There are some aspects of the dread-inducing resume that are unlikely to change with time. We still have to input our work history. Summing up our skills and accomplishments is a must. Listing our accolades? Only include ’em if they’re truly outstanding. Including references? Totally optional. That objective statement at the top of the page? Please delete. The resume summary section? Optional—but it’s a golden opportunity.
In a world where mosts of us find our next job online, or through our ever-growing networks, focusing on a single sheet of paper can seem pretty unnecessary. After all, don’t you have to input the same data again in the company’s internal hiring system? Do we really have to explain it all again with the resume, too? Are we overcomplicating things by including a resume summary section? It’s easy to think so.
But including a resume summary can be particularly helpful if you fall into one of two categories: One, you’re a career switcher who is transitioning into a new field, or who has hopped around job roles. Second, you’re someone with a lot of experience in one field and have key talents and accomplishments you want to spotlight. When do you not include a resume summary? It’s not ideal if you’re new to a field and don’t have a lot of experience.
Here’s the thing, though: Figuring out the optimal way to update your resume comes down to optimizing presentation. (You do, after all, already have some stellar qualities!). Ahead, we’ve compiled some resume summary examples that will help you land your next job.
The formula for an effective resume summary section…
Write it last
However much you may be tempted to write the summary section first—don’t do it. While the summary section goes at the top of the resume, writing it is much easier after you have the rest of your resume together. Think about the resume summary as the written version of your elevator pitch. Who are you, what should someone know about your accomplishments and why should they hire you? Write out the rest of your resume and then look at it as a whole from top to bottom.
Then, consider: what story are you telling about yourself in the resume? If you’ve held a lot of different jobs in social media, marketing, and sales, what’s the common thread? Are you a person who has undertaken various roles in different departments but they’re all focused on strategy? Customer-facing? Data-driven? It will be much easier to figure out the story and your pitch when you can easily see what you’ve already outlined in the resume.
Paint a portrait
Use the summary section to connect the dots in your career. Again, think: Who are you? What do you bring to the table and how does your experience reflect your expertise? For example, consider the “story” you get from the following: “Marketing strategist with 15 years experience working with consumer-facing beauty brands. Experienced in project management…etc.”
Now, this does not mean you use the resume summary to explain why there’s a gap in your employment or why you’ve jumped around in jobs. And it doesn’t mean you use this space to restate all the places you’ve worked at. What you want to do is speak to your accomplishments and unique skillset. What would you want the hiring manager to know about you as a candidate?
You know those buzzwords like “team player,” and “driven”? Avoid them and all other cliches and general language in your resume summary section. Cut out all the fluff. Instead, pick 2-3 points or accomplishments to highlight. Use numbers whenever possible to back up your success over the years. Did you increase revenue by 30 percent? Did you successfully manage a team of 30+ and increase retention? For every accolade, find a way to back it up with a specific data point.
Use active voice
Remove the “I”s from your section and maintain an active voice. Speak about what you bring to the table now. Consider how someone else might introduce you, your expertise, and accomplishments. They’ll likely start by using a professional title that sums up what it is you do, rather than your current, particular job title. Keep this in mind when writing your summary statement. (Consider it like the headline that you give yourself.) Next, someone might sum up your specific knowledge set. Then, they would likely highlight something pretty amazing that you do.
To keep things simple, follow this formula when writing your summary. Professional title + expertise; years of experience; 2-3 specific accomplishments.
Keep it short
Think about the summary as the 15-second intro you’re giving the hiring manager before they scan the rest of your resume. It’s meant to be an introduction to who you are. As such, keep it short. Think: 2-5 lines of text and no more.