The summary brings together the experiences of your career into the present. It is a recommended section for seasoned professionals and should be a short paragraph with an overview of your most important job experience, technical or professional proficiencies, traits, and accomplishments. It can also be formatted as a series of bullet point statements.
For some tenured job seekers, there is a fine line to walk when writing your summary. You want to communicate your experience without coming across as old. Here you have some judgment calls to make. Let’s say you have over twenty-five years of experience. You could summarize that as “over fifteen years of experience.” It is a true statement that communicates experience without coming across as older. Or, perhaps you have thirty-five years of experience. You could represent that you have “over twenty years of experience.” The choice is ultimately yours. The concept is this: it is permissible to generalize your tenure in the summary section of your resume.
A summary section can have several different names, including:
• Career Description
• Career Summary
• Professional Qualifications
• Summary of Qualifications
The summary could contain some of the following information: level of responsibility, skills and responsibilities, potential contributions (as seen from the employer’s perspective), and highlights of top strengths and accomplishments. It emphasizes key information detailed later in the resume. Be sure to mention languages, special degrees, and other noteworthy skills. The summary acts much like an executive summary section of a long document or white paper. A simple three-part formula to help you create an impactful summary is:
1. A statement regarding your function or title, possibly including a reference to tenure.
2. A statement identifying your technical abilities and qualifications. Accomplishments can be included here as well.
3. A statement regarding your transferable job skills and/or professional traits.
Position: Senior Accountant
Statement regarding function or title: A detail-oriented CPA with over fifteen years of experience.
Statement regarding technical ability or qualifications: Proven ability in financial forecasting and analysis, audit, reconciliation, tax law, and evaluating and consulting with clients regarding business investments and opportunities.
Statement regarding transferable job skills/professional qualities: Conscientious, self-motivated, and service-oriented professional who enjoys client interaction.
Complete Summary: A detailed-oriented CPA with over fifteen years of experience. Proven ability in financial forecasting and analysis, audit, reconciliation, tax law, and evaluating and consulting with clients regarding business investments and opportunities. Conscientious, self-motivated, and service-oriented professional who enjoys client interaction.
After you have this foundation in place, you can add to it as your discretion dictates. An effective summary section should be concise. Many professionals make the mistake of making a summary too long. By using this three-part formula you will be crafting a solid, impactful summary.
What the Pros Say:
As a resume writer, what do you want to achieve with a Summary section?
Besides answering the three burning questions on every employer’s mind (Who are you? What do you do? What can you do for me?), I view the Summary section much the same as a movie trailer or the blurb on a book jacket. A good Summary will grab attention, pique interest, and create desire by presenting “the coming attractions.” Just like a movie trailer, we want the “viewer” to feel “this is one I’ve got to see” so he/she will set it aside to dive into later.
This is the most important part of your resume. It should highlight what you are most proud of in your career that is relevant to where you’re going, and any common threads of your career.
If someone found the top third of your resume, which contains your header and summary, lying on the ground, they should be able to tell who you are, what is unique about you, and the value you bring to an employer. Not only that, but it should make them look around on the ground for the rest of your resume because they want to read more. That is what I aim to achieve with every summary I write.
Almost all resumes for experienced professionals and executives should have a Core Competencies section. Although there are likely hundreds of competencies and skills that could be listed, as a rule keep it to no more than three columns of five, totaling fifteen.
Your competencies should fall into one of the following major areas: technical ability (what you are good at), communication skills, leadership, analytical thinking, teamwork, and time management. These tend to be the broad skills most employers seek.
This section can have other titles, such as:
• Core Strengths and Expertise
• Key Skills
• Signature Strengths
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