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Do you need an initial summary in your CV?


When working with job seekers on their CVs/resumes, one critical issue arises quickly: Is it valuable to include an initial summary/profile?

I receive many CVs from job candidates on behalf of companies that I do recruiting for. About half of them include such summaries.

What is the correct way to begin your CV?

To me, the answer is clear when we review two statistics that arise from studies focused on how CVs are reviewed by employers:

• Average amount of time that a CV is “read” – 20-30 seconds
• Position on CV where the reader starts – top of the first page

The conclusion that I draw from the above is that the job seeker has very little time to get their message across, and that in such a short period of time, there is no way that the employer can read the entire document. However, the initial part of the CV will almost certainly be read.

So, to use a hi-tech term, if I reverse engineer from the above information, I quickly can come to the conclusion that I want my targeted important message to the employer to be at the top of the first page. If the most important details are spread throughout your CV, you can’t have full confidence that you are even getting your message across in such a short period of time.

Another strong reason for opening your CV with a section that summarizes your key skills/accomplishment as relates to your job target is that it allows you to describe yourself in a favorable way to the employer. Without this, you are hoping that the employer will infer your suitability from other parts of your document (work history, education…). Why leave this critical point to chance? If you are qualified for the job which you are applying for, you want this to be obvious quickly, and highlighting the most relevant parts of your background is an excellent way to achieve this objective.

Once you decide that you want to include an opening summary, the question becomes, what to include in this section.

First, you need to understand well what employers are seeking for your job target. You can determine this based upon some combination of your own previous work experience, talking with others in Israel that do the job, and looking for relevant job advertisements. Then, for those relevant skills which you possess, it makes sense to include them in your initial summary.

However, this is not enough. The above is critical to illustrating that you meet the requirements of the job, but it doesn’t distinguish you from all of the other candidates that also have the necessary qualifications. This is one of the most difficult tasks of a job seeker when creating a CV – how to make yourself a three-dimensional person when arriving in a one-dimensional (file/paper) format, while at the same time making you different in a positive way from other qualified candidates.

An excellent way to attempt this feat is by including not only skills in your CV, but also accomplishments. The wonderful thing about accomplishments is that they are unique to you.

People working in sales usually have an easier time with this, as they are oftentimes measured by quantifiable criteria. So, mentioning quota, increasing revenues… can serve this purpose well.

However, for the majority of job seekers, accomplishments are not always so readily handy and bite-size. The goal is to include in your CV relevant benefits that previous organizations have achieved from your efforts. Again, the idea is to distinguish yourself from other candidates, while at the same time helping the company understand what benefit your previous employers received from your work, something that can be more tangible for a company to understand than simply a list of your skills.

For instance, if you introduced a process in a previous role that saved the company time, money…, then this can be something to point out. If you played an integral part of a project that made a difference to the bottom line of your company, then this can work as well.

If your initial statement (some combination of relevant skills and suitable accomplishments) matches the company’s candidate profile, then there is a much better chance that the employer will continue reading your CV, and quite possibly give you more than just a short glance.

The rest of your CV after the summary should include details that provide more detail to what is related in the short initial section and give evidence that what you wrote there is true.

Including an initial summary on your CV is an excellent way to highlight why you are a high level candidate for the job, helping you paint the proper profile for the employer while also including details to make you stick out from the pack.

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