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Resume Writing for the Clueless II: Your Summary

Summaries go near the top If I could give the clueless job seeker only one piece of resume writing advice, it would be this:

Start your resume with a summary of your best qualifications.

Your summary can go by any of several names, including Summary of Qualifications, Professional Summary, Profile, or Highlights of Qualifications. You might even want to title it with your own personal headline. The important thing is to begin the resume with a short preview of your most impressive and relevant accomplishments, skills, and experience.

Our first Resume Writing for the Clueless post covered contact information (your name, address, phone number, and email address) — the information you put at the top of your resume. Your summary comes immediately after that, providing the reader's first impression of what you have to offer. By placing it near the top, you ensure the reader will see it in those first precious seconds that can make or break your candidacy.

To figure out what you should include, go back to the job description, do your research, check the employer's web site, and pick out the most important qualifications for the job. When you write your summary, focus on proving that you possess those qualifications.

The summary can be written in paragraph or bullet list format, and it is not necessary to use full sentences, as you'll see in the samples below.

Example 1:
Registered Nurse

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • 12 years' experience as a Registered Nurse, including clinical research and coordination of cardiology clinical trials
  • 9 years' experience in direct patient care, including pre- and post-op and pediatric cardiology
  • Led 4-person team that studied and restructured nursing shift scheduling, reducing absenteeism 26% and cutting overtime costs in half
  • Outstanding communicator with both management and patients
  • Thorough knowledge of federal and state healthcare regulations

Example 2: 
Marketing Communications Specialist

PROFILE

  • 2.5 years as Marketing Coordinator for mid-size communications firm producing flyers, newspaper advertisements, brochures, and online content
  • BA in Marketing and Communications from University of Michigan (2006)
  • 2 years' blogging experience promoting and reviewing on-campus social events
  • Exceptional work ethic, ability to quickly absorb and apply new information, and strong desire to build upon skills in web communications, social media, and search engine marketing

Example 3:
Facilities Maintenance Technician

HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS

Skilled maintenance technician with more than 7 years of experience in building and grounds maintenance in multi-unit residential and healthcare facilities. Expertise includes painting and wall coverings; apartment make-ready services; electrical, plumbing, and HVAC services not requiring licensed vendors; wall and ceiling repairs; power tool and hand tool use. Committed to safety, customer service, and clear communication with management and residents.

What about the Objective?

An Objective at the beginning of a resume is pretty much passé, except in a few circumstances:   1) Just starting your career, 2) Changing from one field to another, or 3) Returning to the workforce after a long time.

If you fit one of those three categories, here's how to write an Objective that helps hiring managers and recruiters understand why and how you're qualified to meet their business needs.

Watch for the next topic in the Resume Writing for the Clueless series: Work Experience.

Please leave a question or comment about resume Summaries in the Comments box below.

RELATED LINKS
Resume Objective or Summary: You Need One, but Which?
Writing a Resume When You Have No Experience

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