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The Worst Resume of the Week: Who Are You?

This week's installment is about the use, misuse, or absence of a summary.

· Agile Zone

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Anyone who has either been a client of Resume Raiders or has read my articles about resumes knows that I am a firm believer in powerful summary/profile statements. There are many who feel a summary is not necessary, and in some cases that may be true, but I see an increasing number of resumes that either include a somewhat cryptic profile section or exclude a summary altogether (sometimes including an objective instead, which is worse).

This Week's Resume

The inspiration for this post was a resume that led off with a somewhat long summary that I won't include to protect the innocent, but here are some highlights:

Quick learner...motivated...team player...self-driven...solutions-focused

After reading the summary, even the most experienced technical professionals would have a hard time guessing

  1. What this person actually does for a living

  2. Whether this person is entry-level or senior 

  3. Why this person might be a fit for almost any position imaginable

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Although the claims being made are considered positive attributes, they could apply to candidates in virtually any profession with any range of experience. When the introduction doesn't bring the reader any closer to a decision, we may wonder how patient the reader will be before abandoning the task. In the case of this resume, omitting a summary (and getting right into the experience) may have yielded better results, as at least the reader would not have wasted any amount of time on material that doesn't help solve the problem.

No Summary

If you choose to exclude a summary statement, what is the result? It forces the resume screener (let's assume it's a human) to go through your document and arrive at their own interpretation of who you are. If the reader's interpretation does not match the job requirement the resume is trashed. What could possibly go wrong?

The choice to omit a summary is equivalent to blindly trusting an unknown person to read a document and arrive at the same conclusions as the writer intended. From experience, I can tell you that the aforementioned "unknown person" can be almost anybody. At best, it's a highly technical person with an open mind who understands your experience and is interested in learning more. However, it is almost as likely that the person is a temp six months out of school that doesn't know the difference between CoffeeScript and COBOL who was tasked with managing the jobs@ email inbox simply because nobody his time is considered the least valuable to the company.

Cryptic Summary

A poorly-written summary can potentially do even more damage than a blank space. Most summaries are only guilty of being a waste of space, with lists of trite phrases, corporate-speak, and self-assessments that mean absolutely nothing to the reader. These don't necessarily hurt the candidate's chances of interview, but they require the screener to both read further and interpret correctly. It's a missed opportunity.

Inaccurate Summary

Being that the summary is essentially the tl;dr of a resume, if a summary seems to indicate that the resume belongs to someone lacking the experience sought (to include relevant skills at the appropriate career level), why would anyone bother reading further? Even resumes of candidates who are highly-qualified for a job can lose their reader if they overshoot on the summary (emphasizing inapplicable expertise, overstating management vs hands-on experience, et al). 

Conclusion

Include a summary and use the space to clearly lay out what you do and the amount of experience you have doing it. If a stranger can't easily determine these things after reading your summary, you are better off removing the summary entirely.

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Topics:
resume ,career advice ,job search

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