Do a simple Google search on the topic, and you’ll find plenty of articles on how to write your objective and professional summary – and you’ll probably find lots of contradicting information.
Here’s our stance on the matter: we generally don’t recommend including an objective or professional summary on your CV at all.
We believe that there are much better uses for the limited space you have to work with.
We never include objective statements and very selectively use professional summaries – and this approach drives strong results for our clients.
Typically, it’s fine to skip these components for the following reasons:
1) The primary objective of your CV is to land you an interview
When you send in your CV for a job, your main objective is to get invited for an interview.
You’re applying because you want the job, right?
The act of your submitting your CV very clearly implies your objective: trying to explain yourself will inevitably sound forced and awkward.
2) Your CV is 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: your position titles, company names, key accomplishments and education.
When you have such a limited amount of space to work with, you should be mindful of whether every word and every bullet point is truly adding value.
In most cases, the professional summary simply is not.
3) Professional summaries are usually rather generic and full of empty buzzwords
The typical professional summary boasts about 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!
But always aim to show recruiters examples of these characteristics instead of simply telling them.
4) Using your work experience section is a more believable way to convey your skills
Professional summaries that incorporate generic buzzwords don’t sound believable without any concrete evidence to back up the statements.
When poorly written, they make you sound like similar candidates who are applying for the same position.
Aim to differentiate yourself from your competition.
You’ll generally be able to do so in a much more compelling manner by providing real-world examples in the context of your work experience.
5) 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.
A professional summary may be appropriate in cases such as the following:
1) You are a seasoned executive with over a decade of experience
If you are an experienced executive, you can use the professional summary to provide an overview of your career progression and highlights.
What were your biggest contributions? What aspects of your career are you most proud of?
2) You hopped around industries and need to tie your experience together
If you held unrelated positions across multiple industries or have a non-linear career path, you can use the professional summary to provide focus by tying 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?
3) If you are putting together a more comprehensive academic CV
Academic CVs tend to be significantly longer than a professional CV, so a professional summary will serve as an effective executive summary that highlights your main achievements.
If you do include a professional summary, make sure to keep it short and concise.
We recommend limiting your “professional summary” or “career highlights” section to a maximum of four to five bullet points.
Avoiding generic descriptions describing your skills sets. Instead, mention company names and provider concrete examples of projects you completed and your achievements.
So, do you need one?
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.
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 rather generic, it’s best to leave it off.
For more tips on how to improve your CV, check out our blog post on the top 10 CV writing mistakes we see!