Your resume's elevator pitch: The summary of qualifications

adminguy's picture
Posted November 18th, 2015 by adminguy



The objective section in a resume has been obsolete from quite some time. It makes sense in an age when a hiring manager has to filter through hundreds of resumes for one position. Saying that you are a kick-ass programmer looking for challenging work is pointless. Nowadays, everyone is a kick-ass programmer looking for challenging work. The objective section has become a pointless waste of space. The only time an it sense is when you are looking for a career change and you want to specify an objective which is tangential to your experience. 

Most hiring managers recommend starting the resume with some sort of summary. It's known by a couple of popular names: executive summary; summary of qualifications; summary of skills. Personally, I like the  way summary of qualifications sounds. The executive summary is a bit too executive to sound nice for a developer and summary of skills sounds a bit juvenile. You have to think of the summary as a strong elevator pitch to entice a recruiter to read further.
I preach to all my résumé clients that a summary is the most important part. Why? Résumés are often initially reviewed by recruiters, many of whom are inexperienced and not the best at identifying talent. The summary is an opportunity to tell the reader exactly who you are without having to let the reader interpret your experience. -- The worst resume in the world
Since the ideal size of a resume is about two pages (stretching to three for developers with over a decade of experience), the ideal size for a summary is about 4 - 6 bullet points. A good way to figure out what to write in the summary is by  doing a little soul-searching and brainstorming. Ask yourself questions like:
  • What is the key value you bring to the job? 
  • Where are you going with your career? 
  • What transferable skills do you bring from your old experience? 
  • What makes you stand out from the crowd? 
  • Why are you a good fit for this particular job and company? 
Once you have properly thought through all these points, begin by writing a summary without bullet points. Refine it once and then condense it to create your bullet point list: The summary of qualifications. There is no hard and fast structure for the bullet points, but I like Rudy Bellani's template for a summary which suggests the following structure :
  1. The pitch: where you sell yourself in a sentence
  2. The skills: emphasize your most relevant skills and experience, tailored for the specific job (2 - 3 points)
  3. The fit: describe your soft skills, who you are as a person and why you are a good fit (2 - 3 points)
Daniel Reed suggests an alternate structure. He starts with a strong selling point and then goes from the general to the specific. Quoting DanielAs I mentioned, I like to make bold statements that "sell" me to the reader. Daniel also prefers to end his summary with a list of skills: I end the "Summary of Qualifications" section with a two-column bulleted list of specific technologies, languages, and tools with which I am proficient.
Working on creating a good and effective summary statement will not only make your resume stronger, but it is also a great brainstorming exercise to understand your own motives, career goals, and strengths.
A summary statement can be a powerful branding tool the helps send the message that you’re the right one for the job. The best thing about taking the time to put one together (whether you decide to actually use it or not) is that it not only helps hiring managers get a clear sense of what you have to offer, but also helps you better understand what you bring to the table. So, you get the added benefit of knowing exactly how to sell your skills the next time you’re networking, interviewing, or presenting yourself online. -- Forbes article, The Resume Summary Statement: When You One And How To Do It