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3 Biggest Resume Professional Summary Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)!

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

3 Biggest reasons why employers are not reading your Resume Professional Summary.

Your resume professional summary, the summary section at the top of your CV is perhaps the most powerful tool you have in order to grab the reader's attention. Unfortunately, it's also one section that most job seekers fail to write correctly, not only losing all of its benefits but even potentially making it counterproductive.

So, today, I'm going to share with you 3 biggest mistakes when it comes to professional summaries and how to correct them so that your resume will absolutely capture the employer’s attention.

Mistake Number 1: The professional summary is too long.

Your professional summary is like your 30-second elevator pitch.

But let’s imagine you’re in an elevator and overhearing your colleague’s elevator pitch to a senior executive in your firm. You realize that the content is great, there is a lot of energy, and even the presentation is not bad. Except for one problem – that is, his elevator pitch is not 30 seconds long – it’s 10 minutes.

Do you think that elevator pitch will be effective? Of course not!

This is probably the most common mistake I see in resumes.

Let me share with you what happens when an HR manager or a recruiter opens a new CV.

The first thing they will look at is your name, and then the top section of your cv (which is where your professional summary will be), followed by quickly glancing thru your recent jobs. And during this time, if they cannot find what they are looking for OR the cv does not stand out in some way, they will close it. And how long does the whole process take? About 6-8 seconds. Of course, if they find that the CV is relevant, they will then take their time to look at it in more detail.

You see, an hr manager or a recruiter receives hundreds of CVs every day and they simply cannot afford to spend several minutes pouring over every resume they receive. Which means if the professional summary is too long (like most CVs), they will just skip it all together during the 1st scan.

The solution? Keep your professional summary 3-4 sentences max. Ideally, just 3. Anything longer will run the risk of being ignored.

Mistake Number 2: Making your Professional Summary “fluffy” instead of “result-oriented”

The 2nd mistake is writing a fluffy professional summary without concrete results.

When I say fluffy, I’m talking about using generic personality traits and adjectives that may sound nice but carry little significance – words like hard-working, dedicated, and enthusiastic.

Do you know what the most common word used in a resume summary? It’s the word “motivated”. Because it sounds great! But the next time you consider using this word, remember that everyone else is using it too.

The problem with this kind of summary is that literally, anyone can say the same thing about themselves. And therefore, it doesn’t carry much weight.

Generic descriptions that could apply to every applicant are not what the employer is looking for. Rather, what they want to see is your Unique RESULT. Concrete achievements and accomplishments YOU have made.

Mistake Number 3: Not targeting your professional summary to the job

This is my pro-tip for those of you reading until the end.

The 3rd point is that you need to cater your professional summary to the specific job you’re applying for.

Let’s say you have five achievements that are really impressive. Or ten things you can potentially include in your summary. But you can only write 3 (or a maximum of 4). So which ones should you pick? Do you prioritize them according to what you are most proud of? And then choose the top 3?

That would be the right approach if you are the person deciding who will be interviewed. But unfortunately, we are not the decision-makers. It’s the employer who decides! So ultimately, it doesn’t matter as much what we think are the most impressive achievements. Right?

What matters the most is what will impress and interest the EMPLOYER at the end of the day.

But you may ask, how do we know what the employer is looking for? I’m glad you asked! The answer is: job description.

Normally, a JD contains a short summary, the responsibilities, and requirements. What you want to do is to make sure you understand the JD and then choose your achievements and experience that are most relevant and applicable to what the JD says.

That is how you target your summary to the specific job and company.

For example, let’s say you’re a program manager and you have many experiences and accomplishments you can mention.

Perhaps, you can talk about the number of people you managed, the size of the budget you handled, the distributed nature of the program, and how you coordinated with different parties, maybe you turned around a failing project. Maybe your expertise is moving the organization from a waterfall to an agile model. Perhaps you have experience in a number of different industries. Which ones should you choose?

It depends. It depends on the particular job and company in question.

If you were applying to a large-scale program management position, all your achievements about the big budget, and the large team would be a big plus. But if the particular position was with a smaller company, your large-scale experience may actually make the employer feel that you may not understand a smaller environment.

If an achievement you are personally most proud of happens to be in an industry that is vastly different from the company you’re applying to, it may or may not be the best choice for that particular application.

What most people do is have only one version of their CV and send it to all the jobs. Sometimes, you will get lucky, and other times, you will not. But it will never be as productive as when you target it to each position.

If you want to truly stand out and get more results, you should at least rewrite the professional summary section for each application you make to make sure that you grab their attention and pique their interest leading to the interview.

To summarize:

The best practices for your Resume summary if you want the most results are:

  1. Keep it short (3-4 sentences max)

  2. Make it results-oriented

  3. Target it to the job and company

If you start doing this consistently, more and more employers will start reading your professional summary resulting in that many more initial contacts and first interviews.

Thank you for reading!

Elevate Your Career, Elevate Your Life!


Note: This video is brought to you by Pinpoint Asia in partnership with Elevation Career. Pinpoint Asia and Elevation Career are separate companies with no affiliation with each other.

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