Employers will spend hours reading through job applicant resumes in search of the perfect person to fit their job description. When faced with a virtual mountain of applications to wade through, many employers will try to take some mental shortcuts — that is skim through a bunch of the resume summaries to line up the first batch of prospects.
What, you forgot to include one to yours? Buckle up then and let’s work together to rectify this. In this post, you’ll learn to craft the perfect resume summary for your next job application!
OK, But What Is a Resume Summary?
A resume summary (also known as a professional summary) is a snappy paragraph that you place atop of your resume, right after your details, to highlight your main skills, accomplishments, and other relevant qualifications.
A summary of a resume is like a product description for a new iPhone: it’s short, attractive, and makes the reader excited to learn more about whatever goodness there’s to follow.
In many ways, it’s similar to a resume objective — a quick statement explaining why you are after a particular job. However, a resume objective merely informs of your intentions and career objectives, while a resume summary pitches your candidacy and prompts the reader to dive deeper into your resume. That’s why you should place the most relevant and valuable aspects of your experience in it.
What Makes Your Resume Summary So Important?
In many cases when faced with the task of sorting through approaching 100 resumes, an employer will simply read that summary of qualifications and then make an instant decision about whether or not your job application will go any further. And if they don’t see one? Well, most will just move on to prioritize more memorable candidates.
What’s more, a lot of large corporations also use ATS software (Applicant Tracking Scanning) to process huge numbers of job applications. What ATS software does is to scan resumes looking for specific keywords or keyphrases that are relevant to the job description. When that software scores nada, it won’t forward a resume to the actual human. Since your resume summary does not occupy much space, you can use it as an extra opportunity to add some relevant keywords without making your resume longer than one page.
So Should Everyone Have a Resume Summary?
Let’s keep it real: when it comes to job search, there are no universal answers. As a rule of thumb, adding a professional summary for a resume can win you some quick points with HR (and ATS tools).
Resume summaries are also pretty valuable for experienced candidates with loads of skills, training courses, and qualifications. If you are a mature job candidate, it can be a very good idea to include a quick summary at the beginning of your resume to give a “preview” of your abilities before the reader gets down to the nitty-gritty. Doing so can help you get past the first glance of the employer.
Also, having a quick resume summary makes sense for people changing careers or work fields. A skimming HR may be confused with your work history, so highlighting the most relevant bits in your summary can help them better understand where you are coming from and how your other line of work can be an advantage in the new role.
How To Write a Winning Resume Summary
This may sound a bit basic, but it’s still worth stating: a resume summary should briefly summarize, not unpack a load of scattered information to the employer. This makes writing a resume summary is an exercise in brevity and clarity.
In essence, you’ll need to identify 4-6 key ‘selling points’ — your skills, expertise, or other abilities. Then you’ll have to further distill them into two-three sufficient statements. But fret not, we’ll help you get to this!
1. Re-Read the Job Description
By now, you probably know that personalized resumes make the most impact. A summary is the first thing you should look into customizing for every job you’re aiming for. How?
You go back to the job description and scan it for relevant keywords. Hint: look into the candidate requirements section. As you read, try to jot down words that can serve as an answer to the following questions:
- Who’s the ideal candidate?
- What value they’d like to receive from that new hire?
- How do my skills fit into those expectations?
2. Summarize Your Skills
Schedule a quiet moment with yourself and think over all your major achievements, relevant skills, and most related qualifications that best demonstrate your competence for this role.
Don’t go too broad though. Try to focus on the core skills that define your best as a professional.
Next, assess your past career highlights. Do you have any quantifiable accomplishments to share? How about some accolades? Or maybe you have some other unique experience that can set you apart in the sea of other candidates? Write down all the ideas that come to your mind.
Also, do some background research on the company and the role and try to come up with a set of particular problems you could solve for the company. Do you have a unique skill that could help them whiz past the competition? Can you help the employer to save money or earn more money? Do tell in your summary!
Lastly, include any job-related courses or training that you have taken – make sure to list the most recent training first to demonstrate that your knowledge is still fresh and up-to-date.
3. List Any Workplace Awards Or Commendations
Being acknowledged by your peers for your work is impressive and is something worth sharing in your resume summary. So add some of those “bragging rights” to your master-list of points.
Your prospective new employer will be keen to see an applicant that shows dedication to their work and a willingness to further their standing (and that of the company) within your industry.
Here are two resume summary examples that place a focus on workplace achievements:
Resume Summary Example for Sales Manager
Experienced regional sales manager in the construction domain, specializing in B2B HVAC equipment and low voltage technology solutions. Top performer of 2018 based on the volume of closed deals and average account value. Mentor, expert negotiator, proficient in lead scoring, Salesforce, and HubSpot.
Resume Summary Example for Teacher
K12 educator and licensed Special Education Teacher with 8+ years of experience in teaching History, and Art Classes to Grades 8-7. Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching laureate. Strong organization and time management skills, strong proficiency in online learning solutions, and curriculum development.
4. Don’t Forget About Interpersonal Skills
Whether you are applying for a job that is part of a close-knit team, or it is for a supervisory or management role, you will need to show that you have good interpersonal skills.
You can mention that you established a good working relationship with co-workers, senior line managers, and junior staff and can be a great team player and a leader in the workplace.
In most jobs it is important to have a good level of communication skills, especially if you are dealing directly with customers, staff or suppliers, so be sure to state that you are a confident communicator with the ability to listen and compromise when necessary. So if you are pitching for either of those roles, mention a couple of people skills in your professional resume summary.
Here are two more resume summary statement examples that focus on the candidate’s communication skills:
Resume Summary Example for Project Manager
Certified SCRUM and Agile Coach, SAFE practitioner, and mentor with 10+ years of experience in leading software development projects for Fortune 500 companies. Active listener, effective communicator with high emotional intelligence, strong adaptability, and conflict resolution skills.
Resume Summary Example for Supervisor
Retail warehouse supervisor with 5+ years of experience, capable of maintaining high levels of warehouse inventory accuracy, motivating team members, and ensuring high team performance. Experienced in mediating and resolving workplace conflicts.
5. Demonstrate Your Innovative Side
If you created and implemented any work practices or procedures that benefited your previous company or helped to improve efficiency, productivity, or workplace safety, then include brief details of your accomplishments.
You will want to include enough detail for your work-related accomplishments to be notable, but again you don’t want to include too much text here that could put off the employer. Also, be careful to simply inform of your accomplishments – don’t try to come across as too boastful or sound as if you are bragging about yourself.
Here are some resume summary examples, accentuating the applicant’s innovative sides.
Resume Summary for Mechanical Engineer
Associate Mechanical Engineer, recent MIT graduate with 2+ years of experience working in the defense sector. 1st place of Act in Space Hackathon 2020 for developing an improved base product formulation for a UAV.
Resume Summary Example for an HR Manager
Veteran SHRM Certified HR Professional specializing in organizational design and operational process improvements. Implemented a new talent management pipeline that increased employee retention by 30% and improved corporate diversity levels by 15% within 2 years.
6. Prioritize Your List
If you’ve been diligent in the previous step, you should already have a neat bullet point list of professional qualifications, achievements, and other juicy bits that can be used in your resume summary. Now, you’ve got to prioritize these. Again, use the job posting as a reference. Try to think like the person behind it. What type of candidate would they want to see? Who would you hire for that role? Try to build up some empathy towards the employer to better gauge what they are struggling with and which of your abilities can be the most helpful to them.
Pro tip: Still struggling to fit in your resume summary into your one-page resume? Try using a professionally designed resume template! Most of our designs come with a customizable side or header area that can easily fit your summary!
When writing your resume summary remember that brevity is key. While you may be particularly proud of a work-related accomplishment or achievements you may have earned in the past, if it bears no direct relevance to the job in hand, then it doesn’t belong in your qualifications summary. Be ruthless with prioritization!
This article has been originally published on March 4, 2019 and has been extensively revised and updated on December 8, 2020.