Should you include a summary statement on your CV?
CV summary statement

Many of us across Europe are currently in coronavirus lockdown, working from home for the foreseeable future and perhaps looking for new work or ways to pass the time. As we mentioned last week, it’s a good time to register with Firehead – we’re here, we’re recruiting and offering career development training courses, and we’re here to help you navigate changes around the future of work. But today we want to help you with a basic task: updating your CV.

JT O’Donnell is a guru of modern job hunting in the US and I take a lot of inspiration from her. I watched her recent video in her #JTTalksJobs series on LinkedIn called 3 Resume No-no’s for 2020, and this is probably the first time she’s said something I don’t agree with about recruiting.

JT doesn’t think you should put an objective statement as a summary at the top of your CV. I think that you absolutely should.

So, a personal summary statement  to your CV – yes or no? Let’s look at the arguments…

thumbs downNO! ‘Recruiters skip over a summary statement – it’s a waste of space’

JT says it’s a waste of space because recruiters skip over it to get to the facts. And that when recruiters do read it, they use it to more easily screen you out.

The average time recruiters spend initially reviewing a CV is six seconds, she adds. If they don’t like what they see, they’ll skip and go on to the next one in the pile.

“Good recruiters teach themselves to skim a résumé as a way to speed up the process,” says JT. “Which means, if your résumé isn’t optimised to pass the ‘skim test’, the likelihood of you getting to the interview stage goes down significantly.”

thumbs upYES! ‘The summary statement shows your ability to communicate your suitability’

I couldn’t disagree with JT more. In fact, for me, the summary statement IS the skim test to see if you’re relevant to keep in. As a recruiter in the digital communications field, I need to know if you can communicate clearly what you have to offer and what you want. This is one of the principle things that makes me different from a robot when looking at your CV.

I agree with JT that overused, meaningless phrases like ‘self-starter’ in a summary statement are fluffy and meaningless, but this also gives me information about your ability to communicate. (In other words, in this instance, no).

It is also true that if you apply for a business analyst position and you only communicate experience and goals related to graphic design, my better judgement will rule you out for that role. I’m just doing my job, after all. Your summary needs to match the detail in your experience and education.

But if you have clearly articulated what you’re looking for and concisely summarise what skills and experience you bring to the table, my job is to see if there’s a fit we can move you forward for. This is positive, not ruling you out.

What about the rest of the CV?

JT says you should provide “just the facts, and just enough information for the recruiter to be intrigued”. Remember that robot? Robots aren’t intrigued.

She continues to say that if you don’t provide all of the data upfront, the recruiter will want to call you. Nope. I want to know certain things:

  • What skills you have
  • What experience and training you have
  • What you are looking for
    (this can be flexible, it’s not to keep you rigidly bound to only one opportunity, but it if you can’t state what you want, how will I know how to define that for you?)

Yes, time is short and your profile absolutely needs to be communicated clearly to get past that first read. But making recruiters work to find out about you makes no sense. You need to make a short, clear statement about yourself, what you’re looking for, and then back it up with the details you give later on. I’m checking to see if it all adds up.

In summary

The initial summary or summary statement gives the hirer a first glance, high-level overview of what your CV is about. Recruiters use this summary – and lateral thinking – to decide if there is enough substance to go on reading or not.

I think that’s a lot simpler than having to analyse hundreds of differently formatted facts deep inside hundreds of separate CVs.

So, yes, it is expedient for the recruitment process but a pertinent, well-written statement, backed up by the detail of the CV, is more likely to help me ‘screen you in’ to the next round. A summary statement will only land you in the round file if it is poorly written, generic, not on target, or communicates in some way that you’re wrong for the advertised job.

There are lots of advice posts out there on how to nail your summary statement. Get it right and stand out from the competition.

At Firehead, we welcome CVs with a summary statement that is targeted to the advertised job or to general opportunities in the digital communications field. We specialise in placing English-speaking and multilingual digital communications professionals across the UK, North America and continental Europe. For more information, visit About us and also our Candidates page.

Featured image: (CC) Gerd Altmann from Pixabay. Icons: OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay. 

CVs Recruitment