15 Seconds to Impress with your Resume Summary

Have you ever heard that HR professionals scan resumes for 15 seconds before jumping to the next? After searching and asking around, I've realized it's not exaggerated -- it is what most recruiters do.

You basically get 10-15 seconds, after which the recruiter decides whether she'll actually read your resume or not. So yes, the first look at your resume is quick and dirty. A bit cruel, even. But when HR has 100 or 200 resumes to go through, they have to rock and roll! And the discarded pile grows much quicker than the good one.

Now, how can you use that knowledge to your advantage? To avoid getting discarded early on, the best thing you can do is open with a high impact summary. It should contain the most relevant material for this specific job. And you can even title that section: "Highlights/Summary for [company name]". By naming the company, your reader knows straight away that you didn't carelessly send out resumes (the good, old "spray and pray" approach). It looks tailored and intentional, which is already a small point in your favor. Since time is against you, the information has to be very easy to read. Use bullets, then!

Elements of a good resume summary

  • Years of experience
  • Accomplishments and results
  • Diplomas/prestigious institutions
  • Expertise
  • Other credentials
  • Awards and recognition

You basically want to show, firstly, that you comply with the requirements of the job ad: diploma, years of experience, and so on. You should also put forward your most relevant accomplishments (1 or 2) for this particular job. While you can't control how readers scan your resume, by putting your summary (or highlights) section at the beginning (right after your name and contact information), it's hard to miss! Without this section, a properly formatted resume can still be scanned quickly to look for compliance with the basic requirements. However, the advantage of the summary is to also build a strong first impression, by using key accomplishments right there, to help you stand out quickly!

While resume accomplishments are the most important elements of your resume, they might be spread all over your resume. Meanwhile, the summary is the richest section. Everything in there should make your reader nod with approval. You'll find under each blog category a growing series of articles with compelling examples of resume summaries, tailored by profession.