In order to make a powerful impression, your resume should start with a hard-hitting summary – a section that quickly introduces you and provides readers with a brief overview of your skills and abilities. Done correctly, your resume summary will wow potential employers and ensure you get an interview.
I’ve written about creating a great resume summary before (see 5 Ways to Start your Resume with a Bang), but, given the importance of this section of your resume, I want to offer some additional ideas. After all, you only have a few seconds to impress recruiters and the resume summary is the first thing they will see.
So here are 6 ways to liven up your resume summary …
Choose two or three powerful quotes that show employers how respected you are. These can come from LinkedIn, performance reviews, letters or any other source.
The key is to choose quotes that emphasize key qualities for your target position. For example, if you are going for an account manager role, choose a quote that emphasizes your skills in customer relations or revenue growth. If you are applying for project management roles, a quote about on-time shipping or how well you manage project budgets would be very powerful. Where possible, use quotes that are more recent – if the only testimonials on your resume are from your college professors 15 years ago, employers will assume that no-one has said nice things since then.
If your impact can be quantified, highlight some of your best results in the introduction. That’s a sure-fire way to grab attention.
For example, one of my resume clients was a sales rep. He had always delivered strong results until his most recent role. Through no fault of his own, the company was struggling and he was worried about how this reflected on him. To address this, I began the resume with a summary that listed 4 of his best sales achievements in bullet point form. This impressive opening ensured that employers understood exactly how successful he had been
Highlight Awards and/or Recognition
If your work has received awards – either internal performance awards or external recognition – you can list those in the resume summary. This also applies to any other recognition such as regular speaking engagements or media articles. Recognition like this is an easy way to communicate your worth to employers by showing how much others value you.
Include some personality
Too often, resume summaries sound dry and predictable. Recruiters and managers have read it all before and are often tempted to skim quickly over the summary to get to the meat of the resume. That’s why it’s helpful to inject some personality into them. One way to do this is to describe the way you approach your work and write in the first person. For example, an HR director might say:
I am passionate about the importance of creating a positive employment culture. I believe that true business success can only come when employees feel fully engaged and are empowered to contribute their very best work.
Making such a bold declaration has two positive effects. First, it attracts the right employers. If a CEO feels the way you do, he will want to interview you. Second, it turns off those companies who don’t value what you value. This is a good thing as you would never be happy there anyway so don’t be afraid to state who you are boldly and clearly.
Use Bullet Points
One option is to break the usual paragraph into one-line bullet points with each one describing a key selling point. This means you need to really understand your target employers – what do they want? What do they value? What makes you qualified to to help them?
Once you understand this, you can craft bullet points that speak directly to their concerns. And if you’re not sure what those concerns are, study the job description – you’ll find clues in there. For example, if a company advertises for a project manager who can introduce Agile methodologies, it’s a safe bet that they are struggling to deliver products on time (otherwise why would they change?). In this case, a bullet point might read:
Expertise in Agile methodology: Consistent record of delivering complex projects on time and within budget
If you have worked for respected companies, well-known public figures, or well-known brands, be sure to highlight them in the introduction. (Don’t assume that readers will see key information when they read through the whole resume – most people only skim resumes very quickly and often miss all kinds of important details). In one case, a client of mine who worked in TV news had a glowing letter of recommendation from Tom Brokaw. Needless to say, I quoted the letter and used his name at the very beginning of the resume.
Use the resume summary to put your best foot forward
Not all of these strategies will be appropriate for you, but by picking and choosing the ones that do suit your situation, you can greatly strengthen your chances of securing an interview.
Finally, if you’d like to see a step-by-step demonstration of how I write a resume summary, check out my post How to Write a Resume Summary that Grabs Attention. Happy resume writing!