Most effective résumés open with a few sentences that help introduce the candidate to the reader. This section is usually called a summary or profile statement, and may be written in paragraph form (our preference) or using bulleted sentences. The top portion of the résumé is arguably the most important, as it is the most likely part to be read (even by hurried reviewers) and it should help prepare the reader to fully understand the content that follows.
Many résumé writers, and in particular professional writers, are making two key mistakes when composing summary/profile sections.
By definition a summary or profile should be both brief and concise. In our last blog post we talked about signal vs. noise problems with résumés, and it's not uncommon today to see summaries that take up a quarter page or more. This length defeats the purpose of including a summary, as the reader now has to wade through loads of content which will surely be repeated again later in the document.
It seems that there is a growing trend with professional résumé writers to include a laundry list of adjectives in this section. A typical statement may read
"Hard-working, efficient, diligent, intelligent, creative, and detail-oriented team player and go-getter."
What are the problems with a statement like this?
For one, it's trite. Every professional résumé writer is using these same words for almost every client, meaning all résumés start to look identical. The professional résumé writer is unlikely to get any complaints from their client, because the words are all complimentary and make the client feel good about herself.
In addition to being trite, the adjectives are all just a self-assessment. Who said you are hard-working, efficient, diligent, etc.? Well... you did! Should a company receiving the résumé expect you to write something different? How useful is anyone's opinion of their own skills and abilities?
Some bit of self-assessment can be useful, but the trend with many résumés today is to include entirely too much of it without any substance to back up the claims.
What to do?
A summary is the place to quantify skills ("five years of experience with...") or highlight accomplishments that the reader will then confirm through the experience included later in the résumé. It should be rather short and focused as much as possible on the skills and experience necessary for the job sought. Many of the concepts for writing a summary will be similar to the mindset when writing a cover letter, and it's not uncommon for a summary to sneak a hidden objective in as well.
Avoid clichés and lists of self-assessment to make your résumé stand out from the others.