Right after your contact information on your resume comes the professional summary
. Some call it an objective, others don't call it anything, but everyone says you should have something there that talks about -- I don't know -- something about you. When I review resumes for people, the second-largest area needing improvement was this professional summary. (The biggest problem was organizing
your job skills
.) Here are the three biggest improvements you can make on this important opening statement.
1. State What You Bring to the Job, Not the Passive 'Seeking a Position'
How many resumes have you seen that started out with "Seeking a professional position that will take advantage of my blah blah blah capabilities and my desire to work with other people?" In other words, "Please, please, pretty please, please help me fulfill my goals by hiring me." No. When you are seeking "something" on a resume, you bury what you offer. It's passive, not positive. This paragraph should be about the strengths you bring to the job, what makes your work desirable over someone else's, and how you can help the employer meet their business goals. You stand for something that shows your capabilities to provide results. Also, never say anything like "seeking to self-actualize through working for you." Again, it's passive, and it sounds dopey. Trash bin material in mere seconds.
2. Write in the Third Person
This helps you describe yourself more forcefully. The third person perspective almost always forces stronger statements about your work. "Seeking to work on large projects, utilizing my skills to bring projects to a successful conclusion." Again: Please, please, oh pretty please... Try this:
Scot is an experienced project manager who has worked on enterprise projects in some of the largest companies in the world. He brings his collaborative project management techniques to diverse teams in multiple cultures, ensuring that projects meet their business objectives on time and on budget.
Oh. Want a project manager for those really important, enterprise projects? Best check out the rest of the resume. On the other hand, if a position is about implementing a software upgrade for a single program in a department, this may be too high-level a description. But, you see, this type of opening brings you the better jobs. Even though my consulting resume brings me stupid stuff from recruiters, I also get gems. And those gems are spot on. The third-person description of you and your strengths naturally draw in the positions that match up with those strengths.
3. The Statement Focuses on One, and Only One, Position
Too many of the resumes I see talk about how the person could bring multiple jobs — not just job skills, but jobs — to the position. For example, "project management, administrative, and development skills." The problem here is that companies aren't hiring for three positions. They're hiring for one. You resume has to be laser-focused on the one, single position that the job description presents. Let me give you a personal example. I've been a manager -- including a hiring manager -- for most of my career. But when I moved to a new city at the trough of the Great Recession, no one was looking for managers. I needed a job, and project management -- which I'd done for most of the rest of my career -- was the way to go. Consequently, my Project Manager resume only talks about project management. That's what the positions were, and are, here. No management jobs. But when a management position opened up I totally changed my resume, including my opening paragraph, to reflect the skills I'd used and business results I'd achieved as a manager. And I used that to submit a resume tailored for that one management position. Different positions, different resumes. Those first few sentences require a good amount of thought. You want to tell the story of what you bring to the job, what business results you'll bring to the employer, and stand tall while telling it. Never passive. Read the first paragraph on your resume. Would you want to interview that person? Tell us in the comments below.