How to Write a Resume Summary the Right Way
When you're just starting out on your job hunt you might be asking yourself those age old questions, "Just what is the difference between a resume and a CV?" and "Should I be using a resume summary or CV personal statement?"
Well wonder no more weary job hunter because we're going to cut through the confusion and explain exactly what one is and what the difference is between a resume and a CV before telling you how to write an amazing resume summary.
- A resume is basically a very concise description of your whole career. Usually very to the point an often no longer than one page.
- Resumes are more popular in the United States and less common in the UK (though not unheard of).
- A resume summary is a very short personal description at the top of the resume briefly outlining who you are, skills and motivations.
- A curriculum vitae, Latin for "course of life" is a little more detailed. This is the preferred format in the UK, usually a little longer than a resume often coming in at two pages long.
- Rather than a summary, a CV has a personal statement at the top. Slightly longer than a resume summary it still covers the same core details.
- In the US these can be very detailed and run into many pages and are often used for academic applications.
Hopefully that has cleared things up a little, but to keep things simple just remember the two points below:
- When you're applying for jobs in the UK, use a CV at a couple of pages long, with a brief personal statement.
- If you're in the US, you're better using a very short 1 page resume with an even more succinct resume summary.
Why is it important to have a summary?
With just one page to describe your working life, space is at an absolute premium in a resume. The primary purpose of a resume summary is to immediately catch the eye of a recruiter, if you have the skills to produce a well written summary you convey in just one or two short sentences your exact skills and abilities, your goals and something unique to you that makes you immediately stand out against other candidates.
Without a resume summary you'll be forcing a recruiter to scan through the rest of your resume to find out if you're a good fit for the role. If they can make that decision in just a few seconds from a good resume summary though, you're much more likely to get put in the prospects pile.
Note on length
You need absolute brevity in a resume summary and it's a point that can't be reiterated enough. Every word has to have substance in a resume summary and you don't have time for filler.
Keep them to about 2-3 sentences long and try to stick at around 50 to 75 words and try not to go over 100.
What to write
You should break your resume summary down into three easy to digest parts that we've outlined below:
You should begin by describing who you are your core skills
One good opening to draw a recruiter's eye is to use some bold adjectives to describe your core skills. Think along the lines of "Highly driven salesperson with seven yearsexperience in..." or "Creative interior designer that..."
Feel free to play around with the wording of this section to find what works for you. Remember, your main goal here is to get straight to the point, the recruiter needs to know exactly who you are, how experienced you are and what your most important core skill is.
Next, tell the recruiter exactly how your skills are going to help them
With hundreds of candidates to sift through employers unfortunately aren't interested in you personally. You might have sunk your heart and soul into your resume, but until you make it to the interview stage you're just another piece of paper in the recruiter's eyes.
That's why your second sentence should lead directly into a specific example of how your skills are going to help that employer. This will mean you'll have to read over the job description, find that critical thing they're looking for and then apply an example from your own life.
Let's say the employer has put "Meeting customer needs" at the very top of the job description. This should be a clue for you to put down just what a stellar relationship builder you are with a natural intuition for finding the customers needs.
Your summary should now start to look something like this: "Target-oriented salesperson with 7 years experience who frequently exceeded customer expectations gaining consistent 5 star feedback"
Now you're starting to sound a little more impressive as well as showing you'll add value to the employer.
Finally, talk about some long term ambitions
Employers are usually on the lookout for people with some drive who look like they'd be willing to stick around at an organisation long term. If you can concisely put across some ambitions or where you might see yourself in a few years time it really tells an employer you've thought seriously about your career.
Ending with something along the lines of "Long term aspirations to manage my own sales team and seeking opportunities for long term growth" is a strong finish. You show you know exactly what you want and that you're hoping to be with the organisation long term.
Advice on formatting
While we've already said to keep things short, you might also want to consider putting your resume summary into bullet point format, or even making the first line bold text. Anything you can do to draw a recruiter's eye straight to your summary is going to help you out. As with most aspects of the summary though, experiment to see what works and what doesn't.
What not to write
Nothing is going to put off a recruiter more than being met with a block of text. If they're not able to assess you in the first few seconds of picking up your resume then you're on the path for guaranteed rejection.
Avoid too much personal information
Some candidates make the mistake of listing a lot of personal information like hobbies or other non work related topics. The trouble with this is that it's probably just not relevant to the job you're applying for and will have recruiters switching off.
Don't generalise or use cliches
If there's one lesson we can't reiterate enough, it's that you need to be specific. While it might be tempting to create a single catch all summary you'll end up looking exactly like the other candidates with nothing to distinguish you from them. So avoid phrases like, "Good communicator" and "Motivated and hardworking" as they're far too generic and seen as cliches.