4 reasons we don’t recommend a professional summary (and what to do instead)
When crafting your CV, you have an extremely limited amount of space to work with.
As such, you should be especially mindful of whether every word and every bullet point truly adds value.
In most cases, the professional summary is not.
We recommend deleting your professional summary for the following four reasons:
1) Your CV is already a short document: you don’t need a summary to summarise it
At most, your CV is two to three pages long. At best, it’s only a page.
If you’re effectively incorporating skim value into your document, a recruiter should be able to skim it in under 30 seconds and still pick up the key information they’re looking for such as:
- position titles
- company names
- main accomplishments
2) Professional summaries tend to be generic and full of empty buzzwords
The typical professional summary boasts numerous cliches regarding how the candidate has “ten years of proven sales and digital marketing experience,” is a “strong team leader” and has “effective verbal and written communication skills,” for example.
If you do, that’s great!
However, always aim to show recruiters examples of these characteristics instead of simply telling them.
3) Your work experience section allows you to convey your skills in a more believable manner
Professional summaries that incorporate generic buzzwords don’t sound believable without any concrete evidence to back up the statements.
These types of statements also make you sound like similar candidates who are applying for the same position.
Aim to differentiate yourself from your competition.
You’ll be able to do so in a much more compelling manner by providing real-world examples in the context of your work experience.
4) It’s best to simply stick to the facts and let your experience speak for itself
If you are a good candidate for the position, you don’t need to use flowery language to effectively convince a recruiter that you will be able to excel in the role you’re applying for.
Sometimes, the harder you try, the more obvious it is – causing you to unintentionally lose credibility instead of building it up.
Why a career highlights section is a stronger alternative
Instead a writing a professional summary in paragraph format, we recommend including a Career Highlights section, which consists of 4-5 bullet points that:
- Outline key achievements from your career
- Demonstrate how your experience aligns with the target role
In these bullet points, avoid generic descriptions describing your skills sets.
Instead, mention company names and provider concrete examples of projects you completed and your achievements.
If you are an experienced executive, use the career highlights section to provide an overview of your career progression.
What were your biggest contributions?
What aspects of your career are you most proud of?
Career Switchers and Job Hoppers
If you held unrelated positions across multiple industries or have a non-linear career path, you can leverage the career highlights section to tie your diverse experiences together around a common theme.
In this case, it’s best to approach this section by keeping the jobs you are applying for in mind.
What aspects of your unique experience are most applicable to the roles you’re now pursuing?
Academics and Researchers
Academic and research CVs tend to be significantly longer than a professional CV.
In these cases, your highlights section will serve as an executive summary, or elevator pitch, outlining your career trajectory.
For academic CVs, a traditional professional summary written in paragraph format can also be appropriate.
However, it should still avoid any generic and unsubstantiated statements.
Just as with many other aspects of CV writing, whether you should include a professional summary is best determined on a case-by-case basis.
In most cases, the answer is "no."
The most important question to keep in mind is whether your summary is truly adding value.
If you’re simply repeating information found elsewhere on your CV or your content sounds generic, it’s best to leave it off.