Here’s the definition of finding a job: filling a gap for an employer. Employers have needs that aren’t being taken care of by current employees. Your resume has to fill the gap and show an employer where you would fit on their team.
The summary statement is the most important way to show employers the gap you can fill and the talent you offer. This is a paragraph at the top of your resume—about 50 words and four or five sentences.
In this paragraph you highlight very specific skills so an employer knows exactly which jobs meet your profile. This is an example of a summary statement that gives an employer no clear direction:
Seasoned professional with strong communication and problem solving skills. Proven track record in advising, presentation and administration. Team player who is technologically proficient, organized and attentive to detail.
Cryptic. An ambiguous summary statement is a particular problem in a very competitive job market. Employers are inundated with resumes, and if they don’t see your value or potential fit within about 60 seconds, your resume is pushed off to the side.
As a recruiter I would look at this summary statement and have endless questions. What kind of communication skills? Writing articles, blogs, annual reports? A radio announcer? What kind of “presentation”? As a conference speaker? Client presentations? What kind of advising? Coaching employees? Financial advisory skills? And administration…meaning work as an executive assistant or an office manager?
Exhausting. When recruiters have all these questions, their only option is to delve deeper into your resume and try to connect all the dots. That takes time they don’t have.
The other critical advice about summary statements is to leave out the “attributes” every employer expects in every employee. You don’t set yourself apart in any way by stating you’re a problem solver, a team player, an organizational maven or someone who will dot i’s and cross t’s.
What should be in your resume summary statement are sentences that help recruiters do their job. They want to know if you are a fit, and your summary statement should provide a quick yes or no.
A well written summary statement is applicable to all jobs that meet your skills and experience profile. You don’t need to change your summary for certain jobs, or have multiple versions of your resume. There’s one you and you should have one resume.
So what are the elements of a great summary statement? There’s no defined formula, but it’s a good idea to you focus on, for example:
- A few adjectives to describe you as a professional (stay away from the universal must-have attributes like “hardworking”)
- Your very specific areas of expertise (e.g., not just marketing—the kind of marketing)
- How you’ve achieved the greatest success (e.g., in entrepreneurial environments)
- Types of industries, organizations, clients you’ve worked with
- Size and type of teams you’ve led or significant titles you’ve supported
- Special achievements, certifications or degrees that set you apart.
Here’s an example of a summary statement that tells an employer exactly what kind of job the candidate can fill:
A returning professional who has 15 years of investment experience at top 10 money management firms. Widely recognized as astute relationship-builder and client service professional who managed and exceeded performance targets for equity portfolios up to $500 million in assets. Continued to develop forecasting and analysis skills through significant finance-related volunteer work at major non-profits.
When a recruiter reads this summary statement it’s clear this woman could be an asset in a variety of portfolio management, client service, business development and general finance roles. There’s no guesswork in this summary, and your summary statement should be as clear and concise.
- Use the term “returning professional” to make it clear that you have continued to develop your business skills in your time out of the work force.
- Emphasize metrics–the facts and figures that prove you were successful.
- Stress that you continued to develop your business skills through significant volunteer work.
- Contact me if you need help writing or refining your resume!
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