It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

These are the opening lines of one of the most popular and critically acclaimed literary works ever written.  As a matter of fact, it is the bestselling novel of all time.  But, I wonder if it would have achieved this distinction if the first lines had been:

“This is the story of the comparison of London and Paris in the late 18th century.”

It just doesn’t have the same impact.  Some authors believe that the first lines of a book are the most important lines in the entire work, if these first lines don’t catch the reader’s attention they may not bother to go to the second page.

So what does this have to do with your job search?  Think about your resume – do you want it to be read?  If so, your first lines better be attention grabbing.  A carefully crafted Professional Summary is the resume equivalent of the novel first lines.   Give the reader a reason to read more about what you can do for them.

The Summary (sometimes called a Professional Summary or Profile on the resume) is your opportunity to be shamelessly boastful about yourself.  It contains several concise statements that focus the reader’s attention on the most important qualities, achievements and abilities you have to offer.  It is your one and only chance to attract and hold their attention, to get across what is most important, and to entice the employer to keep reading.

How do you write a summary statement?  Start by understanding what you bring to the table, what are your unique skills, strengths, abilities, and contributions.  Answer the questions, “What would make someone the ideal candidate for this job?  What does the employer really want?  What special abilities would this person need?  What would set the truly exceptional candidate apart from the merely good one?”.

The ingredients of a well written summary include some or all of the following:

  • A short description of your professional branding
  • Followed by a significant contribution – a well-documented accomplishment
  • Breadth or depth of both soft skills and hard skills, or unique mix of skills
  • Range of environments in which you have experience.

A typical Summary does very little to create that first impression you need that generates the kind of interest you need to keep the attention of a reader that may have dozens of resumes to screen.

Which of these two Summaries do you think would generate the most interest?

Successful operations manager with experience in multiple industries.  Team player with the ability to communicate with all levels in an organization.

Or

Hands-on operations professional with experience leading both cost centers and profit-and-loss centers to deliver increased operating profit through revenue growth and expense reduction.  Grew most recent year sales by 9.5% and gross margin by 1.8 percentage points while the market declined 5.4%.  Expertise in operations, supply chain management, quality systems, product development, sales and marketing. Proven track record of building and managing teams across multiple industries and functions to consistently deliver exceptional financial and operational results.

I think we can agree that the second makes more impact; we want to know more about how this person grew sales by 9.5% while the market declined 5.4%.  It gives us the reason to read more, it piques our interest, and we are excited that someone who has done this is available and interested in our opening/company.

Don’t squander your opportunity to make that first impression, you never get a second chance.


Rick ChristensenRick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice

Rick has been a career consultant for over 20 years, serving a very broad-based and diverse clientele. His specialties include effective group facilitation, one-on-one coaching and consultation at all levels including senior executives.

Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.


 

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