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After hours of carefully compiling information about your work history, selecting the relevant bits and arranging it all in a transparent, organized fashion, you’ve finished your resume.
Table of contents
You did it! Well, most of it.
Because it turns out that there is one more thing you could and probably should do to make your resume complete: write a resume summary.
What is a resume summary?
As the term itself suggests, a resume summary:
A resume summary goes at the top of your resume and is likely the very first thing a recruiter will see when they pick up your resume. And maybe the last, if your resume summary is so bad they toss the whole thing right in the trash.
Think I’m being overdramatic? Consider this: the average hiring manager spends an average of 6 (!) seconds on each resume they look at. So if you can’t make an impression in 6 seconds, you might well be out of luck.
But don’t worry.
I am here to help you write a resume summary that will keep the hiring manager reading long after the summary is over.
First things first, though. If you don’t yet have a resume, start with that — after all, you can’t summarize something you don’t have! I’ve written a great, detailed guide to help you out with that as well, so make sure you read it before you create your own resume. And then come back here, I’ll be waiting 😄
In this guide, I will walk you through all of the most important aspects of writing a resume summary, what mistakes to avoid, and then finish with a list of resume summaries for specific positions.
Ready? Let’s go!
It should be noted that resume summaries are not for everyone. As I mentioned before, a resume summary is supposed to be a summary of your career.
As such, resume summaries are generally a better fit for people who would like to showcase some 5 or 10+ years of experience in the same or similar fields.
A candidate who has little to no experience can, however, write a resume summary as well, though they way they would go about that would be a little different — more on that later.
I’m glad you asked 😄 Resume summaries and resume objectives differ from each other quite a bit, and knowing the differences will help you decide which is best for you personally. Let’s split the answer into a few categories.
Before we get into the details on HOW to write a good resume summary, just a quick note on where it should be located on your resume:
That way, the recruiter reading it has some basic backstory before getting into the specifics.
So, how do you write a good resume summary?
It’s not all that hard. But you will need to keep a few things in mind.
It’s a common misconception that your resume summary should include a list of your skills, and this can result in it being made up of a long list of things that are listed below anyway. Again. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Don’t worry — there is a time and a place to elaborate on your skills, and that’s the Skills section. Check out how to write an effective skill section here. This is not to say you shouldn’t mention any skills in your resume summary at all, but make the ones you do mention the ones most relevant to the position you are applying for.
Second, experience and accomplishments.
What makes you stand out as a candidate? What accomplishments and experience do you have that could make you uniquely fit to deal with the challenges at this new job? Make a list of such things, we’ll be using it in a minute.
Third, work history.
What positions have you held that are similar to or the same as the position you are currently applying for? Jot those down, too.
Somewhat tying all three of the above points together, resume keywords are something you should definitely include in your resume summary.
And what are they? Resume keywords are the hard skills and job positions mentioned in the job offer itself. This way, the recruiter reading your resume summary automatically knows they are dealing with a quality candidate.
Is the position you’re applying for project manager? Then make sure you mention your experience as a project manager. Simple as that.
RELEVANT character traits.
Again, be sure not to go overboard and pile it on too thick. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but resumes are about showing the recruiter how you would benefit the company, so mention character traits that showcase that.
Fit all that into 3-5 sentences and you’re home!
Seems pretty straightforward, right?
Time for some examples.
So, how about some practice after all that theory?
A good resume summary for a project manager should sound something like this:
Dynamic and motivated professional with a proven record of fostering and building relationships, managing projects from concept to completion, designing educational strategies, and coaching individuals to success. Skilled in building international teams and making critical decisions during challenges. Excellent written and spoken communication skills. Adaptable leader with an ability to work independently, create effective presentations, and prioritize and realize organizational goals.
Now for the bad and the ugly.
Generally speaking, anything too wordy and personal is no good. This includes starting the resume summary with “Dear Hiring Manager”, or anything else of the sort — this is not a cover letter.
If you need help writing a cover letter, check out my guide here. The same goes for narrating your life story — save it for the Hallmark movie, would you? And last but not least, a resume example should stick to point. The more you ramble, the more space you waste, the less the recruiter cares about your candidacy.
Take a look at the poorly written resume summary below to make sure you know what I mean:
Dear Hiring Manager, I am writing you to apply for the position of care salesman at your Austin branch. I started my long career almost 20 years ago when I finished my degree at Texas A&M University. Cars have always been my passion, so naturally I wanted to work with them. I worked at a famous car dealership in Houston for a few years, then another in Dallas, and now I believe it’s time for the capital. I am very excited to work for such a famous company and I am sure my skills will be the perfect fit for your company. I will be waiting for an invitation to interview with you.
Ouch is an understatement, right? No hiring manager is going to take that seriously — not only is it complete word salad, it also offers the recruiter no real information on the candidate.
So you love cars, eh? How unusual, good to know. Sarcasm aside, better no resume summary at all than something like this.
There is no way for me to cover every single job possibility out there, but here is a list of 15 of the most common professions so you can see how resume summaries would look for each one.
Disciplined and detail-oriented senior accountant with over 8 years of professional experience. Eager to employ proven account reconciliation and IT skills at John & Sons. Improved Sunny Inc’s cloud-computing practices and led to saving over 650 hours yearly. Identified and utilized a previously unknown tax break that saved almost $1 million per year.
Charismatic, open-minded bartender with over 5 years of professional experience working at golf and country clubs in large metropolitan areas and seaside resorts. Thanks to exceptional memory and communication and relationship-building skills, achieved a 20% boost in up-selling to resort patrons. Possesses a Bartending Certificate valid nationwide.
Customer service representative
Energetic and sensitive customer service representative with over 10 years of professional experience assisting customers in solving complaints, returns and employee-customer conflicts. Keen to support Fancy’s in becoming a market leader through tried and tested customer support skills. Awarded Employee of the Month three times in the course of a year. Implemented a strategy to reduce First Response Time by 10% within the first quarter of employment.
Seasoned Financial Analyst with over 12 years of professional experience. Seeks to balance budgeting, cost, and revenue-increasing activities for Dock Inc. Saved USD 2M at UNC through identifying and zeroing in on low-margin transactions. Also, optimized pricing policy at UNC to boost customer retention metrics with a result of 30%.
Well-organized, punctual housekeeper skilled in precise and daily cleaning. Eager to join the Sunrise Hotel to help maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and organization. Previously managed six housekeeping staff members at the Overlook Hotel and contributed to increasing positive customer reviews by over 20%. Identified and solved a recurring heating issue that saves USD 100K yearly.
Personable and dedicated IT consultant with over 5 years of experience in a fast-paced tech startup company. Eager to offer advanced analytical and computer skills to help Chatter grow its client base. In previous roles recognized in company-wide quality satisfaction rating (over 98%). Also, reduced system downtime by 20% and boosted client satisfaction ratings by more than 25% during the course of a quarter.
Dedicated and caring Registered Nurse with 10+ years of professional experience in the ICUs and ERs of community hospitals. Keen to join the Metropolitan Hospital staff to utilize top-class management experience and patient care skills as an RN at Metropolitan Hospital. Thanks to a detailed knowledge of hospital procedures and high standards of service, consistently scored over 95% in patient satisfaction surveys.
Organized and dynamic office manager with over 6 years of professional experience. Seeks to leverage excellent managerial and organizational skills to boost efficiency at TLT Inc. Managed a team of 3 office assistants in a fast-paced retail business. Grew the number of new contracts by 15% a year, and helped reduce office employee turnover by 20%. Optimized office supply spending and saved over $12,000 per year.
Experienced IT PMP with a degree in computer programming and 5+ years of professional experience in growing revenue and the client base for a fin-tech company. Keen to utilize extensive leadership and managerial expertise as a project manager for Solutions Inc. Executed an Agile training project that led to cutting costs by 25% in 6 months.
Friendly and well-organized receptionist with 5+ years of professional experience in both the private and public sectors. Extensive experience dealing with sensitive situations and keen to support Cork & Sons with organizational, and communication skills. At Tracy Holding, helped with the implementation of a CRM system with reporting capabilities that contributed to cutting costs by 15%.
Charismatic retail clerk with over 4 years of professional experience. Eager to help ABC’s boost its KPIs through enthusiastic customer loyalty-building, sensitivity to customer needs, and sales skills. Consistently received over 90% of positive customer reviews and achieved 25% above average number of repeat customers.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 12 years of professional experience. Eager to help the Detroit Youth Center’s clients through first-class treatment, strategic future plan development and assessment skills. At Mac Youth Center, devised 50+ plans for treatment and cooperated with 30+ teenaged clients to achieve their goal of finding employment with an 80% success rate in under a year.
Dedicated and enthusiastic secondary education teacher with over 9 years of experience in devising individualized curricula in compliance with state standards. Eager to join Los Santos High School to utilize advanced knowledge of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Prepared 300+ foreign-born students for international language certifications with a 98% pass rate.
Organized and friendly waiter with over 4 years of experience waiting on guests at Rochelle’s Fine Dining Restaurant. Eager to join Amalfi Restaurant to offer its guests an unforgettable dining experience. Great memory and attention to detail. At Rochelle’s, served up to 70 guests nightly and made sure all the dishes were delivered on time and exactly as requested.
Qualified and systematic warehouse employee with over 7 years of experience. Eager to join Don’s Office Supplies to meet all KPIs and impressive organizational skills. As a First Draft warehouse associate, achieved picking-packing speeds and efficiency averaging 97%. Six-time winner of the First Draft picker of the month over the course of the year.
As I discussed above, resume summaries are not the most typical choice for candidates with little experience or for people who have had large gaps between different jobs in different areas.
If, however, you want to go with a resume summary anyway, there is a good, simple way to go about it. The key is to avoid looking unqualified. As for experience, there must be something you can bring up, even if you have never had a job.
See the following example:
Passionate, MIT-educated analyst with a strong background in documentation and solid communication skills. Seeking to improve the grasp of key business indicators for Daytime Inc. As a business writer for the MIT blog, helped increase student engagement by 20%. My PowerPoint presentation of MIT’s most recent projects was transformed into a webinar that got 4,000+ views.
And that’s it, that’s all you need to know to write a great resume summary. Don’t tell me you are not just bursting with new knowledge 😄
So what are you waiting for?
Sit down get writing!