10 Sins of Your Resume’s Summary

Ah, resume summary. Such an elusive beast. Writing a proper resume summary is the most rewarding part of resume writing but also the hardest one. There are so many ways to make a mistake that some people decide to ditch the whole summary thing and proceed without it.

Let’s cut to the point and see which mistakes are the most common, so you could evade them:

  1. Usage of pronouns — Save this for your memoirs. In resume, all statements should be written as if you are understood subject without using pronouns. “I led a team of 20 sales agents” or “He led a team of 20 sales agents” are incomparably worse than just “Led a team of 20 sales agents”. This one shows your resume crafting skill to a reader and a level of research you conducted prior to resume writing. Don’t be that guy.
  2. Usage of generic, vague expressions — You’re self-motivated fast learner and a team player? No sh*t? Well, then don’t be surprised when you’re not called for an interview. The whole point of a resume summary is to show how unique you are and that a skill set you developed is transferable to a new position. If your summary contains the phrase team player or enthusiastic or detail oriented or any of those vague, clichéd classifications you find in most resume templates online, that will prove one of two things: you have very poor communication skills or you have a surplus of space on your resume.
  3. Mentioning specific circumstances — The summary is not a place to mention specific circumstances about your employment gap, medical state etc. Always have in mind that your resume summary is a sales pitch. You won’t find data about calories intake in McDonald’s advertisements, will you? That’s because that’s not a place to mention them. Think of a summary as of the shortest marketing message about yourself that you can convey to a recruiter.
  4. Usage of abbreviations — The summary is a great place to list your skills and achievements but never forget that the first screening of a resume is done by someone who is in HR, not specifically related to your narrow field of specialization. A recruiter may or may not know typical jargon or abbreviations used in your industry so don’t risk being rejected because of misunderstanding.
  5. Describing personal characteristics — Some authors advise on stating that you’re energetic, dynamic etc in your resume summary in order to make it more powerful. Don’t do that. It’s in the same category as being a fast learner, good under pressure etc. In a word, it means nothing. You can’t prove it, the recruiter is not going to believe it, you’re wasting precious real estate of your resume summary and you’ll look as a generic online advice transcriber. Just stick with concrete facts and provable statements.
  6. Involving personal information — Racial, ethnic, marriage, age and other personal information doesn’t belong to a resume in the first place, but even more in a resume summary. It’s a place to emphasize your excellent points and if you think personal information is the best you can do, then it’s an immediate red flag. Recruiters and hiring managers are very sensitive to personal information as they can be taken as a ground for future legal actions against them on a basis of discrimination. That’s why resumes with this kind of personal info are tossed in a trash can immediately.
  7. Big block of text — Summary is there to help a recruiter or a hiring manager to scan your resume faster and intrigue them to keep on reading. If the first thing they face on your resume is a big block of dense text, their eyes are almost automatically going to a next more readable and digestible piece of information. So, no matter that some authors recommend your resume summary to be a paragraph of 2–5 sentences, they obviously never had to scan a couple of hundreds of resumes at once. Don’t do that. Use bullets.
  8. Listing basic skills — If you think that your knowledge of MS Word or Internet Explorer is the best you can offer to a prospective employer, than your job search is doomed even before it began. Never list anything so prosaic in a resume summary. It should be a section of your resume that shows how unique and specifically exceptional you are. If all you can list there is something that everybody else on the planet can do, don’t write the summary at all.
  9. Exaggeration and misleading — It’s very easy to get carried away when you’re thinking about leaving the best possible impression on a possible employer. 20k of something easily becomes 30k. 12% transforms into 17% in a second. Don’t do that. Above all, be honest and don’t lie. The risk is just not worth it.
  10. Including objective into summary — Now, this is a point where a lot of authors recommend including your objective into a resume summary. I would ask all of them one big, huge WHY? Why in a section where you should present what you can do for the future company you need to say what that company can do for you? I mean, everybody knows that you want the job because of the pay and possibilities for professional development and hierarchy climbing. Don’t write anything about that, you’ll just irritate a recruiter or a hiring manager.

Now, check your resume summary and tell me, what are sins of your resume’s summary? Found guilty on one or more aforementioned charges?

Will your most precious marketing document stay forever in a limbo of bad resumes or you’re landing that interview?

Vladimir is the founder of Epic CV, site with the most comprehensive articles about resumes. Join more than 28,000 followers on Vladimir’s Twitter for the most spectacular collection of short resume advice called #KillerResumeHacks.