The concept of the qualifications summary is similar to that of the career objective – only it’s been expanded to encompass wider swath of your career and education, and no longer has anything to do with what YOU want in your new job.
In times past, most resumes would begin with a career objective. In it, the applicant would write a two-sentence description of their main qualifications for the job, and their desire to fill that job opening.
However, resume formatting has changed recently. It’s becoming more popular (and necessary) to begin with a six-sentence summary at the beginning of your resume, covering the main achievements, qualifications, and skills that qualify you for the job.
Normally, this section is called a “Qualifications Summary,” or “Summary of Qualifications.” I’ve seen other names, like “Summary of Skills,” but the general consensus among resume experts is that you should have the word “Qualifications” at the top.
Why was the career objective section replaced?
There are a couple reasons why — one being stylistic, the other technical.
Stylistically, the career objective has been criticized as being too focused on the applicant’s desires, instead of on the company’s needs. In addition, there wasn’t enough space in two sentences to pull out major achievements and skills for the hiring manager to quickly glance through.
Helping the hiring manager to quickly scan your resume and pull out your key qualifications is imperative. In our 21st century information inundated world, hiring managers just don’t have the time to scan through piles of wordy text. Is it any surprise that the qualifications summary thus came into existence?
On the technical side, the qualifications summary creates another space on your resume to fit in important applicant tracking system (ATS) targeted keywords and impress the company’s robotic guardian (click here for more information about ATS). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this post on how your resume is likely first being read by a computer program, scanned for keywords, and accepted or rejected based on rating algorithms. It is critical to understand that aspect of job hunting in 2013.
In summary, replacing the career objective section killed two birds with one stone. With a qualifications summary, you could impress both human and robot eyes more successfully. What does this mean for you? Time to dust off the resume and prepare for a rewrite.
How to structure a qualifications summary
There are two schools of thought on the qualifications summary. You can either write it in 4-6 sentences in a paragraph format, or in 4-6 bullet points. Really, there isn’t a big difference between the two besides looking different.
Personally speaking, I like to read a qualifications summary that is in paragraph form. I like reading something that’s more comprehensive and appears to have a ‘beginning’ and an ‘end.’
Besides, the professional experience section is already going to have a lot of bullet points. Instead of making your resume look like something shot up full of bullet holes, it just “feels” nicer to have a nice introductory statement.
Anyway, that’s just me. The fact is that a robot won’t be able to tell the difference – all that it does is scan for keywords. So it’s just a matter of luck with whatever hiring manager happens to look at your resume, and what his/her tastes are.
TIP: Check out our resume sample page to find examples of a qualification summary.
How to write your qualifications summary
In your qualifications summary, you can include sentences/bullets for:
- How many years you’ve worked professionally in your area of expertise, and relate your main job description and/or professional achievement related to the job that you are applying for.
- What kind of degree(s) you’ve earned, and any coursework related to the job you’re applying for.
- What kind of skills (software, hardware, language, physical, etc.) you have that are related to job you’re applying for. Tip: Use both acronyms and their spelled out form for best keyword optimization.
- What kind of licenses and/or certificates you’ve earned, and the job responsibilities you’ve had resulting from earning these certifications, once again in relation to the job you’re applying for.
The best thing that you can do to make your qualifications summary (and the rest of your resume) effective is to read the job description carefully, and try to copy the verb-phrases that the hiring manager has written into it when writing your own job descriptions. That way, it’s highly likely that you’ll be hitting keywords and key phrases that the ATS will be looking for.
Gee, didn’t I just write my whole job description there?
No one will fault you for (and in fact, you’re supposed to) repeat the information you put in the qualifications summary in the professional experience section. Obviously, it shouldn’t be copy pasted – you’ll be going into more granular detail when writing about your professional experience.
But what if you barely have, or don’t have enough experience to put into a qualifications summary?
Don’t worry about if you’re a student, entry-level candidate, or just don’t have much work experience. You should instead revert back to using a career objective, which is still considered acceptable resume writing practice.