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When presenting a resume to a prospective employer, you are essentially selling yourself. This includes not only selling your qualifications and abilities pertinent to the career you are seeking, but also selling your character, personality, and what makes you unique. Because employers typically have dozens of resumes to weed through before making decisions on which candidates to bring in and interview, they often don’t have time to carefully read each and every one. Especially ones with an objective on it (and I am not even going to touch on the subject of “objectives” right now… that could take up another blog post).  A well-written summary becomes your very first impression, and should catch the reader’s eye to give you that edge.

Your summary should highlight what your employer will find most important: any top skills and abilities you may possess, your best attributes and characteristics that will contribute to the job, and what makes you unique and best suited for the job. You’ll also want to include any experiences that relate to the job and its duties, your goals regarding the position, and what you as an individual can bring to the job or company that nobody else can. Each word and phrase should exude self-confidence in your ability and performance.  Because you’re selling yourself, feel free to use many descriptors and keyword action phrases about yourself and your abilities. Try to avoid generic terms such as “good” or “great”, or worse, phrases such as “excellent communicator” or “detail-oriented”. For example, if you wish to describe your leadership skills, rather than saying you are a “great leader”, instead state that you’re a leader because you’re a “turnaround champion” or “product evangelist” and then follow up with a brief summary why. Bring a previous experience in to back up your statement. Colorful words are a good way to make a fast impression, but it is even better to back those colorful words up with an ‘action zinger’ or actual background. Leave no room for doubt in your skills.

Resume summaries are typically written in two different styles: paragraph or bulleted. When using paragraph format, be sure to keep it no more than 4-5 lines long, as you don’t want to seem long-winded and lose the interest of the reader. These lines will typically be a listing of the qualifications you possess that will make a lasting positive impact on the employer. I usually follow that up with a bulleted keyword list to grab the reader’s attention.

When using bulleted style, you simply take those same lines and put them in bullets. You don’t necessarily have to have complete sentences when using bullets, though you can if you want to. Bulleted styles are not a way I do very often, but I’ve seen them done from time to time and they look really great.

Remember that when writing your summary, you don’t want to overload it with every single qualification and ability you possess. You want to showcase the ones that stand out the most to grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to read the rest of your resume. Be sure you closely proofread your summary when it is complete, as even the most basic writing skills can make a negative impression if there are errors present. Write your article in first person present tense, as though you are saying ‘I’ “Offer full scale project management expertise”, just don’t actually use the personal pronouns.

With a well-written, concise summary, you should be successful in catching the interest of any prospective employer.

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my goals list on blackboard

I see/hear lots of people debating about “objectives” versus “career summaries” on resumes.

For those of you who don’t know the difference, here is a quick explanation.

Starting back in the stone ages, when a person created their resume (typed, written by hand, chiseled with a sharp stone and slate, etc.) they would typically start the resume with an objective statement like this:

Objective- to obtain a challenging position where I can utilize my skills with a company that provides opportunity for growth“. Or something similar. What exactly is this telling the employer? “What can you do for me? How much will you pay me?”

It’s important to remember the main thing when creating your resume… it is not what the company can do for you, it’s what you can do for the company! Frankly, when a hiring person is going through a stack of resumes, they really aren’t caring what your goals in life are, or how you would like the company to open up opportunities for you. You have to prove to them that you are there to HELP THEM. Remember, it’s not about you. It is the first thing the reader will see, and I guarantee that you will NOT leave a lasting impression. Your resume will most likely end up in the circular file.

An objective statement by itself doesn’t do that.

A career summary explains what it is that you can do for the company, what your expertise is in, your brand, your strengths. All of these things tell the employer that you can DO THIS FOR THEM. If the career summary is followed by bulleted keywords, keyword action phrases, core competencies, etc., even better. The first half of the page is the area that gets looked at and decided upon instantly. Better to pack a punch. Here is an example of an effective career summary:

“Dynamic executive leadership career in international, billion dollar organizations with a rich mix of finance, operations, internal/external processes, technical savvy and business development. Intimate knowledge of financial processes, operating results and profitability. Expert in executing team-driven process improvements to increase revenue growth operational efficiency, and overall profitability. Executive MBA. Expertise in:

*Financial & Procurement Controls
*International Sourcing, Operations & Finance
*Contract Negotiations & Procurement Controls
*Technology & Process Implementation
*Strategic & Financial Planning
*Start Ups, Turnaround & Revitalization”

Much better, more impactful, don’t you think?

Now, I have seen (and written) some resumes where it says something like, “Objective-Executive Finance Position” that was followed by a career summary. In that case, it was/is more like an introduction to the person, their brand, and the position they want.

Go over your resume thoroughly and remove/rewrite your objective so that it is speaking to the employer telling them what you can do for them. Replace it with a fresh and dynamic career summary. You need to sell yourself on your resume and a one liner objective isn’t going to do it.

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Every once in a full moon a client will say to me, “I love this. I love how it sounds. I am so happy with this resume, I would hire me!” and then, “I told my brother-in-law’s friend’s boss’s wife that I would let her look at my resume when you finished it. She manages Applebee’s and she has seen a lot of resumes in her time.”

Okay.

I get that people want to show off their resume and hear what other’s say. I do. If a person tells me that someone they know is in HR and they want to send it to them, I understand. You want to show your friends. You want to hear their take on your resume. But not all friendly advice is good advice.

Case in point: I had a person call me up and ask me questions about my process and my resumes. She was referred to me by a senior level client of mine. This person was in IT (network analyst) and had 5 pages of experience and technical jargon as her current resume.

She said, “I don’t see any objective statements on your sample resumes”.

I said, “True. You won’t. I use a career summary and branding statements”. I then started to explain career summaries to her when she stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “I don’t want a career summary. I need an objective”. I asked her why she thought she needed an objective and she said because her friend’s aunt worked as an HR person for a small manufacturing company and she said that a resume was no good to her unless it had an objective. I had heard of this company, so I was surprised that the HR person had such strict, outdated, and ineffective rules regarding the types of resumes she wanted to see.

As I was trying to educate her about the power of branding and career summaries vs. objectives, she was pretty adamant that she wanted the objective statement. So we moved on to a couple of other things and I was surprised at her ‘demands’ which weren’t really demands, just antiquated resume ‘rules’. “I absolutely CANNOT have 2 pages” and “I have to list every application, hardware, device, etc” (even though most she said she hadn’t used in 10 years), and “It HAS to have the little ‘references upon request’ thingy at the bottom”, etc. because her friend’s aunt said so, and so on.

I think you get the gist of the conversation. Finally, I gently asked her, “Why don’t you have your friend’s aunt write your resume? Or at least you write it and have her add her two cents?” and she said, “But I was referred to YOU and I want YOU to write it!!”

I politely declined the job and vaguely suggested a few other sites that might appeal more to what she wanted. I’m sure she will find someone who will give her an objective and keep her 15 yrs IT experience to 1 page.

So my point is this— your friends/colleagues may have great intentions to help steer you in the right direction, but may not be doing it effectively. Their advice might actually hinder your efforts, not help. Better to leave it to those of us who are trained and have built careers around writing dynamic and effective resumes. Do your homework. Call around and talk to different writers until you find someone who you are comfortable with. Let them know what your expectations are and listen to what they have to say. Your friend’s aunt might be trying to help, but her help might stop you from getting the job.

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