The Qualifications section can do more than any other section to create a favorable first impression and will set the tone for the rest of the resume. It is a summary of your skills and experience and includes blatantly positive affirmations about you that will be demonstrated in context later in the resume. A well-written Qualifications section should compel the reader to learn more about you by reading the entire resume!
This section should capture the essence of who you are and what you have to sell. Any point that is not crucial should either be eliminated or considered for inclusion in your cover letter.
Studying the following examples will help you understand the function of the Qualifications section. A sample job has been included with each example to demonstrate how they fit together.
objeCtiVe: Marine Sales QUALIFICATIONS
Outstanding sales record. Highly knowledgeable in all facets of sailboats, powerboats, commercial fishing vessels, and marine hardware. Strong ability to introduce new product lines to distributors, dealers, and boat builders. Top-selling rep in the country for four major marine manufacturers.
EMPLOYMENT Bellkirk Marine, San Diego, California 6/03 to Present
manuFaCturerS’ rePreSentatiVe – Represent 27 lines throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona. Increased the number of accounts with distributors, dealers, and boat builders from 35 to 96 and have increased sales 85%. Since 2004 have been the top-selling rep for four major manufacturers.
Qualifications example #1 includes a summary and an accomplishment. It starts off with a simple but strong statement: “Outstanding sales record.” It then goes on to describe the areas of expertise.
The top accomplishment (as the top-selling representative in the country for four manufacturers) has been included twice—in Qualifications and the job narrative. It is a valuable statement worth repeating.
OBJECTIVE: Supermarket Management QUALIFICATIONS
Strong management background. With a 21-store district, increased profits 32% and oversaw the construction of four new stores. During 17 years in management, coordinated the grand openings of 13 stores and produced some of the most profitable new stores with three different chains.
Fine Food Centers, Tulsa, Oklahoma 5/88 to Present
DiStriCt manager 9/95 to Present. Responsible for profit and loss analysis, wage and salary administration, merchandising, store layout, advertising, and buying for 21 stores in the district. Supervised the remodeling of five stores and the construction of four stores. Developed in-house cleaning and repair services, saving $150,000 annually. Through improved merchandising and customer service, increased sales per store 28% and profits 32%.
Qualifications example #2 begins with a bold statement, “Strong management background,” and then proceeds to back it up with evidence. Immediately you realize this person has been very successful and you want to know more about her. One fact comes right out of her current position (the 32% increase in profits). The second statement (concerning the success of 13 store openings) is a summary that comes from her entire management background. If this summary had not been stated so clearly in a Qualifications section, it might have been easily overlooked, even during a careful reading of the entire resume. Because the coordination of a grand opening is an extremely valuable skill, it deserves prominence in Qualifications.
Qualifications statements work great for those with little work experience. Sometimes volunteer experience works perfectly, as in the case of this recent college grad.
objeCtiVe: Marketing and Event Planning
- Strong background in event planning, promotion, and facilitation along with awardwinning customer service experience.
- Consistently exceed expectations. For a major fund-raising event, significantly exceeded attendance and revenue goals.
- Proven ability to manage multiple tasks, projects, and assignments simultaneously.
- Effective public speaker and writer with the ability to clearly present complexinformation.
- Solid leader with the ability to train and mentor teams of employees and volunteers.
- Demonstrated ability to quickly learn and utilize new methods, systems, and procedures.
- Respected by customers, employers, and associates for initiative, follow up, and creating great experiences.
Northwest Wine Country, eugene, oregon 2006
EVENT COORDINATOR / PUBLICATION EDITOR — As a volunteer, managed all logistics for a statewide wine-tasting festival to benefit the University of Oregon’s scholarship program. Coordinated participation of 95 wineries from throughout the state. Prepared venue layout and setup areas. Assigned and supervised a team of 150 volunteers. Served as the foundation’s representative to all wineries, vendors, and guests. Managed setup and operation of an onsite wine store inventory from all participating wineries. Oversaw security and accounting of all receipts and remaining inventory. Event drew over 1,500 guests, surpassing expectations in attendance by 40% and revenue for the scholarship program by 48%.
Wrote, edited, and published a 60-page glossy color program guide. Worked closely with corporate and individual sponsors to format ads and recognition pieces. Guide
received exceptional feedback for quality and appearance.
Writing Your Qualifications Section
Write your Qualifications section last.
It can be the most difficult section to write and requires the most care. Once you have the Employment section completed you will know better what needs to be included in your Qualifications section.
As you prepare for writing about your qualifications, review the resume and determine which points should be selected. Use these qualifications to introduce yourself to the reader and to provide an overview of why you are qualified for the position. To do this, ask yourself, “What makes me qualified for this position?” Or “What has made me successful in this field?” In Qualifications it is permissible to repeat or paraphrase points made elsewhere in the resume.
While relatively short, the Qualifications section is typically the most difficult to write. Because it can strengthen the overall effectiveness of the resume, it deserves a great deal of attention and effort. An hour or two spent writing and editing this section is not too much.
Presenting Qualifications Statements
Tom: I like short, hard-hitting Qualifications sections. I try to capture the essence of what will impact employers. As a result, most Qualifications sections I write are one or two paragraphs with three to six lines each. If there are three distinct areas that need to be sold, then I may have three paragraphs with three to four lines each. People making career changes, or those seeking positions without having the traditional background, may need three or four paragraphs to bring out all of their related experience. Even so, the emphasis should still be on conciseness and impact. See pages 177, 189, and 202 for examples of single-paragraph Qualifications statements, and pages 182, 187, and 216 for examples of three or more paragraphs.
Gary: I prefer a bulleted list of qualifications because each entry stands out, allowing the reader to do a quick visual scan and hone in on any specific attention grabbers. As the job narratives are typically in paragraph mode, the bulleted entries bring some variety to the format.
Write a Qualifications Sketch
To write a compelling Qualifications section, begin by writing a qualifications sketch. List the key strengths and assets that you want to convey. After writing the sketch, select the most critical entries. Delete the others and what remains will be the first draft of your Qualifications section. A well thought out qualifications sketch will enable you to write a more impactful Qualifications statement. The qualifications sketch of a Quality Control Manager might look like this:
- Ten years in quality control.
- Familiar with all techniques that have been developed for the electronics industry.
- Saved money and reduced rejects for three different companies.
- I work well with other department heads, particularly production, and coordinate and cooperate well with them rather than work against them.
- I’ve developed creative programs that really work.
- I like my work and enjoy a challenge.
- I’m always looking for a better method, technique, or system; I’m open to new ideas from others.
- I’m an excellent supervisor. I train my staff well, I listen to them, I maintain high morale, and productivity is always high.
- I’m hard-working, loyal, reliable, creative, and efficient.
The final version of the quality control manager’s Qualifications section might read like this:
Strong experience in quality control gained during ten years in supervision and management. For three electronics manufacturers implemented new quality
control programs which decreased rejects at each plant by at least 23%.
Develop excellent relations with all department heads and work well with production personnel.
Excellent supervisor. Consistently increase productivity of quality assurance personnel, and, through effective staff training, increase their technical capabilities.
If you review the original points, you will notice that everything is included here either directly or by implication. By reading the Qualifications section in the context of the entire resume, you would certainly pick up that he enjoys a challenge and that he is hard-working, loyal, reliable, creative, and efficient.
Tips for Writing Your Qualifications Sketch
To help you identify the points you want to make in your Qualifications statement, ask yourself these questions.
- What is the essence of what I want an employer to know about me?
- If I could convince an employer of just one strength, which would it be?
- What would a second strength be?
- What are the two or three strengths that my bosses have most valued?
- After reviewing several classified ads in my field, which two or three of my key strengths do they consistently address?
Once you answer these questions you will have a good idea of what you want your Qualifications statement to accomplish. You’re now ready to create your qualifications sketch.
In writing Qualifications sections there is a tendency to use the words strong and excellent, such as “Strong experience in quality control” and “Excellent supervisor.” Both are excellent words, but try not to overuse them. Unfortunately, even exhaustive thesaurus scans have not provided a great many alternatives.
Strong, Excellent, Broad
Other phrases can also be used to make a point. If you use “Excellent experience” in one paragraph, you could use “Broad experience,” “Broad background,” or “Solid background” in the next. Don’t be overly bothered if you use the word excellent three times, but more than that would be excessive. Excellent is often the best word because it is not as humble as good, or too superlative, as outstanding or exceptional can be.
A good way to begin a Qualifications paragraph is with a short statement, such as “Excellent management experience.” Then, back it up with further details. In this case the follow-up might be “Consistently obtain high productivity from employees,” or “Consistently implement new techniques and procedures that increase productivity and lower costs.” Another effective backup statement would be: “Proven ability to turn around projects that are behind schedule and over budget.” Whatever general statement you make should be explained or reinforced with details. Look at the resumes on pages 176, 180, 187 and 202 and notice how percentages or other statistics have been included in Qualifications. This can be very effective but is not always necessary or possible, particularly if you are making a broad statement about your entire career.
Notice how effective these various backup statements can be when they are paired with the beginning short statement.
Excellent management experience. Consistently obtain high productivity from employees.
Broad management experience. Consistently implement new techniques and
procedures that increase productivity and lower costs.
Solid management experience. Proven ability to turn around projects that are behind schedule and over budget.
Strong background in trucking gained during 20 years of management experience.
Recognized for ability to significantly increase market share and quickly increase
profitability. At each terminal achieved one of the best on-time records in the industry.
Opening with a short statement provides impact. It hits the reader directly and makes the person want some evidence, which you will provide in your very next sentence. Of course, you need to be able to verify anything you say, such as “Consistently obtain high productivity from employees,” either in other sections of your resume or in a personal interview.
Short, To-the-Point Qualifications Statements
OBJECTIVE: Lending/business development position
Broad banking background with strong managerial and technical expertise. Always a top producer, with the ability to establish strong, long-term customer relationships.
OBJECTIVE: Marketing/Product Management
Strong background in sales and marketing management. Consistently increase revenue, market share, and profit margin. Develop excellent, long-term relationships with key accounts, leading to better long-range planning and revenue streams.
Longer Qualifications Statements with More Points
Sometimes it takes several paragraphs to do justice to your background. The following person could have identified two or three key strengths to emphasize in one or two short paragraphs, but it seemed right to provide more information. This is another example of how important it is to determine what will best work for you.
- Strong leadership qualities with a solid sales and marketing track record. Consistent award winner for sales and operational excellence. Six-time President’s Award winner.
- Broad experience in operations with full P&L responsibility, including sales development, forecasting, budgeting, process improvement, and quality control.
- Develop market strategies that increase market share and return on investment farabove the industry norm. Most recent strategic plan resulted in a 46% revenue increase over the past two years with a 285% increase in ROI.
- Track record of successfully benchmarking and driving improvement on best practices throughout large geographic areas.
- Recognized for ability to establish long-term customer relationships and increaseservice to unprecedented levels. Won Costco’s Top Vendor Certification Award in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Qualifications Statements Without Supporting Data
It is always helpful to provide supporting evidence or further information to back up any claims you make in a resume. It’s helpful, but not necessary. When you make statements about yourself it is because you are convinced they are true. With that in mind you must be prepared to sell that quality in an interview. In fact, any statement in your resume can result in an interview question, so you must be ready to back it up.
Let’s look at two Qualifications statements from two different people. Each is effective and each contains only true statements about the person. The first was written by Sandra to help her move from office work to sales.
Strong sales personality. Effectively market programs and sell ideas to key people. High-energy person with the initiative to “make things happen.” Skilled at assessing needs and following up to resolve problems.
Sandra has held administrative positions but wants to move into sales. She has no outside sales experience but she has sales friends who think she would be great. She has the desire, personality, and drive to make it in sales. Because none of her jobs involved sales, she is using the opportunity in the Qualifications statement to show her potential. A sales manager who needs someone with five years of sales experience will not give her a second look. Fortunately, some sales managers actually prefer to train their sales reps. They are willing to take a rookie with obvious energy and drive and mold that person into a professional. That is the type of sales manager who will have the vision to see the potential in Sandra.
Notice that Sandra has provided no real supporting evidence for any of her statements. She says she can market programs and sell ideas. She claims she takes initiative. While there could certainly be a question mark in the reader’s mind, it is clear by the tone that Sandra absolutely believes that these statements are true and accurate. As long as Sandra’s job narratives show a pattern of success, with some reference to her initiative, these statements will be credible until Sandra demonstrates otherwise at an interview.
In the next example, Darryl provides a short description of his real estate and land development background.
Broad background in all phases of real estate development and investment
including acquisitions, design, approvals, construction, finance, marketing, and
property management. Consistently bring projects in ahead of schedule and under budget.
Darryl has a ton of experience and wants the reader to move right into the heart of his last two positions, but first he wants to create an impression. His goal with this statement is to quickly show the breadth of his experience. He also wants the reader to know that he has a history of completing projects ahead of schedule and under budget—absolutely critical abilities for a project manager in any industry.
Backing Up Statements with Numbers
Using numbers and statistics to provide supporting evidence of your claims can be very effective. Since you will already have written your job narratives, ask yourself whether any of those numbers are appropriate. Often it is valuable to put together numbers that the employer would not have picked up on without your assistance. For example, the district manager for a grocery chain (page 12) mentioned that she had managed the grand openings of 13 stores throughout her career. Here are some additional Qualifications statements that have effectively used numbers to provide proof. The first is for a human resources manager:
Broad management background with strong human resources experience gained through the complete development of an HR department. Introduced systems that have increased productivity, significantly reduced turnover, and have saved more than $120,000 per year in medical insurance, unemployment compensation, and training costs.
The entire statement is well written and convinces the reader that he is a very capable and versatile human resources manager. Every business would like an HR manager who can play a major role in increasing productivity, reducing turnover, and saving beaucoup dollars. Nearly every interviewer he met was eager to learn how he had saved so much money for a relatively small, 90-employee company.
Another two examples will reinforce the value of numbers in Qualifications statements. The first is a small business owner who wants to move into management in a larger company. The second is a pharmacy manager who has a knack for attracting and keeping customers, thus increasing sales each year.
Strong management and sales experience. Build excellent relationships with customers and provide outstanding customer service. Built Kraft Windows into one of the top dealers in the Southwest by increasing sales 18% annually.
Broad pharmacy background. Recognized for strong technical knowledge and ability to effectively monitor and prevent potential adverse drug interactions. Introduced
numerous cost-saving measures that increased quality and productivity standards.
Have increased sales volume at each store at least 15% per year.
In both cases the numbers help convince the reader that each is a highly capable person who deserves an interview.
To write effective Qualifications statements, study several examples. Analyze them to determine what makes them effective. When you’re through writing your own, compare it to some of these examples. If you’re not pleased, set it aside for a day. You’ll return to it later with a fresh perspective. Don’t give up and simply use this section as filler. It’s the first opportunity the reader will have to begin assessing you. Make it count!
A Last Resort Option
Some people just find it impossible to come up with a good Qualifications section—period! One good exercise is to put yourself in the place of the reader and review the rest of the resume. Make notes of what makes you valuable. Be as objective as possible, even to the point of changing your name on the resume as you try this exercise. It probably won’t take very long to come up with a usable list of assets and achievements you can use as Qualifications.
If you are still unable to create an acceptable Qualifications section, wrap it
up with a short summary of 10 to 25 words without trying to make any hard-
hitting statements. Here’s an example.
Excellent background in information technology gained during eight years in programming and systems analysis.
Even though this Qualifications section lacks punch when compared to previous examples, it does have value. It defines the person as a serious and seasoned professional with almost a decade of experience. There is enough to encourage the reader to continue and seek more.
Take the Time to Make It Right
I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn’t have time to make it shorter — Blaise Pascal
As we have discussed, the Qualifications statement is typically one of the hardest parts of the resume to write; something short and powerful always takes time. When you read a great ad that has perhaps only ten words, you can bet that the copywriter spent many hours to make it perfect.
Be patient with yourself. Remind yourself that, like the copywriter, you
are creating an ad that may determine the success of your own sales campaign.
Devote whatever time it takes to make it right. It will be worth the effort.