In today’s job market, a resume has to be more than a simple career history. A well-written resume should provide the reader with a clear understanding of who you are, what unique experience and skills you possess, and how you can translate those skills and experience to add immediate value to an organization.
The best way to accomplish this on your resume is to open with a strong Profile or Summary of Qualifications. If done well, your Summary will help you bridge the gap between what you’ve done in the past and what you’d like to do in the future. It sets the tone for everything that follows in the resume and creates context that will help frame your experience in the proper light.
This section will take up the first quarter to the first third of the first page, which is incredibly valuable real estate as it’s the first thing the reader will see.
Here are five steps to help you build a strong Summary.
1. Construct your Summary in a way that flows and is easy to read.
I believe that a well-crafted Summary should have four distinct sections.
- Start with a headline that quite simply defines what position you’re targeting. Example: Business Development Executive.
- Follow that with a quick tagline or value statement that quickly describes what you can do. Example: Drive rapid revenue and market share growth for start-up technology companies.
- Next comes a three or four line paragraph that supports your opening value statement and provides some more depth about your experience and skills.
- Finally, add a few bullets that provide concrete examples of the impact you’ve had in previous roles that reflect what you can do for future employers.
2. Target the summary as narrowly as possible.
A broad resume is typically an ineffective resume. A resume that is closely tailored to specific positions you’re pursuing will be more much likely to resonate with recruiters and hiring managers. For example, if you’re going after a sales positions, everything in the Summary should be centered around that focus.
3. Understand your target audience.
Try to get into the mind of the person who will be on the other side of the interview. What are they looking for in their ideal candidate? What are some of the challenges their company may be facing? Carefully review the job postings to understand what specific requirements they’re looking for and make sure that your Summary is aligned appropriately.
4. Define your personal value proposition.
According to Bill Barnett in a recent Harvard Business Review post, a personal value proposition (PVP) “is at the heart of your career strategy. It’s the foundation for everything in a job search and career progression — targeting potential employers, attracting the help of others, and explaining why you’re the one to pick. It’s why to hire you, not someone else.”
To create a strong PVP to integrate into your Summary, focus on setting a clear target, identifying your unique strengths, aligning your strengths to your target position, and providing evidence and success stories.
5. Deliver proof of your personal value proposition.
I’ll use the sales candidate as a reference point again. In the bullets following the Summary paragraph, deliver specific examples of how you have previously made an impact in a sales capacity. Perhaps you should create a bullet that exemplifies how you have contributed to revenue growth. In another bullet, quantify how you have helped to increase market share. You get the idea. Back up your value statement with proof that you have already and can continue to perform in this role at a high level.
The Summary of Qualifications is just one piece of the resume puzzle, but it’s the most important piece. The experience section of your resume is what it is, and there’s not much you can do to change it. Your Summary, on the other hand, can be creatively structured and targeted to position you for the next stage of your career. So don’t overlook it.