The Art of Revision in an Effective #Resume Summary

“By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

Part of my job entails training colleagues on resume writing and general career counseling in order to be prepared to take on a competitive resume writing certification exam.  Through this great experience, my team in the office has had a lot of time to develop and revise training for colleagues of various technical and writing skills.  No matter what, the profile section of a resume has always been the most time consuming.  One newer strategy came a few weeks ago, that has worked fairly well for my own purposes for advice to coworkers and job seekers alike.

[As a warning, all that follows is a journey down the dark caverns of my mind- or rather, my thought process as it relates to resume writing and strategies that have proven to be successful.  Excuse my seemingly contradictory blog here, as I detail the benefits of being concise in a long-winded post.]

The profile statement is typically a paragraph section underneath a headline statement on a combination style resume.  Here is where the first sentence has to be an all-encompassing marketing statement, highlighting the most significant selling points of the client that speaks to the employer’s needs.  Every time we write one, I think of my time in a Shakespeare festival playing an evil sister in a reenactment of King Lear.  My close friend Stephanie played the other evil sister and we had to ‘fight’ over the same man.  The first time running through the play quickly, it took an hour.  Then for the audience, the goal was to do the play in a half hour.  Then 10 minutes.  Then 5 minutes…. Then all the way down to 30 seconds.  What started off as a snarky, witty back-and-forth between Stephanie and me became an all-out fight scene.  We literally took each other down on stage, trying to get the essence of the evil sisters relationship conveyed under the time constraints.

And I see you, staring at me right now, thinking, “Land the plane…” Well, consider the full 5-7 sentences of a full paragraph the 10 minute version.  The very first sentence is that 30 second version.  The half hour may be the full resume and its accompanying documents, and the full hour would be the resume accompanied with the interview process until the hiring decision.

Giving the employer piece by piece what they need and no more is another exercise in time constraints.  Giving them too much too soon could dance on the border of being irrelevant and the employer may lose interest or not see the worth amongst the wealth of information.

To avoid resume jargon that doesn’t market a client well, I suggest the following.

When crafting the Summary-

1.      Determine the unique selling points.  3-5 of them would be ideal.  Selling points are what the client has to offer the employer.  Did they make or save money?  Did they manage a successful project? Implement a new program? Just complete a competitive training course?

2.      List the unique selling points in order of significance.  Determine which selling points have the most impact and lead with them.  Those of still impressive but lesser significance can help close the summary.  With all else excluded, the first sentence has to function as a stand-alone sentence, able to market the client well as leading statement in case the employer only skims the resume.

3.      Without using adjectives, articles, and pronouns, write the unique selling points as full sentences.  Describe the selling point in detail without any descriptive words.  This may seem difficult at first, but will be well worth it.  Avoiding the use of adjectives makes writers use only the facts.  By using only the facts, the true selling point is discerned without any “fluff” that could be considered debatable.  Articles are all of our neuter words like “the,” “a/an,” etc.  Removing pronouns helps lead with verbs, providing more impact to each sentence.

Take the example sentence of, “She had a great idea and developed a new marketing program  that beat what most of the local competition was doing.  Customers were prompted to come to the store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed by her, and the customers gave her lots of positive feedback, they were so happy to have a surprise discount.” 

If we remove the adjectives, articles, and pronouns, it becomes, “Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.  Customers were prompted to come to store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed, and customers gave positive feedback, happy to have discounts.”

4.      Use an active voice.  In the active voice, quite simply. the subject does the action.  Example – Jane developed a new marketing program.

If we were to compared this with the passive voice,  the target of the action becomes the subject.

 Example – A new marketing program was developed by Jane.

How do we place the above selling point in the active voice?  We can break it down one line at a time.  The first line, “Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing,” is already active because Jane/She is the understood subject.  We dropped the pronoun in step 3.

The next line, “Customers were prompted to come to store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts,” is all passive.  “Customers were prompted” and “special discount coupons were mailed.”  To change this to the active voice, the sentence can be changed to say “Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”

5.      Be concise but speak the employer’s language.  Now that we have dropped some unnecessary words, have understood subjects in the active voice, and a list of selling points in order of highest impact to lowest, we can edit the sentences further.  On a resume, you want to use as few words as possible to say your point.  Baroque, ornate sentences that flow on and on with continuous dependent clauses have no place on a resume.

Let’s take a look at how our summary line is going.  Now we have,

“Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.  Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”

35 words for one selling point is far too long.  Having one selling point take more than one sentence is also not the best marketing idea if high-value sentences are to be achieved.

Having a critical eye over what may be deemed necessary is crucial.  The first sentence begins with, “Had idea and…” Had idea?  Do we really need to say someone had an idea before they pursued something?  It is pretty safe to assume that before someone develops something new, they originally had an idea to do it.  Had an idea?  Dropped.

“Developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.”  This new marketing program is unique.  No other local stores currently offer this promotion.  The real “meat” of the sentence is that she “Developed (a) new marketing program.”  What can we assume from the fact that it differs from what other stores currently offer?  Although “unique” was used earlier, I would not recommend calling something “unique,” because everyone thinks they are unique.  “Exclusive” perhaps?

“Developed new and exclusive marketing program.”  Now “new and” bothers me.  It may even be safe to assume that when someone develops something, that it will be “new.”  Typically, no one develops something that will not lead to some new change.  “Developed exclusive marketing program.”  There we go.  Next sentence.

“Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.” Comma, comma, comma.  Everything about this sentence is dependent.  “and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts,” is essentially the result of this new sales promotion.

“Came to store” is just kind of, “meh” right?  I did X and customers came.  Since this is a sales-related statement, it may be more marketable to say, “increased traffic.”  From increasing traffic, there may be room for more sales.  Information on sales increases isn’t directly given to us, so we will continue with “increased traffic.”

Similarly, “gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”  What we are really talking about here is “customer satisfaction.” 

Revisions in mind, we have now changed this too, “Developed exclusive marketing program. Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers that increased traffic and customer satisfaction.”

6.      Make the sentences showcase abilities to offer an employer.  The revision sounds very close to an achievement, which could be further developed into one for this resume.  For the summary section, remove the specific details and save them for the achievements section.  Revise the sentence so it is something they can offer a prospective employer, and the achievements section can become the “proof” section.

“Proven ability to develop exclusive marketing programs

that increase traffic and customer satisfaction.”

Where is it “proven?  In the achievements section below.

7.      Finishing touches: sprinkle in an adjective with a job title/phrase.  As opposed to being adjective heavy and editing them out, we originally removed all or most adjectives in step 3.  It is much more difficult finding the “meat” of an ability/offering when it is flooded by meaningless adjectives, but one adjective at the end of fine tuning the sentence is a great finishing touch.  This adjective can be used to describe the client, but avoid over-assuming or using clichés.  “Self-motivated” or “Results-oriented” may be on a lot of “No” lists, but I think they are safe to use.  It’s just a matter of quality, not quantity, when it comes to choosing these few adjectives.

For the job title/phrase, you can use the client’s current occupation, or a general term for their occupation- as long as it is not completely different from the job they are targeting.  Overall, I would only avoid using the word “professional” as a standalone.  If the person in our example is a manager in sales, we can call her a Sales Manager.

End result:

Results-oriented Sales Manager with proven ability to develop exclusive marketing programs that increase traffic and customer satisfaction.

18 words, one sentence from 35 words and two sentences, with the major change being only an increase in impact.  These steps take some time, but remember, like most writing- it is 20% drafting, and 80% revision.  Taking the time to critically revise makes a great impact on the resume’s marketability.  If this sounds like a lot to handle, feel free to contact me so I can get you in touch with a CPRW from a local job center in your area.

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About ericatew

Erica Tew is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and career advisor who creates workshops and programs for CT Job Seekers. She is a manager of CT Jobs Chat, a LinkedIn networking group for job seekers, recruiters, and career counselors. Follow her on twitter @ericatew .

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