Your Summary Some people like to put an objective after their address block. I don't recommend that. Why? If you put an objective on your resume, you might paint yourself into a corner.
For example: Let's say you're looking for a job as the civil engineering manager in a small consulting engineering office. So, that's what you put on your resume as your objective. A recruiter from an international firm spots your resume and thinks you might make a good lead CE, but doesn't feel you yet have the experience to manage a 250 person department. In your objective you said you wanted a manager's position and the recruiter thinks you might not be interested in taking a lesser title. She's got 10 other resumes with comparable experience that don't say anything about wanting a management position, so, you don't get called. The other 10 engineers do. And, you never get a chance to get the experience you could have at a larger firm — something you would have loved to have done.
One last word about objectives. As a group, recruiters have seen plenty of resumes with exceedingly vague objectives. For example: "To contribute to the growth of my company," "To make the world a greener place for future generations," or "To impress my manager with the quality of my work." These are most likely one of two things: 1) An attempt to not get painted into a corner or, 2) Something someone put in their resume objective because they thought they had to have something, but they didn't really know what they wanted to do. Both are bad ideas and I've never seen a recruiter impressed by these kinds of objectives.
So, I'd recommend sticking with summaries. If you write your summary correctly, the reader will be able to infer what you'd probably like to do or would consider doing as well as get an idea of your capabilities. Your summary should be a short (no more than 10 lines long) paragraph describing you professionally from a skills and experience standpoint.
Here's where your prior hard work starts to be more useful. Your summary should be taking into account the job you want to do. It should be drawing on some of your skills lists (pick the top skills) as well as your stories, facts and figures. It should proverbially scream at the reader that you just might be the right person for the job.
For example: Remember Sammy sales rep from the last exercise? Let's say Sammy's spotted a sales supervisor job for a sporting goods company that he really respects. Sammy might say something like, "Senior sales rep / manager with 10 years experience at XXX Sports Retailer, XXX Wholesale Sporting Goods and XXX Sports Manufacturer. Promoted to sales manager by two previous employers and have led teams of up to 20 individuals to exceed companies' performance expectations. Supervised new sales representatives' initial client calls in the field as well as a team of retail sales people in a large store generating $XX,XXX.XX in receipts daily. Exceeded last year's personal sales quota by 500%."
The purpose of the summary is to help snag the reader's attention. If I were the recruiter trying to fill the sales supervisor position, I'd at least read more of Sammy's resume. If the rest of the resume continued to look good, I'd be happy to call Sammy and see what else I could find out.
Some notes to ponder about summaries:
These are not the resume version of a 25 words or less "elevator speech" you may have learned to draft in some job hunting seminars. I imagine if Sammy approached a casual acquaintance with something like his summary above, he'd leave them speechless. Which is, of course, not the desired effect. Your resume summary can be much more detailed than a verbal introduction, while still being short. It should provide enough interesting information to make the reader want to read further.
It's fair game to rewrite your summary for each job you apply to if you feel different aspects of your background will be more appealing to different employers. You probably won't have to do much of this, but consider it so that you're spot on.
Not all recruiters read the summary first. They may skip ahead directly to the chronological portion of your resume. Don't be disappointed or put off by this. Resist the temptation to ask a recruiter if they really read your resume if they call and ask you something you wind up thinking of as a stupid question. Remember Sally recruiter? If she spent more than a couple of minutes on your resume, you're lucky.
Even if a recruiter doesn't read your summary before calling you, they may use it later to help them quickly describe you to their hiring manager. They may use it as a memory jogger when comparing you to a stack of other candidates. And, some recruiters may use it to enter a quick summary of who you are into their Applicant Tracking System. Your summary may have more readers than you ever guessed.
Assignment #6 Write your summary. Make sure it paints a picture of you as a good fit for the job you seek.
Not sure you've hit the mark?
Take a copy of your summary to your best friend along with the job you're considering applying for and get some feedback.
Take a copy of your summary to someone who might not know you as well and ask them for what kind of job they think you ought to apply. You might be surprised by the results. (We do this in class and it's interesting to see the results.)
Working through your resume with a bunch of people doing the same thing? Have everyone bring in a copy of their summary (or objective, if that's what they've got) and a job in which they're interested. Bring enough copies of both for everyone in the group. Mix them up and pass them out separately. See who the group assigns to which job. Ask why.
Edit your summary until you're sure you've got a clear picture that will appeal to the people you most want to reach.