Personally, I think the summary of qualifications is the most difficult section of the resume to write unless you make it the last thing you do and write toward a specific job description. The summary of qualifications is also one of the most important parts of your resume because employers only tend to give your resume 7 seconds. They usually spend that 7 seconds first looking at your job titles, then going back and looking at your summary of qualifications. The key is to make sure that your summary of qualifications matches up to the job to which you are applying.
Before you start writing your summary of qualifications, I recommend that you identify a position to tailor your summary of qualifications toward. So, if you've got a job lead already, great! If not, slide over and read this article on how to find jobs to apply for, then select one of the positions you are a great fit for, and use that job description for the rest of this guidance on building a summary of qualifications.
Let's get started!
First, go through your selected job description and look for the things that this company finds important in a great candidate. What experience, skills, or education are they most looking for?
I like to go through the job description with a highlighter and mark everything I've done at past positions. Then I take stock of which of those highlighted things are the most important to the employer. Sometimes employers will tell you upfront in the job description exactly what is required and what is preferred. If you have performed those tasks, make sure they end up in your summary.
Now that you have noted what the employer is looking for in a great candidate, you're going to select the top four or five things that this employer is most desires. Those are the things that you are going to include in your summary of qualifications for this job.
The most important thing to remember when writing a summary of qualifications is that it is just a summary. You are not restating your entire resume. You are only summarizing the most important pieces of your resume according to what the employer has told you is important in the job description.
Next, I like to make sure that I nail that very first line of the summary of qualifications. Here, I like to start out by stating my overall fit for the position. So, if I were applying for a position as a career advisor then I would start out my summary of qualifications with:
Innovative career advisor with over 8 years of experience providing career coaching, resume writing, and interview preparation services to clients across a variety of industries at all organizational levels.
Notice how in the above example, I specifically list myself as a career advisor right upfront. I do that in order to match the job description. If the job I was applying said Employment Coach, then I would have called myself that in the opening line.
Let me give another example. Let’s say you’re a veteran and you’re applying for a Logistics Manager position based on your experience as a logistics manager in the military. In that case, you might start out your summary of qualifications by stating your overall experience with logistics and supply. It might sound something like:
U.S. Army veteran and logistics manager with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and over 10 years of experience managing the logistical movement of supplies on a local, national, and global scale.
But again, remember you are writing the summary of qualifications toward the position. So, if the position is not a management role, and is just an entry level position, then you may need to draw back on some of the experience that you're listing. So, going back to the military example, you might say something like:
U.S. Army veteran with experience overseeing the logistical movement of vehicles, supplies, and specialized equipment.
Notice how I don't mention management in that sentence because we don't want you to appear overqualified. So again, it is all about the job description and what that employer is looking for.
If they specify that they want a logistician who has experience specifically on a local scale with an ability to develop relationships with external vendors, then I would mention that in your summary of qualifications if you have that experience. Especially if that skill seems to be really important to that particular employer for that role. And remember that this is just the first sentence. Usually, you want at least three to four more sentences in your summary of qualifications that specify how it is that you are such a great fit for this position (without actually saying outright that you are a good fit.)
Just like with that first sentence, your other three to four sentences are going to be straight to the point noting what experience you have or responsibilities you had that match up to the position to which you are applying. Let me give you the rest of my summary of qualifications example to show you what I mean.
Innovative career advisor with over 8 years of experience providing career coaching, resume writing, and interview preparation services to clients at across a variety of industries at all organizational levels. Regularly manage a caseload of over 100 clients while maintaining a high-touch customer service experience. Experienced in developing professional relationships with community organizations, educational institutions, and government entities. Regularly utilize an electronic database to track client progress, services rendered, and client job placement.
And again, I would only be listing these specific accomplishments and this experience was noted in the job description as being important. Let's go ahead and continue the example of the veteran in logistics.
U.S. Army veteran and logistics manager with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and over 10 years of experience managing the logistical movement of supplies on a local, national, and global scale. Directly supervised a team of 30 personnel, delegating tasks, providing performance evaluations, and fostering an environment of professional development. Regularly managed over $1 million worth of military equipment, conducting periodic inventories and inspections to identify any lost or damaged items.
And, again, if you were going to write a summary of qualifications for that non-management logistics position, then you would want to draw back on all the management-related tasks and instead focus on what the job description wants you to have experience in.
The last sentence of the summary of qualifications can also be a great place to drop information about any related software or certifications that you may have that the job description has specifically asked for. Always remember that if something is not in the job description, then it's a good idea to leave it out of the summary of qualifications. You can list it other places in your resume, but if they don't talk about it in the job description, then chances are it's not important enough for you to list in your summary of qualifications.
Good luck out there!
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