Picture this: a hiring manager sits down at her desk to review the dozens of resumes which just arrived via email in reply to a job she just posted online. She decides to sort through them, quickly glancing through the top of the first page of each resume, looking for a few stand-out documents which catch her eye, as well as those which are easy to exclude.
Do you know what her reaction would be to your resume? Will she quickly find the words she’s seeking, or will she dismiss it as unimpressive and set it aside?
While it’s true that many of the larger employers sort through resumes using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), many of the small to medium size companies do not. Those companies rely on the ability of the hiring manager to identify the best candidate, based on their own perceptions and priorities. With limited time and more resumes than ever arriving on her desk, you can be pretty sure that decisions will be made in seconds after a brief glance through the resume.
A well laid out resume is important to create that first good impression, but when the hiring manager begins reading through the document, it is going to be important to capture her attention quickly. I am continually surprised to still see — even recently — that many candidates still use the old-fashioned objective statement at the top of their resumes which does not include any useful information, rather than a well written, concise profile summary, which we recommend.
What is a profile summary?
A profile summary shows “what is in it FOR THE EMPLOYER. It allows you more opportunities to showcase your talents; i.e. a snapshot of all of the great things you have done, all wrapped up in a bow at the top of your resume. So instead of employers having to search through your resume for the reasons to interview you – you make it easy for them by listing them right at the top, where it will be seen first.”
In essence, the summary is a brief introduction of the most important information an employer needs to know about you. It is similar to your answer to that dreaded interview question “tell me about yourself“, otherwise known as the seven second elevator speech, which we have also discussed before here; it also could also be included in your LinkedIn Summary.
What information should be included in the profile summary?
The summary should list about five points, written either in point form or as a paragraph. It should list the most important information that an employer should know about your professional background.
It could include any of these items:
– a suitable professional title, years of experience and expertise, e.g. “Highly respected Human Resource Manager, with over 10 years’ progressive experience working in the non-profit sector”
– relevant educational achievements and/or professional designations, e.g. “University educated and a Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP)”
– the most important (core) skills and achievements, e.g. “Skilled negotiator, having successfully handled and resolved union disputes; knowledgeable on issues regarding payroll; designed and implemented professional staff development training”
– work values and principles, e.g. “Strong commitment to inclusive non-discrimination hiring practices”
– relevant personal characteristics, e.g. “Highly energetic, enthusiastic and confident”
– basic abilities
– relevant languages, computer software knowledge, driver’s license
How do I write the summary?
Read through job postings to which you are planning to apply and identify the qualifications listed by the employers. Use them as your guide — try to echo the employers priorities; for example, if they mention education first, then start your profile summary with your education. If they don’t mention education, leave it off the summary.
Make sure to load it with proper key words — don’t assume that the employer (or the the computerized Applicant Tracking System) knows your acronyms or abbreviations. Also, be specific — for example, if the employer asks for knowledge of Microsoft Word, don’t just say Microsoft Office — list the specific software that they are asking for.
To sum up…
- Write approximately 5 sentences
- Keep the sentences short, crisp and readable
- Include your relevant background, skills, values and personality
- Be specific
- Use the correct key words, focusing on the priorities of employers
For inspiration, check out the almost 200 sample summaries in Susan Ireland’s resume site.