A “Get Hired” One-Two Punch: Cover Letter and Resume Summary

YouTern is pleased to present this guest post from Dana Leavy.

In a previous post I described the importance as well as the “how-to” of writing a resume summary statement.  I also described why it MUST be a “Summary” statement, and not an “Objective” statement.

I get asked a lot, “Well, what’s the difference between what you say in the summary statement, versus what you say in your cover letter?”  About 46 lines of text, for one.  But they are similar.

The reason for writing a cover letter is to introduce yourself to a potential employer, and to highlight your best qualities that paint you in a positive light as the best candidate for the job.  This is where you may explain in more depth certain aspects of your experience or skills that may be difficult to emphasize or communicate on your resume.  A resume follows a specific and fairly formal format.  The cover letter gives you an expanded venue to discuss your credentials in more depth, or address issues of importance.  For instance, a cover letter is an appropriate place to explain your love of working with children in a creative environment, which would really make you an idea candidate for the school counselor role.  You don’t mention that same statement in the body text of your resume – you simply highlight your experience the field and what you accomplished.

You might also address an employment gap in a cover letter, if it otherwise appears as a big red flag on your resume.  You do not address this on your resume directly – there’s no room, and it overshadows your skills and accomplishments, which is what they’re scanning the resume for in the first place.

So where does the Summary statement fall into the equation?  The summary statement should succinctly mimic what you say in your cover letter from a branding perspective.  While the cover letter may go into more personal detail and include more supporting information about the actual job you’re going after, both are simply branding tools.  Both the summary statement and the cover letter are the first pieces of text a hiring manager will read about you; they are the introduction to who you are, and why you deserve the job.  So the purpose of both is to brand you as the best qualified candidate for that role.

In a summary statement, you don’t have room to go into the type of explanation and story-telling that you do in a cover letter.  The summary statement simply pulls the most important, most relevant parts of that cover letter and brings it into a 4-6 line compilation that clearly communicates your strengths, skills and core competencies.  Do not discuss personal details, and do NOT discuss employment gaps here.

And keep in mind, that regardless of how well-crafted your cover letter is, chances are it’s not going to be read, and if it is, likely not in its entirety.  So never assume that a hiring manager will get the information they need about you from your cover letter alone.  Repeat-Repeat-Repeat the strongest selling points in your summary statement, because that may be the first and only introduction they get about you.  Make it powerful, make it make sense, and make it effectively and clearly brand you as the right person for the role.

For more tips on writing a resume summary statement, check this out.

About the Author: Dana Leavy’s extensive experience in career advising and recruiting for the creative industry has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design and multimedia in creating and executing effective job search strategies and career plans to find the work they are passionate about. Her career advice has been quoted on MSN Careers, CareerBuilder.com and About.com.

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