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Thursday, April 20, 2006
Vague, Weak, and Ineffective
I’ve written about summaries before on the blog but I’m going to revisit the subject because summaries are without a doubt, the most difficult part of a resume to write. Additionally, summaries are consistently the worst-written sections that I see in self-written resumes. Because of this, I feel it is worth another look at these bugaboo bits of a resume.

The summary is just what it says – a summary. Unfortunately, most people use the summary to try to communicate intangibles and soft skills rather than summarizing the content of the resume. As a result, the summary ends up vague, weak, and full of “fluff” information. The summary has a purpose to give the reader a fast overview of what the rest of the resume will detail. It should spark the interest of the reader and communicate the qualifications of the job seeker. The reader should understand just from the summary what the job seeker offers in terms of depth of experience, industry, level of expertise, and broad skills.

I’ve pulled a few weak summaries from my files of resumes submitted for review to examine. The first is actually an objective rather than a summary. I don’t recommend objectives be used on a resume simply because they aren’t targeted toward the audience. The reader is reading to see what the job seeker has to offer, not to hear what the job seeker wants from the employer. The sample one I pulled reads as follows:

“I am looking for an IT or consulting leadership position where I will be challenged, both technically and professionally, that has potentially significant business impact, and where the corporate vision and culture mesh well with my sense of ethics and work style.”

This is an interesting one because the job seeker who wrote this was adamant that I didn’t read his resume prior to sending him some preliminary questions about his goals in the job search. He said that he stated clearly in his objective what it was he was targeting. This tells me nothing about the job seeker’s goals other than he’s looking for consulting leadership. I’m not sure what consulting leadership is. All the consultants I’ve worked with are not the leaders of the company, but rather, well, consultants! It doesn’t tell me in what industry he’s targeting either. Information Technology spans all industries.

Let’s take a look at a weak summary. Here’s a good example of a weak summary:

“High-integrity, energetic leader known for the ability to envision and create successful, multi-faceted business relationships. Believes firmly that the strength of any organization is in its people and is committed to creating and supporting an environment that fosters teamwork, cooperation, and respect. Proven track record of strategic positioning, creativity and motivational leadership with an innate ability to translate business relationships into significant revenue.”

Taken completely out of the resume, can you tell anything about this person from reading this? No, you can’t. Is he a CEO or a used car salesman? The description could fit either. What is his industry? How many years experience does he have? Does it quantify “significant revenue”? Significant revenue to Microsoft is not the same thing as significant revenue to Joe’s Car Wash down on Second Street.

Many people are familiar with executive summaries as they appear in reports, business plans, and white papers. The purpose of the executive summary is to cover what is in the paper quickly and in a short version so the reader can grasp the overall theme or point of the paper without having to read the entire document word-for-word, start-to-finish. A summary in a resume is exactly the same. It is to give the reader a clear picture of the candidate up front so the reader knows what to expect from the rest of the document. Resumes aren’t read word-for-word, start-to-finish so the summary is a key part that must function properly. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of space.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 /


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