it immediately, and know that you are the perfect fit for the position.
A couple examples:
“Native Turkish speaker with experience working in Marketing for an international company. Available to travel and work remotely. Valid Turkish and USA passport.”
“Experienced trail guide with CPR and first aid certifications, and qualified local foraging expert. Completed ‘Wild Mushroom Food Safety Certification’ in NY via XYZ certifying board.”
More examples can be found here. This can also helpful if you want to ensure your resume gets past the automated resume screeners, or Applicant Tracking Systems. If there are certain keywords that the job description requires that you haven't included anywhere else in your resume, feel free to include them in your opening statement.
3. You have many, many years of experience
If your resume spans 20 years and seems to go on forever, then this is your opportunity to distil everything into a bite-sized paragraph, to keep the recruiter from missing something important. You want to bring forward your best accomplishments and key experiences, especially in relation to the job description. Don’t assume that something buried in your job description from three years ago is going to jump out at the reader—make it front and center, instead.
Example: “Stagehand with 15+ years experience, especially familiar with setting up pyro-technics while complying with industry-specific health and safety guidelines. Accomplishments include:
- Set up ... that led to Y result...”
If you're writing a resume opening statement like this, also considered to be a resume summary, please ensure you add in specific accomplishments with concrete hard numbers. See the above example — there are data-backed accomplishments in the opening statement.
4. To highlight recent accomplishments in a relevant field
An opening statement is a great moment to draw the recruiter’s attention to how something you personally accomplished has already benefited a previous employer or client. This can include Awards and Certifications, statistics on workflow improvement, recognition inside the workforce, or other impressive accomplishments.
“Engaging customer service representative, recently named Top Agent at XYZ for three consecutive months. Led in-house employee training on Customer Engagement leading to a 60% decrease in negative customer reviews.”
Types of resume opening statements
Each opening statement is unique, but there are a few categories that opening statements fall into.
1. Resume summary
This is your brand statement, your 10 seconds to show the employer why you are the best fit for the team. An example might sound something like this: “Experienced web developer with a background in X, Y, Z programs, winning awards in CSS Design (2019) and Apple Design Awards (2020), and most recently reduced bus for XYZ by 25%.”
For more examples of opening statements and resume summaries like this, see resume summary examples.
2. Resume title
A resume title is a clear, concise headline that shows the employer exactly who you are. This can be especially helpful in getting your resume picked out by applicant tracking systems, and can be used by professionals in any career. An example could sound like this: “Certified Public Account with 7 years professional experience in analysing budgets, planning finances, and maintaining records.”
3. Resume objective
This style of opening statement is generally used to show recruiters your enthusiasm for the role. An example might sound like this: “Searching for dynamic marketing position in a fast-paced, modern company where I can utilize my organizational, creative, and project management skills to drive growth in digital markets.”
However, objective-style opening statements are becoming out-dated in the modern job market, and might be better left off. Think of it this way: the hiring manager doesn’t really care about what you want (sorry), they care about what they want, and what they want is for someone to step into the role and make their life easier.
Objective-style opening statements typically include statements such as: “Looking for a position where I can grow and gain experience in XYZ” or “Looking for a job where I can use my skills to help a company meet targets and increase revenue.” We can assume that that’s what you want, because why else would you be applying for the job? It’s better to shows the employer why they want you, not why you want them.
Titling your resume's opening statement
In general, if your opening statement is located at the top of your resume, then you don’t necessarily need to spell out what it is we’re looking at—it’s pretty clear. However, you definitely can add a title if you like, something like:
- Profile, Professional Profile, Professional Statement
- Introduction, Summary, About
- Personal Statement, Personal Profile
Get your resume's opening statement checked
Once you’ve added an opening statement to your resume, it’s time to see how well you’ve done. Head over to our free resume scanner, which evaluates your resume against key criteria, and see in real time how likely your resume is to catch an employer’s attention.
Additional tips for your resume's opening statement
1. Use the same words as in the job description
If you feel a little lost wondering what skills, qualities, or experiences to put in your opening statement, here’s some good news: the recruiter has done this work for you. If the job description says they’re looking for someone with an XYZ certification or experience with specific hard skills, then don’t hesitate to put those words into your opening statement verbatim.
Online systems filtering resumes will often be scanning for wording which matches the job description, and this will keep your resume from slipping through the cracks. Find out what keywords to include on your resume with the Job Description Keyword Finder.
2. Throw out vague terminologies
Yes, we all know that you are “passionate about e-commerce,” but save that for your cover letter. Mention instead the statistics on how greatly you’ve improved sales for your clients, or draw attention to the way you’ve integrated a client’s social media platforms to their web-shops, to drive in traffic. We know you’re enthusiastic and hard-working, but this isn’t the place for it, and employers will generally skim over these empty and lacklustre descriptions.
This is also called quantifying your resume, and if there's one article you should read before you send off your resume, it's that one.
3. Be concise.
Don’t list 10 relevant awards you won going back to a university competition in 2001 — pick one or two which are the most impressive. Make a list of all your relevant experiences and skills and then whittle it down to the very best, and let those shine.
4. Check your spelling
It goes without saying, but check and check again for any spelling or grammatical errors. Proofread it, proofread it again, get your mom, dad, or grandma to proofread it, read it aloud to your cat, and then run it through a spellchecker or online grammar resource if you’re still worried. This is your first impression to a potential employer, and you want to show them that you’re competent!
This article was written by Gretchen Kessler.