Is the Resume Summary Dead?
Once a staple, the summary statement seems to be on its way out — or perhaps it’s already dead.
I’ve read many resumes that contain summary statements which, in effect, say nothing at all. I’ve spoken to many recruiters and hiring managers who have told me they don’t even read summary statements when they come across them.
Recently, I posed a question about resume summary statements to my LinkedIn followers — and I received a lot of responses.
Executive resume writer Adrienne Tom said she often considers leaving the summary statement off the resumes she writes.
“I think a lot of professionals feel compelled to share a summary which then comes out forced, with generic word choices,” Tom wrote. “Instead, a better strategy is to focus on value points. Share with the reader the ‘hows and whys’ (provide the proof), and word selection won’t matter as much.”
So, is the summary statement just wasted real estate now? Once a vital resume component, the summary statement is, I fear, gradually losing the foothold it once held. What used to be a poetically written three or four lines of prose is becoming obsolete. It may soon be excluded from resumes altogether, simply because the people who read resumes don’t have the time for summaries.
I hope I’m wrong, because I do think summaries can be quite powerful. Consider this summary statement:
Information Systems Department Director specializing in project planning programming, techniques, and achieving business objectives. Budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in project resources. Lead efforts that consistently generate sales exceeding $15K in a competitive pharmaceutical markets.
Does this summary say enough? It illustrates the candidate’s value with quantified results and should generate interest in the reader. It’s brief, and there’s no fluff.
But not all of my esteemed colleagues agree that summaries add value. As mentioned above, I recently asked professional resume writers and recruiters whether they thought the resume summary was dead. Here’s what a few of them wrote:
“I have my candidates compose what I like to call a ‘career highlights’ section: just a bullet-pointed section of some actual career accomplishments. It catches the potential employer’s attention immediately. I feel objectives/summaries are just antiquated in a job market that is currently flooded with candidates.” — Adrienne Roberts, Branch Manager, Robert Half
“Are they on their way out? No — they have already left. Most hiring professionals will tell you that the summary, at least in the US, is an ignored piece of fluff, better left off to make room for the information they need/want to know.” — Sarah Douglas, G.C.D.F
“I feel that summary statements are still an essential component of a resume. However, I am looking for qualifications and hard data, not fluff about perceived skills. If you can quickly read about relevant experience, results achieved, number of direct reports, and so on, then the soft skills can be explored further in the interview.” — Judy Hojel, CEO, People and Performance Training Pty, LTD.
“No, a well-written summary statement is a must on any resume. It brings together the many details of your achievements and education to focus the employer on exactly how you fit the job position. It gives one a big-picture view, with the detail to follow [in the rest of the resume].” — Jay Barrett, Human Resources Executive
As you can see, opinions vary on whether the summary statement is on its way out. I, for one, hope it remains a vital resume component — but I also agree with Adrienne Tom. The summary must provide proof of one’s greatness. Otherwise, there’s no use in having one.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.