Time and time again I see resumes that either have no summary, a summary that is too long, or a summary that does nothing to make a candidate stand out from their competition. If you can craft a summary that articulates your value proposition in three to five lines, you increase your chances of engaging the reader. Articles and anecdotes tell us we have anywhere from 10 to 45 seconds of a resume reader’s attention; 10 seconds to engage and 45 seconds to communicate our skills and expertise as they scan and read the resume. Including a summary section at the top of your resume is currently the best way to engage them, so yes, you need one whether you are a new college graduate or an executive with 30 years of experience.
Using words like “results-oriented”, “driven” and “committed” don’t do enough to set you apart. Anyone can claim these. A favorite saying from my days at Dale Carnegie is “evidence defeats doubt”. Anyone can say they are results-oriented on their resume but if you can demonstrate results, then you are doing more than your competition. For example, tell the reader that you are a Project Management Professional who has built a successful 15-year career because of the ability to deliver mission-critical, multimillion dollar projects on time and within budget. Tell them how you use your influencing abilities and technology tools to lead project teams with up to 40 cross-functional experts who are globally dispersed. Tell them how you have identified and implemented process improvements within the project life cycle that have delivered at least 10% in cost savings and 20% increase in productivity.
Job postings are a treasure trove of information and they can give you plenty of the direction needed to craft your summary. I like to use a sample size of five job postings, reading through each of them and highlighting similarities which will end up being the points I make in my summary. The first paragraph and then the qualifications section usually hold the most information. The first paragraph is what is most important to the employer, which is why it is first. For the qualifications section, if a job postings uses words like “team player”, “good communication skills”, etc. (how to write a job posting to attract the right candidate is a completely different topic), consider not just regurgitating these words in your summary but tying it back to your own performance. For example, “leverages strong communication and influencing skills when inspiring sales teams which has resulted in exceeding quota for eight consecutive years.” That sentence connects the dots for the reader. You aren’t just telling them you are good at communicating but showing them what has happened as a result of your communication skills. This immediately elevates you from other candidates.
Including a summary in your resume is important but using it to paint a picture of your true value to the prospective employer is crucial. Tell them more about your expertise and what makes you good at what you do. This is key to crafting a compelling story.
Want to know if your summary is doing your justice? Careerluxe offers free resume critiques so send us yours now. ‘Reword’ yourself, you deserve it.