In an earlier couple of postings I mentioned that many recruiters and interviewers only look at the top half of the first page—commonly called “above the fold”. Those postings covered the first two elements generally found on resumes: Contact information and Objective statements. But those are just the “warm up” – the real focus of the recruiter is the first sizable, easily-read “summary” of your talents.
The Summary is where you get to give your first sales pitch. This is the section that piques the interest of the reader and gives the first solid presentation of your desires, talents, and worth. Every sentence or bullet in the summary can (and should) stand on its own and provide the recruiter with a solid, action-packed insight of your strengths. Descriptive text, strong use of keywords and action verbs, and a brief to-the-point “pitch” is what’s needed here.
The Summary should generally be a paragraph format, allowing easy reading or scanning for the reviewer. It should be in the same font size as all the other text portions of your resume. It should be about 3-5 sentences, but no more than 7 lines on the page. Optionally you can have 2-3 strong sentences with 3-4 bullets that have detailed information or extensive numbers that would be difficult reading in a paragraph form.
This is a bit tricky…you want sentences and phrases that are strong with keywords and action verbs, but also easy to read. The grammar needs to be simple and proper without sentences that only make sense when reading it through a second or third time. The “grade level” of the vocabulary should be targeted at the job, but not above that of any potential decision makers that might be reading the resume.
The summary is in essence the 30-60 second sales pitch that you might give verbally. When you are sitting on the other side of the interview table and the interviewer asks, “So, tell me about yourself”, your brief introduction should essentially be a variation on the Summary section of your resume. This way you can drive home, in both verbal and written forms, your key strengths, your successes, your talents, and your great fit for the job.
The summary is the visionary portion of your resume. This is where you can select the very best of your past career to help the reader envision you fulfilling not just the job, but the role that they need filled. You should look at this section as a way to project yourself into the firm, into the future, into the successes that the job requires, such that the recruiter envisions you as the best candidate for the job.
Your summary, if not well constructed, might turn out to be redundant of parts of your Work History section. While you’ll definitely draw summary points from your past, they should be future-focused. This summary section isn’t just about detailing specifics of your past work, but more about tying in your talents and successes in relation to the job that you are applying for. For example, make a direct reference of how your success in a past role is similar to a quality or key role in the job description.
Bottom Line: This is the key section that appears “above the fold”. This is where you tell your story about how you are the ideal candidate for this position. Be bold, be positive, and be focused. This is not a job history section or collection of assorted interesting facts – this is the best (and often last) chance to impress the reader so they continue to read your resume or make that call for an interview!
Recent Update: See the more recent resume Summary section Part 2 posting for more details on writing a summary statement.