When I wrote my first resume back in the '80s, there was no such thing as a Summary of Qualifications. Resumes basically just gave your Objective, Work Experience, and Education.
Today, your resume should start with a Summary of Qualifications that spotlights your most impressive and relevant accomplishments, skills, and experience.
Your resume summary can go by any of several names, such as Summary of Qualifications, Highlights, Professional Summary, or Profile. You might even want to title it with your own personal headline. The important thing is that the summary gives a quick overview of the value you offer the employer.
Q. Why do I need a summary?
A. Hiring managers get dozens or hundreds of resumes for each job opening, so they tend to decide within about 10 seconds whether a resume goes in the Yes, No, or Maybe pile for interviews.
If they can’t see your qualifications quickly and easily, your resume won’t pass the 10-second test. So, a summary of qualifications that shows your credentials at a glance greatly increases your chance of landing in the Yes pile.
Q. What should the summary say?
A. Your summary should be a little different for each job you apply for, since each employer’s requirements and terminology will be different (even for similar jobs).
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 they're seeking. When you write your summary, focus on showing that you possess the skills and attributes that employer needs.
Q. What does a summary look like?
A. The summary can be written in bullet list or paragraph format, and it's not necessary to use full sentences. Here are three examples:
Registered Nurse [bullet list format]
- 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
Marketing Communications Associate [bullet list format]
- 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 (2009)
- 2 years' blogging experience promoting and reviewing on-campus social events
- Committed to building expertise in web communications, social media, and search engine marketing through exceptional work ethic and ability to quickly absorb and apply new information
Facilities Maintenance Technician [paragraph format]
HVAC-certified 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; general electrical and plumbing repairs; coordinating and assisting licensed vendors; power and hand tool use. Committed to safety, customer service, and clear communication with management and residents.
Q. What about the Objective?
A. An Objective at the beginning of a resume is pretty much passé, except in a few circumstances. You should include an Objective only if you fit one of these three categories:
- You're just starting your career and don’t have a clearly defined career path yet.
- You're changing careers or transferring from one field to another.
- You're returning to the workforce after a long absence.
If you need one, don't just use a throw-away phrase like, "Seeking a challenging position with room for growth." 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.
Want a Readable Resume Summary? Opt for a Bullet List
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Resume Objective or Summary: You Need One, but Which?
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