I work with so many job seekers who struggle to tell their story and put into words their achievements. Since their career summary is often the first place they start when writing their resume, knowing exactly what to say to capture the hiring manager’s attention so they want to read the rest of your resume is the goal. With this in mind, here are eight mistakes to avoid when writing your resume’s career summary.
Mistake 1: Resume Objectives
Resume objectives are outdated and no longer used on modern resumes. Instead, you should be using a career snapshot to give the employer the highlights of your accomplishments and a quick view of your ability to meet their needs and solve their biggest problems.
Mistake 2: Personal Pronouns
Remove any instances of I, my, or me. Using first-person pronouns is viewed as a basic resume error and usually will cause your resume to be screened out. It’s a silly thing to cause removal from candidacy, but when recruiters are scanning hundreds of resumes and they’re pressed for time, they need a systematic way to narrow down the choices —and any small errors on a resume are cause for a “no fit” decision.
Mistake 3: Giving a Broad Overview
Your career summary does not have to be a broad overview. So many professionals get caught up in trying to provide employers with a broad and general overview of their career at the top of their resume. The problem is that they end up sounding like thousands of other candidates instead of using the space as an opportunity to shine and differentiate themselves. Do not be afraid to be specific—which leads me to my next two tips.
Mistake 4: Vague Statements
Avoid making generalized statements about your experience and accomplishments. Be specific about positions and accomplishments within the summary.
I tend to lean more towards a career-snapshot style that includes prominent client names, major accomplishments, and bottom-line numbers. I’ll give you a prime example: have you ever seen websites that readily advertise: “As Seen On: CNN, Forbes, MSN, Washington Post, USA Today, and Money”? These are prominent and easily recognizable names.
Do the same within your career profile. Have you worked with Apple? Google? Microsoft? Has Amazon or IBM been a client of yours? Have you worked with other well-known Fortune 500 companies? Don’t be afraid to share that information as it grabs hiring managers’ attention and says you work with industry leaders.
Mistake 5: Leaving Out Valuable Data
Include metrics and keywords within your snapshot. Try to select three to five industry-specific keywords and incorporate them within the career summary. It’s also important to talk about numbers. Have you generated revenue? Cut costs? Improved productivity? Include those numbers. They’re verifiable proof—and those numbers attract the eyes and the attention of employers.
Mistake 6: Going Overboard with Adjectives
Don’t go overboard with adjectives. Even resume writers get tempted to string a bunch of adjectives together:
“Seasoned self-starter and detail-oriented team player with 10+ years’ experience” doesn’t tell me anything specific about this person that is any different from thousands of other candidates.
Try using only one adjective, and choose one that describes you but isn’t necessarily applicable to everyone else on the planet.
Mistake 7: Including Overused Phrases
Eliminate overused phrases such as “excellent communicator” or “team player.” They do very little to differentiate you from others. They’re also widely overused. If you scan resume templates on the internet, you’ll see these phrases come up over and over again. Employers report that communication style, while very important to culture fit, is usually assessed during the interview process, so stating it on your resume is just taking up space you could use to identify another attribute about yourself that would benefit the company.
Mistake 8: Words That Don’t Add Value
While we’re discussing words that don’t add value . . . you can remove “successful” and “results.” The words themselves don’t offer any valid proof that you can make a contribution. It’s better to state exactly what the success or accomplishment was and what made it a success. You could state that you “generated $3M in new business growth by . . . ” and fill in the details. Perhaps the type of results that you deliver are in terms of increasing customer loyalty or cutting labor costs. Be sure to provide numbers with the results to make them meaningful and give them context. Otherwise, you’re just making blanket statements that are hard to see the value in.
Executive Resume Examples
You can review examples of executive resumes that include professionally written career summaries and the career snapshot style that I referenced earlier in this article on Great Resumes Fast’s website here.
Another helpful resource is this free PDF list of 170+ action verbs, high-impact phrases, and strength descriptors. These are great alternatives that you can use for inspiration when writing your career summary or working on your accomplishment bullets within your resume.
More Resume Help
If you’re not getting the responses that you hoped for from your resume, take a few minutes to review the five critical components to an effective resume. You’ll find out what your resume is missing, fix it, and start receiving more responses.
If you are wondering if it makes a difference what software program you use to create your resume and how it will affect the applicant tracking systems (ATS) read your resume, head on to my blog: Is It Better to Submit a Word or PDF Format of Your Resume, where I’m discussing how the software program you use to create your resume can affect the way an applicant tracking system will parse the information and then score your resume.
Are you struggling to create an executive resume that will impress employers? Download this FREE executive resume template and receive a series of 10 emails with expert guidance on how to write resume content that resonates with employers so you get more interviews.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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