Some people believe that a resume professional summary is a waste of time. They will say that employers don’t read it and that it soaks up valuable time that they could be spending on the important stuff. The other side of the argument is that the professional summary or resume summary is essential to a complete resume...so who is right in this debate and what should you do?
To answer this question, let us first consider what happens to your resume when you apply and who is reading it.
Who reads your resume?
Recruitment Agency Processes - Recruitment agencies are paid by companies to recruit vacancies that they can’t or don’t want to recruit themselves. Generally, they are paid only on the completion of an assignment. The HR Manager or Hiring Manager will deal with the recruitment agent through the recruitment process. Recruiters advertise, search, interview and compile a shortlist of the best people to forward to Hiring Managers for their final consideration.
Recruiters Processes - Recruiters are often time poor people and they know exactly what they are looking for when recruiting for a vacancy. They spend approximately 6 seconds skimming over a resume before they decide if it’s relevant. They move straight to the employment section and scan to ensure that your employment history is relevant to what they are recruiting. They are less likely to read a cover letter and can skip through the bulk of the resume content on the first pass, including your professional summary. They will come back to review it in more detail later, but it’s all about quick decisions for them. They are more interested in identifying the right experience to begin with, they will then focus on the other details later.
The Hiring Managers
A hiring manager may recruit for a vacancy once a month or once a year, so they can often be more patient with each applicant than recruiters. Recruiting a vacancy is a time consuming process for them and they may not be skilled in hiring or interviewing. Hiring Managers are likely to pay more attention to all elements of your resume on the first pass. They are more likely to read your professional summary and cover letter and will probably spend more time considering all elements of your resume. The professional summary can be critical to impressing the hiring manager. Again, hiring managers judge a resume in a matter of seconds too, but it is the overall format and layout they are considering along with the content. Errors, poor layout and an ugly resume could be costly here.
HR Managers & HR Coordinators
When you apply directly to a company, and not through a recruitment agency, HR Managers and HR Coordinators can be the first line of screening before hiring managers get involved. HR can have similar traits to recruiters, because they are experts in screening resumes, however they can be more thorough than an agency recruiter and less forgiving. Remember the recruiter is not paid unless they find the right person, so if a strong candidate has some small faults in their resume they can be more forgiving, HR may not be. At the end of the day, if you are successful your resume is submitted to a hiring manager for final consideration. There is a pattern emerging here.
Yes, you should include a professional summary in your resume. Why? Because it covers all bases - so lets take a look.
1. Recruiters probably won’t read it initially anyway, but a well written summary still adds value to your resume and they know that, so do HR Managers. They know what to look for in a resume and don’t need to read a professional summary to understand this. However, even if it’s not their favorite element, they know that some people (the hiring managers) might really appreciate it.
2. It’s important to remember that your resume will ultimately be forwarded to a hiring manager who they are recruiting for anyway. You can bet your bottom dollar that any hiring manager who is paying a recruiter will thoroughly read each resume submitted to them in a shortlist. A creative, concise and well worded summary can really impress at the start of a resume.
3. A badly written professional summary is not going to help you at all, it will actually do more damage than good. So if you don't know how to write a good one then get some help or leave it out. A well written professional summary can really frame your resume and set a positive tone for the reader.
Ultimately, whether you apply through a recruiter or to the company directly, it is a hiring manager that makes the final decision. They will read your complete resume, interview you and ultimately hire you. Include a professional summary.