Work experience? Check. Education? Check. Skills? Check. Your resume seems fairly complete, but it might be missing one key component. In today’s job market, candidates need to bring out all the stops in order to stand out. Forget simply stating your career history, skills, and goals. You need a resume summary statement.
You’re probably familiar with a resume summary, also known as a professional summary. They appear on the tops of resumes and on LinkedIn profiles. A well-written professional summary statement can significantly improve your chances of scoring that interview. However, writing one can be a challenge. How do you summarize who you are and what you do in a brief paragraph without duplicating what you’ve already got on your resume? We’ll explain.
What Is a Resume Summary?
In short, a resume summary is your elevator pitch. It’s brief, concise, and clearly communicates the key points of why an employer should hire you.
In keeping with the “brief” theme, a professional summary is no more than four to five short sentences. And a single sentence that highlights 15 skills is not the way to go. Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Coach at FlexJobs, advises summary writers to avoid creating a laundry list of skills. “You might have the urge to cover anything and everything you’re capable of…but keep your focus narrow.” Highlight your most valuable skills and experiences—the things you really want a hiring manager to notice.
In lieu of sentences, you can use brief bullet points instead of a paragraph. However, if space is at a premium on your resume, use sentences instead (they take up less space).
What a Professional Summary Is Not
You may think a professional summary statement is the same thing as an objective, but they are not. A resume objective is about you and what you want (a job); a professional summary is also about you, but it’s about what the employer wants (a well-qualified employee).
Think of your resume as a sell-sheet, and you’re the product it’s selling. Everything on your resume should make the employer interested in hiring you. An objective doesn’t accomplish that goal. Instead, an objective talks about what you want from the employer—not a good look from a job seeker.
A resume summary, though, highlights the key skills and experiences you bring to the role and helps the hiring manager understand why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Don’t Skip the Professional Summary
You might think it’s OK to skip the resume summary. After all, the rest of your resume highlights your skills and experiences and summarizes why the employer should hire you. Plus, they’re hard to write, so why waste time on creating a summary when you could just pour your efforts into the rest of your resume?
These are valid points. However, a professional summary is at the top of your resume (between your contact information and your job history). Thanks to this “top-level” placement, a professional summary is likely the first thing a hiring manager looks at when they scan your resume.
With a professional summary, a recruiter can figure out at a glance if you’ve got the skills and experience they’re looking for. Because of that, a well-crafted summary statement can land you at the top of a hiring manager’s priority list.
However, there are other reasons to include a professional summary on your resume. For example, when you’ve got a lot of experience in a particular field, you’ve probably got a lot on your resume. The summary statement can help focus the important skills or achievements you want to call attention to, instead of forcing the hiring manager to sift through your extensive background and decide what skills are relevant or important.
Summary statements can also help tie together a “portfolio career,” creating a unified explanation of why your intentional job hopping makes you the perfect candidate. And when you’re changing careers, a summary statement can help highlight all the transferable skills you want an employer to notice before they get to your job history.
How to Write a Resume Summary Statement
The summary statement is an excellent place to spotlight the skills you want an employer to notice, but can’t necessarily include under your job history. For example, if you’ve got a lot of soft skills that you want to showcase, the summary statement is the perfect place to do that.
But before we explain how to write a killer resume summary statement, let’s talk about what you should avoid.
Don’t feature common skills that everyone in your field has (like “computers” or “strong math skills”). Choose skills that are unique to you. For example, instead of saying you’ve got “excellent communication skills,” say you are a “confident and persuasive speaker.”
Also, the resume summary should never be the copy and paste of your LinkedIn summary and vice versa. While your LinkedIn profile is fairly static, your resume is dynamic and should be customized every time you apply for a job.
You’re better off including general industry keywords in your LinkedIn profile summary to help recruiters find your information. Your resume, though, is a one-time deal, so you can (and should) incorporate company and job-specific keywords, not just industry ones, on it.
However, while your LinkedIn summary and your resume summary serve a similar purpose, the key word is “similar.” Reynolds points out that recruiters “will compare your LinkedIn profile to your resume and expect to see similar things.” So, while you shouldn’t repeat yourself, your resume summary and LinkedIn summary shouldn’t be vastly different, either.
What to Include in a Resume Summary
While you’ll have a general idea of what you want to include in the statement, you’ll want to include any relevant keywords from the job description and highlight the skills you have that the hiring manager is looking for.
As you create your summary statement, try to be specific as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean listing off your top eight skills and calling it a day. Use action verbs to tell a story and convey the passion you feel for your job. When you write the statement consider:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Why you do what you do
- Where are you going
Resume Summary Sample
“Accomplished marketing professional with 10 years’ experience creating winning campaigns for brands.”
OK. Sure. That summarizes you. But it’s not outstanding and doesn’t really explain why you do what you do and how you do it better than others.
Instead, consider this statement:
“Award-winning marketing professional with 10 years’ experience creating campaigns that transform brand engagement and drive sales revenue.”
Which person would you hire?
Know What Matters
Just like your job history and cover letter, peppering your professional statement with industry keywords isn’t enough. In fact, choosing the wrong keywords could hurt your chances of getting an interview.
When you’re selecting which keywords to include, make sure you choose the ones that are important to your industry and that particular job. Reynolds offers this tip. “Take your cues from the job listings you’re seeing. What skills and experiences are asked for over and over by different employers?”
For example, if you’re applying for a sales job and the job description repeatedly says “client” not “customer,” don’t include “providing value propositions for customers” in your summary.
Also, keep the applicant tracking system (ATS) in mind as you craft your summary. These bots are programmed to look for certain keywords on your resume. Fail to include the right keywords, and your application has a higher chance of getting rejected. At the same time, though, including poorly placed keywords doesn’t increase your chances of landing an interview. While you may get past the ATS with the right keywords, eventually, a human is going to review your application.
A Summary Is More Than You Think
A resume summary highlights who you are as a professional and what skills you will bring to the company. But, it can be more than that. A well-written professional summary can be the perfect bridge between your work history and where you would like to take your career in the future.
Writing and selling yourself isn’t always every job seeker’s favorite activity. That’s why we’ve got tons of resume advice, cover letter advice, and even thank-you note advice. But, sometimes, you want more personalized help. If that sounds like you, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our career coaches. They can help you write a winning cover letter and attention-grabbing resume.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
This is a version of an article that was originally published on December 11, 2014.
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Alexis Reale, Staff Writer
Alexis Reale is a staff writer at FlexJobs, the leading website for telecommuting, flexible schedule, and freelance job postings. After a brief stint working in a traditional 9-5 role, she now aims to help others find work doing what they…Read More >
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