In a prior post I wrote about the Summary statement, but a few e-mails lead me to write an update to that posting…specifically a “drill-down” on what it might look like.
To be honest, this is a section that can have a wide variety of writing styles and can even be a creative section where you can take chances if prior versions of your resume aren’t getting the results you want. It could be a paragraph or bullets or even a combination of these. It can focus on past (relevant) successes or it can pontificate about how you can apply your skills or make changes. Remember…the summary statement is a sales pitch!
But the e-mails I received asked for a sample of a summary statement rather than just the guidance from the prior post. So, as an example, here’s a summary statement from a resume I recently reviewed (with key elements changed for privacy). Let’s use it as a jumping-off point for you to craft your summary:
Over 10 years of experience analyzing network security challenges for a variety of private and government clients. An industry-recognized expert in cyber-security with several publications and co-author of a best-selling security strategy book. Holding 3 IT industry certifications and a Masters degree in IT Security, directed 3 major virus investigations for Fortune 20 firms, and a sought-after network security consultant with the U.S. military. A seasoned manager and executive leading diversely talented teams of up to 200 employees and annual service budgets of over $85 million.
It was a relatively good summary, so let’s critique the above paragraph:
- Always start with a concise sentence that complements your objective statement if you’ve used one. Jump straight to the task, role, talent or compassion you have—in this case it’s ”network security”, so something related to this topic should now be evident in at least 50% of all remaining sentences on the first page of this resume. Oh, and even if you have 20 or 30 years experience, it’s usually best to just say “over 10 years of experience” so you aren’t “aging” yourself out of an interview!
- The first sentence stated the “what”, the second sentence should be the “to what extent”. Build on the first sentence by detailing your strongest career aspects relevant to the opening sentence. In the example, stating “industry-recognized” is a strong approach, but with something this bold, it will need to be supported with some details later in the resume. Any “tangible” evidence of your expertise, such as publications or speaking events , are a great way of polishing the “expert” concept. It won’t always be something as high-profile as being a published author, but bring your strongest evidence to bear at this point.
- For roles where your expertise and not just your experience is key, further clarifying your qualifications brings a strong message. Industry or academic certifications can give the reader a sense of your qualifications, but make sure they’re relevant to the objective and not a distraction. If it’s about experience, bring in some “measurable” successes to the summary – while this can definitely be a revenue number, other things that can be “counted” will work as well.
- The last sentence can either bring in a complementary skill or can further clarify the primary skill. Be careful not to wander too far from your primary objective — if you bring up your next talent, it’s essential that your reader stills sees you as focused and targeted in this resume. In this example the management and the security skills can complement each other, so this new skill is complementary.
So be careful! The “Career Summary” is not a summary about you and your career, it’s about a summary of your experience from your career that is targeted and focused on the objectives of your resume. I’ve seen too many resume summary statements that just had 4-5 bullets or sentences that were a collection of random skills or assorted successes. While these might be interesting, they won’t help the reader envision you in one of their positions.
After you’ve written the summary, have a friend read your statement and then read the job description of the job you’re applying for…if they don’t see the relevance of each and every sentence, you need to rewrite it.
Bottom Line: The resume summary statement needs to be a short, strong section that pulls key successes from your career and states them in a way that leaves the reader with a vision of how your talents can be directly applied to the job you are targeting. Don’t end up with a jumble of disconnected phrases or sentences that, while entertaining, leaves the recruiter asking “so what does this person do and how well is it done”?
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