How to draft a Professional Summary for Your CV

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Eddy Bruno – (Active) Labour Market Policy Researcher and Job Placement Expert

In today’s competitive job market, employers relay on well-written CVs to screen potential candidates. In many instances, employers look through job search web sites to find professionals with skills, education and experience that fit their needs. These employment search websites, along with many companies’ own online applications, require candidates to upload their CV in order to express interest in a specific opportunity.
However, without an opportunity to send a personal email, or a cover letter, you have to make sure that your CV expresses your personality in addition to listing your professional, educational experiences, and achievements. To do so, you can include a professional profile or summary at the beginning of your CV that allows you to market yourself through a narrative. This section allows your potential employers to learn something unique about you and your career, as well as get a good feel of your communication skills.

To write an effective summary, you should first understand what information should not be communicated in your CV. While a summary provides an insight into what is unique and competitive about you, it is not a place for you to indicate any personal information that does not relate to your career. Information such as ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and affiliations, etc. should be left out of your CV. While descriptive of who you are, this information is not relevant to your potential employer in order to previous screen your qualifications for their opportunity. Additionally, the summary should not contain your previous professional experience, unless you can clearly demonstrate how such background can be of value in your future career development. Beware of generic statements, such as “I am well organized and detail oriented.” Employers want to hear your unique voice and get a sense of your communication skills while reading the summary portion of your CV. Using generalizations about your abilities will make the employers believe that you are either a poor communicator or are using such statements to fill up space on your CV. Your summary should be in form of a short paragraph or bullet statements, containing only several sentences. There isn’t a sentence limit, but as a rule do not take up more than one quarter of the page. Your summary should begin by a headline that summarizes your professional title and/or your professional statement. Emphasize your title by featuring the headline in bold and larger font, as it allows your potential employer to grasp who you are quickly. For example: Financial Planning Professional Achieved Double-Digit Return for All Clients through Well-Balanced Financial Portfolios. It is important that this title is well crafted, as it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you. There are three things a well-written summary should address: Your experiences and skills as they relate to your idea job. What you can bring to the organization, the open position that no other candidate can, and your professional goals. Even though your CV summary is written by you, it should be composed in third person, in present tense. Think of it as a summary of what one of your best colleagues would say about your professional achievements. Reinforce your title, and sell only the experiences and skills that meet your career objective. If you have multiple career objectives, such as you wish to get a position in either marketing or public relations, develop separate CV summaries for each of the objectives. A summary can also contain a brief bullet section highlighting only a few vital competitive skills that you bring to the table. An example of an effective summary would be as follows: Successful financial planning professional with over 15 years of personal and retirement planning experience. Leader in development and professional growth of four other financial planners in the firm through effective and motivating mentoring strategies. Key competencies include: Personalized portfolio development financial forecasting Retirement portfolio management Development on-going professional growth strategies. Much like your overall CV, your summary should be well-written and error- free. Make sure to review your summary, and customize as necessary for the various opportunities of interest. An effective summary will help you “hook” your employer; it should sell you as a primary candidate for the job, leaving your employer with a great first impression of you.

EMPLOYER QUALIFICATIONS
When applying for jobs, it is important that you read through the job description thoroughly before submitting your application. A lot of what employers are actually looking for in their potential associate is written right in the job description and requirements. In fact, you should review your CV against the requirements listed in order to make sure you have covered everything the employer is looking for.If you can address all the requirements by the information in your CV or in your cover letter, you will be on the right track for getting the job. However, there is a whole list of skills employers look for that are never spelled out in the job description. These skills are typically referred to as employee ability skills, which are skills beyond your technical knowledge and qualifications that make you a great professional in your field. Don’t panic, you already have employee ability skills, you just may not think of them as critical for getting a job. In this case, the employee ability skills have been grouped in eight categories:
(1)Communication skills (2)Teamwork skills (3)Problem-solving skills (4)Initiative and enterprise skills (5)Planning and organizing skills (6)Self-management (7)Learning skills (8)Technology skills
Now that you have read the categories, you are thinking to yourself, yes, I have those skills. But did you ever think to list them on the CV? Most people focus on their professional achievements and responsibilities, and they often skip these skills in favour of those that are job specific. However, more and more employers look for these skills in CVs. Therefore, your potential employer wants to know that you are a team player, that you communicate well, and will show initiative when needed. While you may think this is implied by your interest in the available position, employers like to see these skills called out on your CV or cover letter. The best way to demonstrate these skills is through your experience and under your qualifications. Point out the initiatives you have participated in that required you to work in a team, under a deadline, or as a self-starter. Demonstrate your loyalty through pointing out your accomplishments at an organization and how they benefited your team as a whole (not just you). You can showcase the employee ability skills in your cover letter by openly showing your enthusiasm for the available position, stating your commitment to your career objective, indicating your motivation and your integrity, and showing that you are above all unselfish and credible. These skills are just as critical to your ability to do a great job as your professional experience and education – employers are looking for someone who will be a great fit on their team and in their organization, someone who works well under pressure but also has a sense of humour and has a balance between their personal and professional life.
Review your existing CV. Does it contain any employee ability skills? If not, make revisions to incorporate those employee ability skills you feel you excel in. If you are unsure, ask your friends or family for an objective opinion, so that you can get a better idea of how people around you see you as a person as well as a professional. Keep these attributes in mind as you compose your CV and your cover letter, and especially as you are taking part in interviews. These skills can make a difference between knowing how to do a job and being qualified to exceed goals and grow in your career.

HOW TO DESIGN YOUR CV TO GET EMPLOYERS ATTENTION
Job hunting can be one of the most exhilarating and yet one of the most agonizing experiences in your life. While you look forward to the new chapter in your professional life, finding a way to stand out from other candidates, who are at least equally qualified for the position you want, is a difficult task.
Your CV is the first contact your potential employer has with you. A well formatted and a well-written CV can make a difference between getting the interview and getting the job, and being passed over. Most employers receive a stack of CVs of qualified candidates and scan them quickly before they decide whether or not they want to read further. You only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. Don’t panic. Instead, focus on the design of your CV as it is the first thing your employer, whether on paper or in electronic form.
The most commonly made mistake in CV design include using templates that are already available in Microsoft Word. While these templates provide a quick, easy to follow tools to create your CV, they are outdated, and they will make your CV appear generic and uninviting. Additionally, these templates, while well formatted in Microsoft Word, will not translate well when emailed or uploaded to job search engine web sites.
Second most commonly made mistake in CV design is inclusion of graphics on the page. Your picture and/or any other graphics are not appropriate for a CV. Including anything outside of plain text will make you stand out in a way that makes the employer think you are not taking yourself seriously as a professional, and this is certainly not the first impression you want to make. You can find samples of CVs on the Internet; search for CVs by your industry to find the templates that make most sense for the job you are seeking.
Than work on a blank page to replicate the look and feel of the CV you like. The following are basic formatting rules for your CV: Limit the length of the CV to two pages. The page should have one-inch margins, top and bottom, right and left. Use left justification only – as a rule, do not centre the content of your CV. The font and font size should be consistent. The bullet points should be basic – use circles or squares, but never any symbols that may not translate well when you email your CV to your potential employer. Headlines can be in all caps; the remaining text should not have special formatting. Do not underline any of the information in your CV. In the world of Internet driven job applications, underlining in a document implies a web link. The font size for headlines should not exceed 14 points; the remainder of the text in the CV should not exceed 12 points. Use the Tab key instead of the Space bar to create spaces between the texts in your CV. As a last formatting check point, ask your friends or your family for help in reviewing your CV. Send the CV file via email to a few of your friends – ask them to review the CV and make sure nothing seems out of place. Print out the CV on paper and review to make sure that margins are accurately set, and that the content doesn’t appear crowded on the page. Keep in mind – when it comes to your CV, sleek simple appearance, and great writing, will get you the job you are seeking.

ACTION WORDS TO GIVE YOUR CV POWER
You’ve heard it over and over again – a well-written CV is a winning CV. What does that mean? How can you determine whether your CV is written in a tone and style that employers will respond to? Synthesizing your educational achievements, years of your professional experience, and numerous qualifications you have acquired over the years into one to two pages is not easy to accomplish. Every phrase or statement you write has to convince your potential employer that you are the best candidate for the job. To do so, you will need to use action or power word. Action words, or power words, are keywords (verbs) that add strength and positive implication to your job responsibilities or qualifications. When you submit your CV to your potential employer, there are two scenarios that will occur. One, your application will be ran through a computer software program, which searches your CV for key terms as indicated by the employer. If your CV contains those key words, your CV will be pulled aside for further review.
Two, a hiring manager, or most often a human resources associate, will receive a stack or CVs and scan through them quickly to pick out those that stand out the most, again based on certain key words. It should now be clear why these action words are critical to your success in job hunting. When listing your employment history, each job’s responsibilities should be listed in bullet point form, with each statement starting with an action word. Using power verbs or phrases will indicate to your employer that you are driven by action and results and that you can effectively articulate your professional experience (thus, showcasing your communication skills). Here is a small sample of action words: Created Developed and Implemented Managed Delivered Designed Facilitated Negotiated Coordinated Budgeted Acted Communicated Consulted, etc. This is a very short sampling of action words. Many resources on the Internet contain extensive listings of action words or phrases. Do some research and use only those terms that are relevant to your field of experience.
Your best bet would be to locate samples of CVs by professionals in your industry. Review those CVs for ideas on how to list your responsibilities. Important note: do not copy exact statements from another person’s CV; while you can do your research, you will want to make your CV personalized to your professional experience. Don’t fall into the trap of using the same action word over and over. If you have in fact managed multiple projects, you may want to be a bit more specific about your role in each. For example, maybe you were the communication liaison in one project, while you were the project manager for another task. Begin the first bullet point with “communicated,” and the second bullet point with “managed.”
However, be aware of the words that you are using and consider their value in your CV. Do not go overboard with using varying terms, especially those that may change your role or your responsibilities. Additionally, you can find key action words in job descriptions. Review your CV against a job description and make sure that all required qualifications are addressed in your statements. This will also help you identify action words that the employer uses, which you can in turn use to customize your CV or cover letter to that specific job. Always make sure that you are consistent in the way you list all of your responsibilities and qualifications, and make sure that your statements exude positive attitude and focus on actions and results. By doing so, you are guaranteed to create a winning CV that will get you noticed.

STATING YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES ON YOUR JOB DESCRIPTIONS
If you have never written a CV, the blank page you are facing can be very intimidating. While you can describe your job responsibilities to your friends, listing them out in a CV and showcasing how your experience to date meets your career objectives is a very difficult task. To get started, you must first consider what type of a job you are seeking. Much like your career objective or summery should reflect your professional goals, your current and past experiences must showcase that you are the best candidate for the job you are applying for. In listing your current and past professional experiences, try to focus on those responsibilities that indicate you are qualified to take the next step in your career. Due to the fact that more and more companies as well as job search sites use scanning software to pick out candidates, it is very important that you use key words, including active verbs, to describe your skills. Instead of beginning your job descriptions with “Responsible for” try to use active verbs such as: Managed Developed Created Communicated Interfaced Achieved, etc. These key words get straight to the point of describing your responsibilities, which is exactly what the employers are looking for. Chose these words carefully – don’t say that you “managed a project”, implying you were responsible for the whole task from start to finish if you were only responsibly for communicating the project to other associates. Instead state that you “Developed and executed the communication strategy for associates,” describing your role more accurately and emphasizing your strengths.
Typically, the first job listed on your CV is the one you currently hold. In this case, make sure that your responsibilities are stated in present tense, as you are still responsible for them. For example, say “Manage accounting activities” instead of “Managed accounting activities.” This will indicate to your potential employer what your day-to-day activities are like and how they complement responsibilities of the job you are submitting your CV for. All previous jobs should be listed using past tense, and should start with active verbs such as managed, developed, accomplished, etc. Additionally, make sure that responsibilities you are listing are relevant for to your career objective. List only those responsibilities which help you put your best foot forward. For example, if you are looking for a job that requires managing a team of people, focus on your development and participation in group projects instead of focusing on solitary activities such as office organization. In terms of formatting, make sure that your responsibilities are listed in bullet points. This formatting is preferred to paragraphs on a CV because it is easier to review quickly. Employers simply scan the CVs and look for key words – if the CV looks overwhelming, with a lot of copy and poor formatting, they will likely discard it. Thus, it is very important that your CV is formatted with enough white space and doesn’t contain any errors.

HIGHLIGHTING YOUR EDUCATION AND JOB SKILLS:
For Entry Level Graduating from college is one of the proudest moments you can experience. Receiving your diploma validates all the hard work you put into your education, the all nights you pulled before exams. Your graduation signifies your accomplishments as a student, and opens the door into the world of career choices, job searches, and 40-hour workweeks.
All of a sudden, it hits you – how will you get a job that requires experience if you have none? As a recent college graduate, you are entering the workforce at entry-level jobs. Your potential employers have very reasonable expectations. They expect you to have graduated from college and that your major is in line with the job you are applying for. They anticipate that you have some experience, a summer job or an internship, but they are not requiring years of professional experience. They would like to see some references – from your professors or previous supervisors – so that they can get a better idea of your personality and work ethic. Sound reasonable so far? The best way to show your potential employer that you are a perfect candidate for the job is to create a functional CV. Functional CVs focus on your qualifications, not your career time line. This style of the CV highlights what skills you have, rather than where and when you acquired or utilize them. In other words, instead of listing your experiences by your job titles, your CV will contained sections titled by your skills such as verbal and written communication, customer satisfaction, project management, etc. This CV style is highly recommended for and most often used by college students seeking internships or their first jobs out of college. Begin your CV by stating your career objective. Make sure that your career goals are personal. Your objective should be specific to the position you want, and should indicate to your employer how you intend to utilize your education and how this position will help you develop your experience. Your education should be listed next. List the school you attend and its location, your graduation year, and your major. It can be helpful to include your GPA, specific courses you have taken, or any honours you have received while in school. Your professional skills should come next.
This section will include sub-headings as they relate to specific qualifications you want to promote, such as communications, customer relations, managements, etc. Here, you can utilize any experience you have that relates to the sub-sections, including your part time jobs, internships, volunteer positions, community service work, or school- related activities. Only include a work experience/work history section if you have held part time jobs while in school or have had internships you’d like your employer to know about. This list should only include dates, titles, companies, and locations without listing any of your responsibilities, since you are covering them in the previous section. If you belonged to any clubs in school, include a section for activities and list only those that support your career objective. For example, if you were an editor of your school paper, and you are trying to get a job at a publishing company, make sure that you include this experience in your CV.
Your last section should list references. As a new graduate, it is to your benefit to include references on your CV, and give your employer everything they need to consider you as a qualified candidate for the job. You have nothing to lose by providing this information ahead of being asked for it.

Before you start applying for jobs, take advantage of your school’s career centre and have one of the mentors there review your CV and help you perfect both the content and the format. With a well-written CV, you are prepared to take the professional world by storm.

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