As many people return from the holiday break and get back into their job search (or back into hiring mode if you’re a on the other side of the table), I want to take a minute to emphasize how important it is to have a strong executive summary in your resume.

I’ve written about this before, with my top tips to Get Past the 6 Second Resume Screen (the average amount of time someone spends looking at your resume before they decide if you go to the reject pile).

Here are the main reasons everyone, regardless of level of experience, should have an executive summary:

1) It makes it so much easier for your reader to quickly get a sense of who you are. The reason most resumes only get a few seconds of attention is that most people in recruiting roles spend hours a day reading hundreds of resumes. Think about the executive summary like the back of a book—you use it to grab their attention so they decide to keep reading.

2) It helps you highlight key information up front, rather than making your reader dig around and search for it. If it isn’t entirely clear in the first few seconds your reader has your resume in his/her hands that you’re qualified for the job, they won’t keep reading. This isn’t the time to build up to your points, get them out there in the first few sentences, then use the rest of your resume to go into more detail.

3) You can use it to control your positioning by focusing on the experiences and skills you want your reader to pay most attention to. This is especially crucial if you’re trying to transition and you want to avoid being stuck in the role or industry you’ve been in most recently. Similarly, if you’re looking to move up a level with your next role, you can focus on your relevant experience and skills so your reader doesn’t get too caught up in job titles.

Next week I’ll go into more detail on exactly what to include in your executive summary. But for now, I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s an essential element of any effective resume.