In this post, we’ll show you how to write a great resume summary statement that lands the interview along with some tips and examples to ensure you capture the attention of a hiring manager.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for an entry-level job or larger career advancement, you probably already know how important your resume can be in your quest to find that perfect job. The problem is, though, that few resumes these days seem to have that special touch that truly makes the job seeker stand out from the crowd. If you’ve agonized over your own resume and still feel like there’s something missing, there’s a good chance that the problem is that you’re not making good use of your professional resume summary.
The one thing most people fail to understand as they create resumes filled with facts, figures, and lists of accomplishments is that today’s companies and hiring managers are inundated with tons of resumes that follow that same approach. And if your resume is as dry and dull as all of those, it’s not likely to receive the attention that it needs to earn you a second look.
That’s where your resume summary statement comes into play. A summary usually sits at the top of your resume and writing a powerful and compelling resume summary can dramatically increase your chances of being called in for an interview, so it is vitally important that you know how to make yours stand out from other job seekers.
What is a resume summary?
A resume summary is a brief statement that summarizes your resume. It also acts as a professional profile that quickly describes how your work history will add value in future roles. Keep in mind the resume summary statement is distinct from the resume objective statement; while an objective is focused on your needs, a resume summary is employer-focused.
The summary should go directly below your contact information at the top of your resume. It looks something like this:
We’ll show you how to write a great summary no matter where you are in your career. Here is what this post will cover:
How long should your resume summary be?
When writing any resume summary, it can be tempting to simply fill it with every major point you want the reviewer to know. That would be a mistake, though--for several reasons. First, no recruiter or hiring manager wants to read a professional summary that just rehashes every point made in the body of the resume. That sort of summary will simply be ignored. That would defeat the purpose anyway.
The reality is that your summary should be a “hook” that captures recruiters’ attention and gives them a reason to read the rest of the resume. To do that, you should write a resume summary statement that contains between four and six lines of text that highlight key points that will invite further reading.
A summary for someone with little to no experience or making a career change will of course be shorter. You can check out our post on writing a resume summary for an entry-level position for tips on how to keep a resume summary relevant.
What to include in the summary statement
Every truly powerful and professional resume summary contains some very vital elements. If yours doesn’t manage to relay the following critical information, chances are that the person reading it will be less than impressed.
Personal traits. Again, no one wants to read your entire psych-profile in your summary. However, you should be able to take a handful of personal and professional attributes that you possess and summarize them in a way that shows the recruiter why you are the right person for that job and the firm.
Notable achievements. Can you think of a few truly notable achievements that you managed to accomplish in your past employment? These can be new projects that you helped to launch, new departments that you brought to life, or similar things that had a dramatic impact on your previous employers’ businesses.
Your expertise. Include some information about your educational qualifications and any experience that you might have that separates you from other candidates for the job.
Your skill set. You also need to include some highlights detailing your strongest and most relevant skills--with an emphasis on those that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking. Many of these will double as keywords, which we talk about in the next section.
Now, you don’t want to get into a lengthy dissertation describing every job title and position you’ve ever held, but you do need to at least briefly note the type and amount of skills and experience that you have in the specific area of expertise relevant to the job you’re seeking.
How to use keywords in a resume summary
Your professional summary is a great place to start using keywords, keywords are skills and qualifications from the job description that employers are looking for on your resume. However, keywords are important to your other audience, too: Applicant Tracking Systems, also known as the ATS.
Most companies use an Applicant Tracking System to scan your resume. An ATS can look for keywords in your resume and send forward the ones it feels are a good match for a job or candidate search. A resume summary is a natural place to throw in those keywords. You should state your occupation as well as some common keywords in your industry.
Read our complete guide on exactly how to use keywords on your resume.
Writing resume summary statements for the reader
The best writing is that which speaks to its audience in understandable terms that they can immediately identify with. When it comes to your summary statement, that means including the job posting’s requirements in your finished product.
While you certainly don’t want to simply regurgitate the job posting’s requirements in your summary, you should try to incorporate the terms used in that posting as you describe your own qualifications.
If the company is looking for a Director of Marketing and your former title at a different firm was Head of Marketing, use the “Director of Marketing” title when you’re describing your former position. That helps to ensure that your prospective employer recognizes that you’ve done the same job in the past. Do this for specific skills and experience as well. Simply identify terms used in the job posting and use those terms when describing your own skills, attributes, and experience.
By focusing your attention on the specific needs detailed in the job posting, you can avoid the mistake of making assumptions about the employer’s needs. In addition, you can ensure that your resume is properly read by any computer software that the recruiter might be using to sift through resumes as the company narrows its candidate search to determine who to interview and who to ignore.
The elevator pitch
If you’ve ever heard of the “elevator pitch” then you understand the need for brevity and clarity when you’re trying to capture someone’s attention. The elevator speech is like a sales pitch and is a short, concise summary of your resume that articulates the value that you can bring to your prospective employer’s company. It emphasizes your strengths, quickly connects them to the specific job you’re applying for, and showcases how you can meet the company’s needs.
Here is a good post from Forbes.com on crafting a good elevator pitch.
Organizing the elements for maximum impact
The strongest impact can be created by organizing your information in a way that reveals the most relevant details first. As a rule, you should always focus on putting your most powerful information first.
So, if your educational qualifications are perhaps at the lower end of the qualification spectrum, lead with your experience or relevant skills first. The idea is to organize all the information in a way that immediately captures the reader’s attention, to ensure that the entire resume summary statement gets reviewed.
Top 5 tips when writing a resume summary
Start with your qualifications. Stress the most relevant qualifications to the job you’re targeting. Look at the job description and edit your existing summary to each position so you can appear as qualified as possible.
Focus on your benefit. Remember that your summary should show the employer what you can bring to the table. Word your summary in a way that says this is who I am and this is what I can do for your company. Don’t tell the employer what your resume objective is, tell them how you benefit them and their objective.
Keep length in mind. Keep your resume summary at four to six sentences. Many job seekers write only a sentence or two or go on for too long. Find a good balance and stress the important points--no fluff!
Always quantify when you can. You should include quantifiable results and achievements in the summary. Numbers have been proven to psychologically capture attention over plain words. It also allows you to portray yourself as an “achiever” rather than just a “doer.” For example: “Decreased overhead expenses by 40%” sounds a lot better than just “decreased expenses”.
Use the active voice. Many job seekers resort to overused language like “responsible for” or “in charge of.” These are weak terms. Instead, your summary should read in an active voice where possible. This conveys that you are a self-starter and that you can connect the “why” with the “what” in your previous positions
Resume examples of good summaries that work
To get an idea of how this all looks when it is put together, consider the following resume summary examples:
Marketing director resume summary
Marketing director with 15 years of experience leading teams in market research and innovative campaign design. Graduate of Number One Marketing University, 2002. I led the team that created the You Can’t Say That campaign that won the Bravo Marketing Excellence in Messaging award in 2013. I was featured on the cover of Go, Marketing in September, 2014 for my work in launching the Crafty Marketers online forum earlier that year. I am a results-oriented and team-driven leader committed to mentoring new marketers and expanding the boundaries of marketing science and practical application.
In that example, the candidate led with experience and education first, since that was what the job posting emphasized. She also included known prestigious awards and media features to demonstrate that she was already a recognized expert in her field: something that she knew this company was looking for. In other words, she did her homework and tailored her message to meet the company’s needs.
This next example came from a sales and marketing manager applying for a managerial position. He too focused on his experience, but also highlighted his prior accomplishments within specific companies to show what he could bring to the (conference room) table:
Sales leader resume summary
An accomplished sales leader with a keen understanding of the market dynamics that impact national advertisers. A proven record of success in penetrating new market segments, account development, and revenue growth. Expert in integrating video, display, mobile, television, and print verticals into a cohesive message. In-depth knowledge of creating digital content packages and brand strategy for both start-ups and Fortune 500 accounts. Have secured and managed multi-million dollar contracts throughout my career. In 2010 I surpassed my goal by 127% bringing in revenue of $20 Million for Tribune 365.
Again, this sales and marketing professional tailored his message to the employers stated needs, by highlighting the experience and specialties that he knew would be relevant to that job.
The next examples are from our library of 200+ professional resume examples.
Information technology specialist summary
Accomplished technologist with broad skill set and 10+ year record championing and implementing leading-edge solutions that facilitate rapid business growth. Effective communicator with a talent for communicating complex and highly technical concepts across audiences. Proven ability to rapidly assimilate new technologies, optimize solutions, and resolve complex issues. Relentless focus on customer satisfaction.
School administrator profile summary
A personable, detail-oriented, School Administrator highly regarded for providing exceptional office support and ensuring projects are completed on time and with high confidentiality. Known as extremely accurate and organized with the ability to perform scheduling, reception, meeting planning, accounting, data entry and document preparation, while creating a warm, welcoming environment for clients. Proven track record of striving in fast-paced environments performing regular and recurring duties simultaneously with minimal supervision. Recognized as a self-starter with excellent oral and written communication skills. Out-of-the-box thinker and proven team player with the ability to work with people at all levels of a corporation.
Attorney professional profile
Dedicated bilingual/multilingual Attorney highly regarded for XX years of progressive experience providing outstanding client support in and out of court. Exemplary educational qualifications include a J.D. from XX and admission to the XX bar. Utilizes exceptional interpersonal skills to clearly and concisely communicate complex legal and precedential issues to clients. Experienced in delivering high-quality work products in a variety of subject matter areas, building effective case strategies, and negotiating high-value contracts for corporate clients.
Community manager professional summary
Dynamic Community Manager with experience coordinating all aspects of projects in competitive, faced-paced environments. Recognized as a leader with strengths in project management, administration and business development. Excellent communication skills proven by the ability to successfully manage large events and work with people from very diverse backgrounds. Recognized as the Top Event Planner due to my ability to exceed expectations, increase revenues and manage complex logistical, budgeting and marketing plans for key clients. Achieved a record growth and revenue increase by my unique ability to provide additional services and ensure client retention and referrals.
Business operations specialist resume summary
A savvy, accomplished Business Operations Manager highly regarded for leading global business and strategy to achieve stellar growth for industry leaders. Out-of-the-box, visionary thinker who champions innovative solutions to elevate organizational performance, including global training programs, new business development, partnership establishment, and more. Known for maintaining an uncompromising focus on high-quality standards and bottom-line profit improvements, conducting expansive market assessments to uncover key revenue drivers and vital expansion opportunities. Proven track record of expanding established corporations to guarantee they work efficiently and excel at an international level.
Accounts payable and receivable summary
A highly motivated Accounts Payable & Receivable professional with demonstrated experience in providing exceptional service to key clients significantly increasing productivity while ensuring accurate documentation and reporting. Expertise in the areas of Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable, Analysis, Reporting and departmental best practices. Exceptional academic and hands-on qualifications including my XX degree combined with XX years of hands-on experience in the industry. Excellent communicator and presenter who works well with individuals at all levels of a corporation. Superior technical and multitasking skills with the ability to integrate technology to increase accuracy and efficiency of accounting practices.
Chief Development Officer (CDO) professional profile
Award-winning Chief Development Officer reflecting expertise in providing successful customer-specific solutions catering to a wide array of industries on a global scale. Drives new business through providing excellent customer service and establishes strategic partnerships with stakeholders and executives to increase channel revenue. Outstanding success in building and maintaining relationships with key decision-makers, establishing large volume accounts and ensuring client retention and loyalty. Able to succinctly articulate complex principles and to demonstrate product function to both business and technical users. Well organized with a track record that demonstrates self-motivation, perseverance and the creativity to achieve both personal and corporate goals. Extensive face-to-face interaction with a focus on client relationships, as well as management of partnering account teams to identify opportunities, then architect, position, and close new projects to provide all customers with exceptional results.
Versatile, charismatic, College Professor highly regarded for a proven history of faculty collaboration and commitment to research, illustrated over a lengthy tenure in academic roles. Adept in driving thought-provoking class debates to promote student engagement and learning. Leverages strong communication skills to foster meaningful and trusting relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators. Student-centric instructor, academic facilitator, and motivational coach who champions student achievements while promoting a safe and positive learning environment. Thrives in fast-paced, diverse, and research-oriented environments.
Writing a resume summary when you have no relevant experience
Now, the above examples are obviously of the more common variety when it comes to how people pursue careers in their chosen fields.
Most people will at least try to have some relevant skills and experience in the job field they’re trying to enter. But what happens when you’re trying to break into an industry for the first time, or want to switch career paths and have no actual experience with the position you’re trying to secure?
That happens more than most people realize. If you’re trying to write a summary and have no direct experience to list as a job qualification, just know that you’re not alone. The bad news is that your inability to list any relevant experience deprives you of one key resume summary feature that might have enhanced your “hook” and helped to get the recruiter to give your resume a deeper inspection.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a fatal weakness. There are ways to work around a lack of experience, just as there are ways to work around a lack of relevant education. As fate would have it, this scenario is one of many reasons why your summary is so critical!
Stressing other qualifications
When you have no relevant work experience to highlight, make sure to stress other relevant qualifications. That would include everything from your relevant skills and educational coursework to specific accomplishments you’ve achieved in prior jobs that are at least somewhat relevant to the job you’re seeking. For example:
Focus on skills and experiences that you possess that would be great selling points and relevant to the position. These can include things like budget management, marketing research, customer service rep, social media management, conflict resolution skills, and even familiarity with critical software or hardware systems. Check out this post to learn more on the right skills to include on your resume.
Emphasize educational achievements that demonstrate that you have the knowledge needed to do the job.
Highlight accomplishments from previous jobs that demonstrate the value you can bring to the organization.
If necessary, list relevant outside interests that demonstrate an ability to meet the employer’s needs.
Don’t forget to incorporate the job posting keywords into these qualifications. That’s important for ensuring that your resume still gets past the software used for initial resume reviews.
An example of how to write your resume summary with no experience
Engineering graduate of the prestigious College of Engineering at Iowa State University with leadership training from Rotes Leadership Academy in Rochester, MN. Skilled in research, project management, and organizational efficiency. Have previously managed budgets of more than $1 million, and teams of as many as 20 people. My focus on team-oriented cross-platform solutions for project needs has reduced company research and development costs by 20%.
In this resume summary statement example, our engineering grad--who was a student and finished school while working in an entirely different industry--can highlight not only his educational achievements, but specific accomplishments that he achieved in his previous employment. All the while, he presents himself as someone with the proven commitment to bring that same level of value to his new employer.
The bottom line here is simple: you need a powerful and informative resume summary statement if you want to ensure that any recruiter’s attention is captured within the first few seconds of reading your resume and cover letter. Remember, you only have a matter of seconds to garner interest before your resume ends up being dismissed out of hand.
The right resume summary can help you to avoid that rejection pile and enhance your chances of getting that dream job you want!
Good luck with your job search!
Leo Bastone, Editor & Content Writer
Leo Bastone is an Editor with a passion for using words to empower high-growth and mission-driven organizations. He’s worked in startup, non-profit, and enterprise environments across various sectors and currently serves as an editor at ZipJob. Based out of the greater New York City area, Leo enjoys traveling frequently throughout New England, one of his favorite hideaways being the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.