How do I write a good CV summary? What should be included? — Vincent, Bronx
This is one area that many resume writers struggle with. Your resume summary is the first impression a hiring manager or HR department gets about you. If you were speaking directly to a manager you wouldn’t want to be too verbose or unfocused — you want to briefly highlight your background and why you’re the right person for the job. This is also exactly what you should accomplish with your resume summary.
Select a structure. It can be in either paragraph form or a list of bullets. The list of bullets tends to be easier to scan quickly.
Get the length right. If using a paragraph style, don’t go more than 3 or 4 sentences. If you choose bullets, 6 is the optimal number. You can go a few less or a few more, but stay within the 4-8 bullet range. Remember, it’s a summary!
Bold where appropriate. Bolding certain key words can make them jump off the page. Bold too many and your summary becomes alphabet soup. So, bold no more than 3 key words or phrases in your CV summary.
Tailor it to the opportunity. A general summary won’t cut it — make sure you show why you are a good fit for this role. Point out exact skills or experiences required for this job that you possess, such as:
- Got Technology? Take a look at the required and desired technical skills and craft a first bullet detailing your experience. Think something along the lines of, “Sr. C++ Developer with 10+ years of hands-on multithreaded experience using Boost and STL on UNIX/Linux platforms.”
- Describe your business knowledge. It’s important to show any relevant experience you have in the company’s industry or business area. For example, if you were applying for a Programming role with an Investment Bank, consider including something like, “10 years of Financial Services experience, including 5 years in Equities and previous exposure to FI and FX.”
- Recent Past. If your previous role was also similar to the one you are applying for, mention that position, what you were doing and how long you were there.
- Show your pedigree. Having a degree from a top school is something you’ll want to mention in your summary. In addition, if the job requires specific certification and you are certified in that area, you should mention that too, such as “Certified Java Developer”.
Skip the soft skills. Being a “Team Player,” an “Excellent Communicator” or a “Creative Thinker” is great, but you don’t need to list these skills in your summary. If you have these traits, it will come across in an interview. The best way to get an interview is with a solid, to-the-point resume summary.
Don’t forget to see if your resume passes The Six Second Test, where your summary is one of the first places a hiring manager or IT recruiter will look.