Below the Fold – Key Sections

At a recent lecture I was asked, “I see you have several ideas and articles around the ‘above-the-fold’ space on a resume, but what about the ‘below-the-fold’ area? What should I know about those items?” Hmm…good point. I seem to have almost completely skipped the important parts of the resume usually found beneath the fold. Therefore, I’ll provide a new post or two for the ‘below-the-fold’ fans.

For this discussion to be effective, let’s briefly identify the things that belong ‘above-the-fold’:

Optionally we might see a “Keywords” or a “Skills” or another section that calls out some strong words or phrases (such as “Strategic Planning” or “Career Coaching” or others) that help strengthen what was covered in the Summary or Objective. However, beyond these items, everything else usually falls below the center (fold) of the first page. So, what’s below the fold and what shouldn’t be below the fold (or anywhere) on the resume?

The classic items that are usually found below the fold are older jobs, education, and any number of smaller (niche) sections that could be useful to the resume reader. Not every resume will have all of these, so don’t feel obligated to add them if you don’t need them.

Older Jobs – With a reverse chronological resume (the preferred resume for over 95% of job seekers), the jobs prior to your most current will generally end up below the middle of the first page. These will often continue on to the second page for most workers with longer careers. Your career information can go back 10-12 years and still be of interest, but seldom is anything over 15 years useful. Keep it meaningful and filled with STAR statements.

Education (formal) – I’ve already covered this in a prior post, but let me add a few more thoughts on Education. Many resume writers suggest leaving off the year you got your degree since it dates you. However, leaving it off can also make you seem older than you really are. The best guidance I can give you on this is really quite simple: How far back did you date your career entries? If you provided details all the way back to a job that you held in 1997 then feel free to list the date on your education if it is 1996 or more recent. But, in this example, if your degree was prior to 1995, then I’d leave it off in this case. In other words, if there’s a big gap between your degree dates and your oldest listed job dates, leave the years off the education.

Training – If you have two or more degrees that you consider a key strength of your talent, then don’t group Education and Training together, let them be separate sections so your advanced degrees stand out. If you have one degree, your degrees are not relevant to your current career, or you attended college but haven’t finished your degree, then you might want to merge the Education section with the Training section and highlight your informal or corporate training. Only list the courses that are relevant to your career and are less than 10 years old. This is a marketing document, not a diary…keep it relevant.

Certifications – Today, this is a valuable section. If you have industry-recognized certifications (e.g. Project Management Professional or Six Sigma Black Belt) and they are useful in your industry, career, or prior job roles, then definitely list them. Identify the year you received the certificate and make sure you keep the certifications current and valid (don’t let them expire).

Affiliations/Memberships – These are really quite important…if they are relevant and current. Any organization that you are active in that is related to your career or profession needs to be listed. Again, only list them if you are active in them (listing inactive groups can sometimes hurt you). Also, indicate the years you’ve been a member and list any leadership roles you’ve had. Don’t list too many…just the important ones. Too many “outside interests” can be a detriment as you might be seen as distracted, not job-focused, or “stacking” the resume.

Community/Volunteer – This is a good section to have — provide one or two current activities that show your involvement in civic or social activities. Groups like the Humane Society, neighborhood management organizations, and USO show your desire to “make a difference” in your world…recruiters and hiring managers generally like these traits. Like above, list the years in the group and any leadership roles you might have held. (The taboo on religious volunteer work or modest political support roles has diminished as long as it is balanced by other activities considered more “main-stream”.)

Technology/Computers – This is a section that has become a bit more “mandatory” as employers today want their staff to be comfortable with technology. For people in roles such as secretaries or office administrators, indicating a proficiency in Microsoft Office is a baseline…identify your level of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint skills as a minimum. For the “geeks”, where your prior career history clearly identified your technical prowess, you can skip the mundane software and use this section to point out your expertise with specific versions of various software packages (make sure the spelling is accurate for brand-name products). For managers, executives or others that really find calling out Office skills a bit demeaning, try what I do. I list more “advanced” products or features that I have skill in that imply a skill in the more basic software. For example, I list expertise in Publisher, Pivot-Tables, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Final Cut, Project, and Auto-Tune. The conclusion the recruiter reaches is, “This guy must know Office…he knows all this other good stuff.”

Hobbies – A remnant of resumes from years gone by, this section is generally left off, but in a few cases, it might be beneficial. For example, if you are in the Sports or Healthcare industry, then having running, tennis, or cycling as a hobby could be a plus. Another example might be if you are pursuing a career in the automotive industry, restoring classic cars could be a valuable hobby to list. The key here is…if your hobbies are not effectively related to your career, then don’t list a Hobby section at all.

Bottom Line: Recruiters focus on the part of your resume that is ‘above the fold’ to do the initial evaluation of a resume–so that part must be strong. If a hiring manager or recruiter manages to get past the fold, you need strong Education, Training, and Certification sections. In addition, it’s common to have technology skills, volunteer roles, and sometimes hobbies listed. But make sure all of these entries are current, targeted towards your career pursuit, and of interest to a potential reader. Don’t list too much…the resume is a marketing tool, not a diary.

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