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Should Your In-House Resume Have a Summary Statement?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 08, 2015 3:58 PM

It's not easy to get a job as in-house counsel. If you don't have a connection inside the company, you're largely left with just your resume and cover letter to make an impression. So your resume should wow, as much as a resume can.

A resume summary statement can help you grab attention by providing a quick, succinct "I'm qualified!" at the top of your resume. Some argue, however, that it wastes valuable resume space. Should you bother with one or not?

Haters Hate Resume Summary Statements

One of your resume's primary goals is to get you noticed as quickly and easily as possible. Even when hiring corporate counsel, many hiring managers will spend just a few seconds with a resume in their initial pass through. To help catch their eyes, some in-house applicants include a summary statement, or a quick review of who you are and what your experience is.

Camps are split about the effectiveness or necessity of a summary statement. Haters argue that such explanations are better saved for your cover letter. Resume summary statements aren't as bad as objective statements, those needless resume space-wasters. But, summary statements do add extra space to resumes, making them more verbose, instead of more succinct. Plus, if your resume can't explain who you are and what your experience is at a glance, it's a bad resume.

But They Have Their Advocates

But the summary statement has plenty of advocates, too. The Association of Corporate Counsel advises including a "compelling professional summary" of two to three sentences at the top of your resume, for example. That summary can help you stand out as a distinctive and valuable candidate.

If you do include a summary, what should it look like? Here's an example from Resume Power:

Skilled advocate, negotiator, and corporate law specialist with more than eight year's diversified experience providing expert counsel and directing company policy on a broad range of issues. Demonstrated expertise in all legal aspects of retail distribution systems and business operations, employment law, risk assessment/insulation, contract negotiations and regulatory compliance. Provide strong leadership, guiding both in-house and external teams through complex dealings.

Does the summary statement like the one above detract from a resume? Probably not, though it should be noted that the sample comes from a resume that barely fits on two pages. It certainly adds a few redundancies to the resume, highlighting experience that is clearly available elsewhere. But, highlighting that experience is important.

A little redundancy might be worth it if it helps a hiring manager quickly understand your strengths.

Does your resume absolutely need one? We're agnostics, but it's safe to say that you can probably get by either way.

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