How to write the perfect resume summary to elevate your career

What is a Resume Summary?

The summary section of a resume briefly showcases your professional qualities and offers a first impression to your potential employer. It is placed strictly below "Contact Information" at the top of the page and serves as an introduction to your resume. This block of text is given many headings - “Personal Statement”, “Competencies”, “Summary of Skills”, or “Qualification Summary” to name a few - but regardless of what it is called, it is the section where recruiters place the most importance. This section should also be the one that you spend the most time perfecting to ensure that you are able to pass through the initial selection process.

You are never the only one being considered for a position; the hirer is usually reading dozens or even hundreds of other resumes alongside yours. Keeping this in mind, it is best to limit your content to a few key points and core competencies, especially considering the “one-page resume” standard.

Recent research suggests that when given any text, most people scan it instead of reading it word-for-word, retaining only 28% of the information at most. If only 28% of the words in your resume are being read, it is vital that each one serves a significant purpose.

Summary vs. Objective
While both summaries and objectives are used to start off the resume, they do not serve the exact same purpose. Where resume summaries are used to display a candidate’s key selling points and how they would fit in with the company, a resume objective focuses on the reasoning behind a candidate’s interest in the position and its relevance to their skillset.

As a rule, the objective is only considered appropriate to use if you are:

  • Lacking previous work experience in a similar position (suitable for students, recent graduates and entry-level applicants)
  • Changing industries to something completely different
  • Re-entering an industry after a prolonged period of absence

Even so, a summary is the more appropriate choice because it allows you to specify transferable and soft skills that can be leveraged at a new job. Putting these skills in your summary ensures that your employer can easily find them without having to search the entire document.

Another advantage of this option is its writing style; instead of focusing on your own interests, you can highlight your ability to solve the company’s problems, making it much more relevant for the employer. Many recruiters view the objective as being obsolete and recommend including it in cover letters or in an email expressing your interest in the job, and a summary in your resume. It is almost always advisable to use a summary statement rather than an objective to start off your resume.

How to Write a Professional Summary for Resume

Even as one of the shortest and seemingly simplest sections, we receive questions about how to write a summary for a resume very often. A summary usually starts with a professional title that grabs the reader’s attention and convinces them to continue reading the document.

Although plain text is the most common introduction format, it can also be organized by a bulleted list of four to six items describing the applicant’s key talents.

Bullets look slightly different and may aid in the reader’s comprehension but they also take up more precious space on the page. However, there are some resume summary examples where an ordinary paragraph ends up being longer because of words like "and”, “the”, and “or". We recommend trying both options, analyzing them and choosing the best one, or even combining them into a hybrid "little paragraph + a few bullets" summary.

What to include in a resume summary statement: It’s all about the content

When preparing to write a professional summary, try to approach it as an advertiser creating catchy content to sell a product. The job seeker is essentially advertising themselves as a suitable candidate for the desired position, so the document should highlight all of the applicant’s relevant skills and positive character traits that he or she can deliver to a hirer. You can enhance the effect of your summary by including some of your tangible achievements that will be significant for the prospective employer.

Mentioning quantifiable metrics (large numbers and percentages), language proficiency, awards, or even famous names and brands will also tip the balance in your favour.

TIP

Try to pick out the most important of these accolades to include in your summary. Like an article headline, you want to use your summary to convince the hirer that the rest of the text is worth reading.

When less is more

Do not try to include everything you can offer the employer in the summary. The summary, as the word suggests, is only promoting facts that readers will encounter further in special blocks (e.g. "Skills" and "Work History" sections) designed specifically to provide detailed information for a hiring agent or an Applicant Tracking System. It may seem quite difficult to choose all the biggest moments and defining accomplishments from your track record to compress into a rather small piece of text, but the significance of such a procedure cannot be overemphasized. A good way to rule out some items is to create a list of selling points you bring to the table and assess the importance of each element on a scale of one to 10.

Don’t try to be someone you are not

If you compare your abilities to a job description and suddenly realize that you do not meet all of the requirements, you can compensate by emphasizing your proficiencies in other areas.

The biggest mistake you can make is to fabricate a few skills to look like a more appealing candidate. Remember that a discrepancy between words and deeds might make you stand out at first, but the truth will likely be revealed during the interview, so it is better to stay honest right from the start.

Make it undeniably outstanding and unique

Imagine your favorite music album - it is probably incredible from the beginning to the end, but one "hit" must have grabbed your attention and made you want to explore the entirety of the artist’s work. Your summary must play the role of this sensational song, bringing the reader in to continue on with the document. Successful people can be a great inspiration for writing an excellent statement - just take a look at the accomplishments that these two statements share with the reader:

Multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated artist inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with over 100 million album copies sold worldwide

Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, and producer involved in the creation of more than 30 movies, including two highest-grossing films of all time
Take a guess at who these two superstars could be in the comments!

Straight to the point, a single phrase immediately makes clear who we are dealing with. Your text should be built up from similar uncompromising sentences to intrigue the reader.

Of course, when you write a career summary, your achievements will possibly be more humble than receiving the Cannes Lion or the Nobel Prize, but you can specify:

  • How many people you have supervised
  • How much time and money you have saved for the company
  • What profitable deals and projects you have initiated
  • What major problems you have helped to solve

 

TIP

Switch from using a computer keyboard to writing with a pen or a pencil for a while. Doing so will help you activate different parts of your brain and be more creative. There are many studies and articles on the subject that may be helpful to introduce you to “handwriting vs. typing” research.

Get rid of first-person pronouns

First-person pronouns emphasize on your personality and your needs rather than the company’s. Take a look at how the removal of words like “I”, “me”, and “mine” can drastically improve the quality of writing:

WRONG

I was honored with the title, “Manager of the Year” in 2016, an award demonstrating my edge over 250 other competitors in the industry.

RIGHT

Awarded “Manager of the Year” in 2016 outperforming 250 top managers in the industry.

This rule is not set in stone, as some guides point out, so your statement can actually be written in the first person in some situations. It is still better not to add "I" at the beginning of sentences to show that you are aware of your hirer's interests and that you respect them. Ultimately, whether you choose first or third person, make sure to stick to one point of view to avoid confusion.

Implement an individual approach: Good resume summary examples

Every hiring manager has a mental checklist of characteristics that they would like to see in their ideal candidate. The most common mistake that applicants make is applying to multiple positions with the same resume, making it impossible to completely fulfill any of these checklists. Even though the resume content can not be changed much, try to alter the summary with a few keywords to ensure that your story resonates well with hiring managers in different companies. Analyze job offers and social media profiles to gauge which characteristics would have a good fit with the companies you are applying to.

TIP

Try not to copy the job posting exactly onto your resume - be creative and versatile when integrating keywords into your summary.

Also, avoid targeting multiple career goals simultaneously when you write a CV summary. Here are examples of one person tailoring descriptions of their selling points for two different positions:

Project manager

  • Sound knowledge of production operations, quality practices, and client service, analyzing complex business problems and assessing how automated systems can be implemented to solve them
  • Strong understanding of business requirements, skilled in the development and implementation of process improvements that enhance business productivity
  • Skillful in developing new and supporting existing business reports (e.g. reports detailing financial models, cash flow projections, and other key metrics)
  • Strong background working with various RDBMSs like MySQL, SQL Server 2000-2008, Oracle, etc.
  • Database server administration knowledge

 

Business Analyst

  • Comfortable dealing with large volume of data and statistical processing
  • Able to write highly efficient SQL code
  • Experienced in ETL-based data migration tool in data warehousing
  • Skillful in developing new and supporting existing business reports (e.g. reports detailing financial models, cash flow projections, and other key metrics)
  • Strong background working with various RDBMSs like MySQL, SQL Server 2000-2008, Oracle, etc.
  • Database server administration knowledge
  • Strong understanding of business requirements, skilled in the development and implementation of process improvements that enhance business productivity

 

As we see, the two examples have similar content but each one emphasizes different aspects. This approach ensures that you are able to meet requirements of several employers and increase your chances of getting multiple interview offers. It may seem tedious having to make these small changes every time, but your attention to detail will no doubt pay off in the end.

Talk about things you will enjoy doing in your new position

A good way to ensure that your new job fits with both your personal preferences and your employer’s is by only addressing tasks that you genuinely enjoy completing, in your summary. Formulate your thoughts in such a way that an employer understands not only what you are good at but also what you would like to do in your area of expertise. For example, you might be very skilled at talking to customers and consulting with them on the phone because you have spent many years doing so in your previous position. But, now you would like to be a quiet developer who seeks tranquility and only prefers occasional online chats with your team leader. The solution is simple - do not mention communication skills in your resume and everything will go just as you wish.

You are ready to do it the right way

Now, you are fully equipped with all the information you need to effectively write a summary in a resume that is eye-catching and will get you the job of your dreams. Believe in yourself, enjoy the process and success will come sooner than you can imagine!

See Also