How to Write a Summary in A CV

July 26, 2020

When considering a job applicant, a hiring manager will focus on a few key sections of their application. Rather than reading the CV and cover letter fully, they will skim through to extract the information they are looking for. If the candidate ticks all of the right boxes, they will go back for a more detailed look at the contents. If they’re still happy, they will then invite the candidate to an interview.

This is why the personal summary is so important. It gives you an opportunity to draw attention to the aspects of your CV and cover letter that you really want to shine. Writing a personal statement can be more challenging than any other aspect of your application.

With your CV, there are online CV creation tools to help you build a professional and polished CV. But the personal summary requires more planning and insight. It can be helpful to ask friends and family to help you craft your summary, as this will bring in details you may have overlooked.

In this guide, we will outline the purpose of the summary and why you need one. We’ve also asked the experts at Nolan Recruitment to share their insight into what makes a personal summary shine.

What is a summary for?

A summary provides an introduction to your CV. While the rest of your CV will outline your work and education history, the summary brings it all together so the hiring manager can get a better idea of who you are as an individual.

A summary may also be known as a personal statement or a personal profile. It’s your chance to summarise where you’ve been in your career and where you hope to go. It’s your elevator pitch and your chance to get a foot in the door.

A summary should be unique to every job you apply for, matching the key competencies of the role to your skills and ambitions. It may take a little more time to craft a unique personal statement for every role, but it can give your CV greater impact.

When should you include a summary?

There are no rules about what needs to be included in your summary. It will typically be limited by length, so this will be your main consideration. You may choose to include three bullet points; one about your experience, one about your ambition, and one about your personal attributes. Alternatively, you could structure this as a paragraph.

What you include in your personal statement will vary depending on the stage of your career.

  • As a graduate, you will lean on your education and any work experience that demonstrates a strong work ethic.
  • At executive level, you will focus on your ambition and the steps you are taking to get there.
  • At senior management level, you will focus on your biggest accomplishments.

How long should a summary be?

As we’ve mentioned above, the summary should be short. Ideally, it will be around 60-80 words and no longer than six lines. While it is an important part of your CV, it shouldn’t take up too much space. It should also be very easy to skim and pull out the most important information.

The bulk of your 2-page CV should be reserved for your work history, but your personal summary will typically take centre-stage on the first page. Many people structure their CV with their personal information followed by a summary, then follow this with their education history, work history, key skills and finally their references.

How to make your summary stand out

Writing a strong summary is not an easy task. It’s often the hardest part of your CV to get right. In a few short lines, you need to be able to summarise why you are perfect for a role. To achieve this, we recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Match your skills to the job description. If you have struggled to include key skills and competencies elsewhere in your CV, your personal summary is a great place to include them.
  2. Write in the active voice. This will make your writing more engaging. If you’re not sure if you’re using the active voice instead of the passive voice, check if your verbs require two words to get the point across. Replacing them with one word will make your writing more powerful. For example, “the new systems were developed by my team” would be passive, while “my team developed the new systems” is active.
  3. Use industry-specific keywords. This can help to signal to the hiring manager that you understand the lingo and will be able to hit the ground running in a new role.
  4. Ask for advice. You might not know what makes you unique, or you might not be able to see your best selling attributes. This is when getting a second pair of eyes and a second opinion can be incredibly helpful. Ask a friend, family member or even a trusted colleague to help you identify what makes you stand out.
  5. Think about your personal brand. You might not realise this, but everyone has a personal brand. It’s what makes you unique and it’s what no one else can bring to the table. Communicating how your personal brand will be a good fit for the company you want to work for is all about matching their sentiments to your attributes. If they are disruptors, you need to be innovative and unafraid to challenge the status quo. If they are a prestigious brand, you need to convey that you are diligent and professional.
  6. Make sure you proofread it. This goes for your entire CV, but a spelling mistake in your opening personal statement will make many hiring managers stop reading. This is the kind of mistake you cannot afford to make.
  7. Include stats where appropriate. When you mention that you increased revenue, streamlined productivity or you have cut costs for your employer, don’t be afraid to get specific. Using stats and metrics is one way to grab their attention. Every company wants to believe that the individuals they are hiring are going to do more than just what is in their job description, so let them know you have a track record of precisely this.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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