What is the best way to start a resume?
Think about this:
The Ladder's research found that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds looking at your resume! Yeah, you read that right.
That means you've got to give recruiters want they want to see in the blink of an eye. But how?
A little something called a resume summary. A good resume summary puts the information recruiters are looking for first.
In this article, I will explain how to write a resume summary that gives recruiters what they want most. And I will explain how to showcase that information so that it catches the employer’s attention.
Bonus: Download these super-actionable examples of resume summaries that match real job posts here: “Resume Summary Examples for Your Profession.”
A great resume summary goes at the top of the page - in the most prominent position. Use it to attract recruiters' attention. Here is a template from our resume builder (create you resume). See how the resume summary sample stands out?
A sample template from our resume builder - create your resume here.
1. What Is a Resume Summary?
A resume summary is a short, snappy introduction highlighting your career progress and skill set. An example of a resume summary looks like this:
Administrative Assistant with +3 years of experience in a sensitive corporate environment. Outgoing and detail-oriented, I am proficient at building and maintaining professional relationships. Have an Associate's Degree in Office Administration.
Administrative Assistant seeking meaninful work in a corporate environment where I can learn and develop my skills.
A resume summary is also known as:
- Qualifications Summary
- Summary of Qualifications
- Resume Summary Statement
Think of it as an “elevator pitch” or “sales pitch” that you can use anytime someone says:
“So. Tell me about yourself.”
2. Resume Summary vs. Objective: What’s the Difference?
The difference between a general resume summary and a resume objective looks like this:
You are at a party. Let’s call you Robert.
Your wingman approaches the girl you like.
Resume Objective Wingman says:
Robert likes girls and wants to leverage his skills to marry one.
Resume Summary Wingman says:
Boyfriend Material experienced at laying coats over mud puddles, opening doors, and pulling out chairs. Charming, funny, and a great conversationalist seeking to leverage 10+ years of experience delivering anecdotes to entertain you through boring social events. Has an MA in hand holding and a license to cook romantic dinners.
Which wingman is going to get Robert the girl?
The resume objective was acceptable a long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
All you had to do at the beginning of a resume was write a one-liner that told the recruiter:
1. Who you are.
2. That you want the job.
Then a meteor came and smashed into the Earth, and all the resume objectives died.
Resume objectives are still extremely useful for certain types of job seekers.
So, Who Should Use a Professional Resume Summary?
Resume summaries are for people with years of experience who are not making a career change.
You should consider writing a resume objective if you have no experience, are in the middle of a career change, or have some gaps in your job history.
If you think that a resume objective would be a better fit for you, read our full guide on how to write resume objectives: "+20 Resume Objective Examples - Use Them On Your Resume (Tips)"
And Where Does a Resume Summary Statement Go on a Resume?
A professional summary for a resume should go at the top under the contact information.
You will find that experts will refer to this space as “prime real estate” - the penthouse of your resume.
Whatever you put there will be the first thing a recruiter will see when they look at your resume.
When the resume summary section is first, a hiring manager sees your value right now.
So, don't waste the space.
How Long Should a Career Summary on a Resume Be?
Depending on who you ask, you will be told that a good example of a resume summary is anywhere from three to six sentences.
Think about this:
As I mentioned in the beginning, an average recruiter will only spend six seconds looking at a resume. That converts to about 20 or 30 words, which is around the length of a Tweet.
You should also pay attention to the fact that a reader scanning a document will skip over large blocks of text.
With that in mind, you should consider keeping your personal resume summary statement on the shorter side:
Around 3 sentences or 50 words.
Pro Tip: The resume objective tends to be short. Take a look at a sample resume template from our resume builder. You can create a similar resume here.
A resume template from our resume builder - create your resume here.
3. How to Write a Resume Summary in 7 Easy Steps
1. How to Start a Summary With a Few of Your Best Accomplishments
When you start writing a professional summary for a resume, it is best to sit down for a moment and think back over the long span of your career.
- What are my brightest moments?
- What am I proud of achieving?
- What do I love most about what I do?
- What do I do best?
Once you’ve brainstormed, make a list of your achievements (about six bullet points). This is your master list.
Here is what it would look like if you were, for example, Indiana Jones:
Indy’s Master List of Accomplishments and Top Skills
- Found the Ark of the Covenant.
- Found the Sankara Stones.
- Found the Holy Grail.
- Effectively able to dispatch Nazi bad guys.
- Proficient in the use of a bullwhip.
- Able to fly planes, ride horses, and commandeer motorcycles.
Keep in mind that these are the brightest moments and can come from any point in your career.
Now make a quick list of your top transferable skills. Transferable skills are skills that you can use in any job. For example, being able to write or being able to speak fluent Spanish.
Indy’s Transferable Skills
- Research and analytical thinking skills (70% of my work is done in the library).
- Excellent cultural sensitivity.
- Able to work in a high-stress, fast-paced environment.
- Linguist (Speak fluent German, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese - among other languages).
Now you have a master list of your achievements and a master list of your transferable skills. Set these aside for a moment. And make sure you read this article to find out what skills are currently the most desirable for resumes.
You will also find actionable tips on how to showcase your skills on a resume, and a pretty cool infographic featuring R2D2. What does R2D2 have to do with resume skills? Find out here.
2. Scan the Job Post - Find out What the Employer Needs
The keywords are the particular skills or qualities the employer lists in the job post. Highlight or underline the keyword skills that you find in the job description.
- Who are they looking for?
- What value do they want an employee to provide?
- What extra skills or qualities not listed would add unexpected value?
Indy’s Job Description - Cocktail Server
3. Research the Job - Find Out What is Valuable
Find a few similar job posts. Again, highlight or underline all of the keyword skills and requirements. Compare the new keywords to those in your job description.
Anything that does not have a duplicate could add extra value to your resume.
Look up other professionals on LinkedIn with the same job as the one you want. Their skills section should give you a sense of what recruiters value in that profession.
4. Tailor Your List - Make Your Skills List a Recruiter’s Wish List
- Which of my skills and accomplishments match those listed in the job description?
- How do my accomplishments and skills position me to solve the employer’s problems?
- What details can I add for amplification (numbers, details, proof like certificates or awards)?
5. Start With Your Title to Define Yourself Out of the Gate
Starting a professional summary for a resume with your professional title allows a recruiter to know right away that your resume is relevant.
Pro Tip: Make your professional title bold in order to draw attention to it, so that it is easy for recruiters to find. You will also want to add the number of years you worked in that position.
Sassy Marketing Manager with 5+ years of experience.
Marketing Manager with 5+ years of experience.
6. Focus on Specific Results to Prove and Demonstrate Value
Now it’s time to go back to your master list.
Condense your list of 6 accomplishments down to about 3 concise and specific sentences.
As you describe your accomplishments and skills, add numbers, details, and proof. Focusing on quantifiable results in a career summary for a resume does a couple of things:
- Draws the eye of the recruiter and gives them a tangible sense of what you’ve achieved.
- Provides proof that your claims are more than just hot air.
- Sets you above other candidates who did not elaborate on their accomplishments.
- Helps the recruiter imagine you achieving the same results for them.
Indy’s Professional Resume Summary Sample
Improved collection of tickets onboard German zeppelin by 100%.
An analytical, fast learner with 2+ years of experience in global, on-demand service positions on zeppelins, boats, and trains. Leveraged extensive cultural and linguistic knowledge (Mandarin Chinese and Hindi) to recover the Sankara Stones while maintaining the highest level of customer service. Able to endure exposure to elements such as lava and snake pits, and able to physically outmaneuver such obstacles as giant boulders in boobytrapped tombs.
- Guest services, sales, and people skills
- Able to learn and master new information
- Basic Math
- Extensive physical activity
- Exposure to elements
As you can see, Indy starts his sample resume summary statement by opening with the title of the job (one of his professional titles) and a headline. His headline is supported by details:
“Improved ticket collection by 100%.”
He then adds five of the six skills from the job description that match his skill set to his resume summary.
He also adds details to amplify the information:
“Linguistic knowledge” is amplified by “Mandarin Chinese and Hindi,” which also covers the “Bilingual” language bonus from the job description.
He avoids the first person, has added keywords like “exposure to elements,” and has added extra value by exhibiting experience in wait service on various modes of transportation that might be interesting to an employer seeking a waiter to serve drinks on a boat.
Dr. Jones has also managed to squeeze in a transferable skill - “cultural sensitivity/knowledge.”
7. The Name Drop - A Tried and True Way to Generate Interest
Mention the organizations, clients, and past employers that you’ve worked for where appropriate.
Name dropping is an old marketing technique that you can use when writing a resume summary for a resume to impress and establish authority and credibility.
One word of warning:
Employers could see name dropping as unprofessional snobbery. You need to make sure you don’t cross the line.
Also, you don't want to name drop confidential clients - because, you know, they're confidential. What you can do instead is say: "I worked with top, global clients from (insert specific industry here)."
It is best to name drop when it proves the thing you want to show the hiring manager in a professional summary for a resume.
Manage and maintain client relations with large, multi-national companies including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
Brought in such confidential clients as Disney and Hilton Hotels.
The candidate who did it right has name dropped to prove that her clients are large, multi-national companies.
4. The 7 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Resume Summary
1. Consider Adding a Headline for Extra Oomph
After you write your title, you can add a headline that sums up the main benefits of hiring you.
Indy’s Headline: Improved collection of tickets onboard German zeppelin by 100%.
2. Microsoft Word is Not an Accomplishment So Leave It Out
Leave your core competencies for the skills section of your resume.
The resume summary section is for your best skills and keyword skills. Microsoft Office is boring and pedestrian.
Your mom, your sister, and your dog can all use Word.
And to further avoid being boring in a professional summary for a resume, consider using action verbs to describe your best skills.
Avoid boring adjectives like “articulate” or “innovative.” Also, get rid of overused verbs like “managed” or “organized.”
Action verbs are energetic and specific:
“managed” becomes “orchestrated”
“communicated” becomes “persuaded”
“innovated” becomes “overhauled”
Don’t go overboard. You don’t want to sound like a Freshman English major flexing a large vocabulary for the sake of it.
Remember that you should use keywords even if they are adjectives.
There is a good chance that your resume will be fed through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The ATS will scan your resume for keywords from the job description. So you need to include them throughout your resume.
3. Ditch the First Person Pronouns to Focus on the Employer
By skipping the “I” and “me” stuff, your resume summary section will stay focused on the employer.
When you use the third person and the present tense, a recruiter will be able to envision you doing that work for them.
Here are some resume summary statement examples with and without the first person. If you think it's more appropriate to use the first person, you should. It's up to you to decide.
Detail-oriented Graphic Designer with +2 years of experience in a fast-paced startup environment. Proficient with the Adobe Creative Suite and web design. Seeking to bring fast, intelligent solutions to the position of Graphic Designer at your company. Have a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design.
I am a detail-oriented Graphic Designer with +2 years of experience in a startup environment. I am proficient with the Adobe Creative Suite and I want to bring intilligent solutions to the position of Graphic Designer at your company. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design.
4. Ignore Tasks You Hate For Your Sake
When you are making lists of what to include on a resume don’t add anything you hate doing.
Same goes for a summary in a resume.
If you hate doing something (even if you are really good at it), leave it.
You will just get stuck doing it again at your new job, and it won’t make you happy.
5. Avoid Being Generic By Tailoring Each Resume Summary to the Job
Yes, that’s right. Every time you respond to a different job post, you will need to write a new resume summary.
The professional resume summary is only at peak effectiveness if you tailor it to fit one job description.
So, if you are applying for 100 jobs, you need 100 resume summaries.
You don't have to rewrite the entire thing. You can simply retouch your best resume summary by changing keywords.
Just make sure that it is tailored to the job post.
6. How Long Should a Resume Be?
How long should a resume be? In a word: short.
Some experts will tell you about the “one-page rule.”
You should aim for one page, but resumes are not glass slippers. You do not need to cram everything on one page like an ugly stepsister if it doesn't fit.
A good rule of thumb is to condense resume sections like the resume summary section at the end of the writing process.
Trim the fat and keep it lean.
Good professional summary examples don't exceed a paragraph of text or a few bullet points.
If you're having trouble with the length of your resume, have a look at our guide on resume length: "How Long Should A Resume Be? Everything You Need To Know"
7. Avoid the Cardinal Sin of Resume Writing...
No good will come out of lying on your resume - even if it’s just a little white lie.
Maybe you aren’t as good at creating spreadsheets as you made it sound. Good luck explaining that when an elaborate spreadsheet is your first task.
Le's say you lie in your hobbies section - you say you like Game of Thrones when you don't. Who cares? Maybe the rabid fan who is conducting your interview. Now you know nothing, Jon Snow. Uh oh.
The best resume summary grabs recruiters’ attention by shouting out:
“Hey, I’m who you are looking for!”
And this is useful when it falls into the hands of a bored and overworked recruiter.
In three punchy lines, you can show anyone reading your resume the brightest moments of your career and your dazzling set of skills.
Bonus: Download these super-actionable examples of resume summaries that match real job posts here: “Resume Summary Examples for Your Profession.”
Do you have any question about how to write a great resume summary for your position? Leave a comment. I'll be happy to answer.