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How to Write a Professional Resume Summary Statement

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
How to Write a Functional or Skills-Based Resume (With Examples + Templates)
How to Write a Personal Brand Statement for Your Resume

You’re on a dating site. 

Just an average-looking person in search of love… (bear with me here).

Your profile bio says:

“Loves traveling, meeting new friends, and swimming”

Not bad, not that good either. Some people might swipe right because of common interests. Or you have cute dog pictures.

Yes, this is a tutorial on how to write a resume summary... (stick with me another moment).

Then there’s some other average-looking person with this profile bio:

"Funny and charming guy your friends will approve of…Will cook and watch Netflix with you, and bring you food on bad days. Loves going on epic adventures."

Who do you think is more memorable? Love for travel and meeting new friends are common on dating profiles. Bringing you food on days you’re grumpy and moody? Not so much. It’s intriguing and a good conversation starter.

The same goes for applications and writing a resume summary.

Common skills get ignored. Personality and creativity wins.

How to Write a Resume Summary Statement To Get Hired
Write a resume summary statement that gets you hired. (graphic)

A resume summary is a short and catchy paragraph or bullet list highlighting your most defining skills, achievements, and character traits. It's three to five sentences in length, the text equivalent of your elevator speech, and often the first thing recruiters see after opening your resume.

Resume Summary vs Resume Objective

Most resume objectives read like wish lists. It’s all about the applicant’s wants, and little to do with what the employer is looking for. Here’s an example for an IT Project Manager:

I’m a Technical Project Manager with 5 years of experience. I’m now looking for a new challenge that allows me to leverage my IT background and resource management skills.

It mentions experience and the applicant’s skills in resource management, but nothing that would stand out to a recruiter. It’s also written in a way that emphasizes what the candidate is looking for, instead of appealing to the employer.

A resume’s goal is to convince recruiters you’re worth interviewing. Because you have the talent and experience they’re looking for. 

Below is an example of a resume summary, in bullet points, for the same position:

* Technical Project Manager with 5 years of experience
* Specializes in website creation, e-commerce sites, and website launch marketing
* Insider knowledge of the ecommerce market
* Proven skill in crafting website launch marketing campaigns that generate buzz and profit for different industries and products

Notice how this summary statement focuses more on the applicant's strengths and what they can deliver to a hiring employer.

When to Use a Summary and When to Go for a Resume Objective

Which approach is better? The experts I talked to are divided on this. Some say it’s always better to go for a summary. Others are partial to resume objectives for specific situations.

Resume Summary Statements Are Often Best

Writing a resume summary statement is usually best, if you have years of work experience in a given profession, (as recommended per HR recruiters and career experts). It’s the best way to display notable achievements and skills, so it’s not hidden—ala Where’s Waldo in your work history.

Upper management candidates with a long work history spanning different industries and job titles need a resume executive summary. Without it, it will be hard for the recruiter to see their progression, and the professional brand they built for themselves. It’s also a chore to read through 10+, 15+, or 20+ years of experience.

So, When Do You Use a Resume Objective?

A resume objective, whether it reads like a wish-list or a tad less self-centered, is a good alternative for career changers, and fresh graduates. These groups might not have much in the way of job-related skills or accomplishments to refer to in a summary statement. So it’s better to highlight their soft and transferable skills, and their passion for the job.

Why You Need a Great Resume Summary Statement

At first glance, writing a resume summary statement looks easy. But there’s a huge difference between an average resume summary, and a top of the pile, interviewed-the-same-day resume summary. In this tutorial, I break down the process and give you examples so you can follow-along. 

Before we dive deeper into the step-by-step details of this tutorial, have a look at Mono, one of our professional resume template from Envato Market, which you can readily add your resume summary statement to, and stand out from other applicants. 

Mono Professional Resume Template
Mono - pro resume template, available in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Word formats.

How to Write a Resume Summary: The Ultimate Guide

1. Make it Concise, Without Long Blocks of Text

Remember the bullet list summary statement above? That could’ve been written as a paragraph, but doing so means adding extra words (articles, conjunctions) to turn the bullets into complete sentences. It wouldn’t be concise.

A popular study says recruiters spend an average of six seconds reading a resume. Based on average reading speeds, that converts to a measly 20 to 30 words. Would you waste your precious allotted time with words like “the” “a” or “and”?

And because recruiters aren’t reading resumes word for word, it’s safe to say they just scan it. When a reader scans, their eyes gloss over some parts of the text. So if your resume summary is a big block of text, it will be extra hard for recruiters to find if there’s anything worth noticing in it.

2. List and Highlight Your Notable Accomplishments

If you’ve been working more than two years, don’t skip this step. List down all the accomplishments you remember—the ones that earned you accolades at the office. Plaques, appreciations, certificates, promotions, exceeding annual targets, and monetary awards are good bets.

Kudos from your boss or client, hitting a monthly quota, and attendance incentives are too commonplace. Think noteworthy milestone achievements. Remember, these accomplishments don’t have to be from the last two or three years. If you’ve been in the same industry for a while now, accomplishments in your last position—even if it’s junior to your title now—still count. It shows consistency and growth.

After creating your list, highlight the three most attention grabbing and relevant to your target position. For example, managers and executives are prized for their leadership and subject-matter knowledge. Young professionals, however, are more valued for their on-field performance.

3. Find the Transferable and Soft Skills that Make You Stand Out

Employees aren’t hired purely due to their technical skills and accomplishments. If that were the case companies would just hire robots.

Your transferable and soft skills are what distinguish you from candidates who have a similar degree and level of experience. Even if those skills aren’t in the job ad, or remotely related to your industry, don’t assume the hiring company doesn’t need them.

List of transferable and soft skill examples:

  • Problem solving and research skills
  • Fluent in French (or any other language)
  • Mastered the art of selling, without being sleazy
  • Excellent time and stress management skills

Now you have a rough master list of everything you can put into your resume summary statement. Set it aside for now. It’s time to research the employer’s side of the equation.

4. Scrutinize the Job Post and Look for Key Details

Examine the job post you're planning to apply to in great detail. Don’t just read it and rely on the keywords that immediately grab your attention.

Identify the skills, educational requirements, keywords, and related achievements listed on the ad. If you’re not sure how to find these details, or think you missed something, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What personality or character traits are they looking for?
  • What are the skills and educational requirements listed?
  • What unspoken needs or challenges does this ad allude to? For example, is there anything in the job ad that suggests you’d have to do a bit of networking and customer service, even if it’s a non-sales position? 

Let’s analyze this job ad for a Graphic Designer:

I’ve highlighted hints that suggest the skills and keywords they’re looking for, but are either not mentioned directly or could be articulated better when you’re writing a resume summary.

Graphic designer job ad example
Graphic designer job ad example.
  • Front line of our workflow: Possibly a client-facing job. Requires good communication skills and understanding of trends and what clients want in the sports entertainment industry.
  • New brand identities: Keywords for this include conceptualizing, brand development, following the client brief, and launching new brands.
  • Knowledge of social media platforms: Familiarity with size and other graphic requirements, such as text constraints. Knowledge of what works well per platform is a plus.
  • Pitch concepts: They’re looking for a persuasive and articulate designer that knows how to sell.
  • Attending design workshop: Love for learning and continuous improvement

This is how you decode a job ad, and subtly include keywords and skills employers are looking for, without looking like you copied the ad onto your resume. Find a way to include the skills and keywords you decoded onto your master list.

5. Analyze Your Industry for Cues

Do the same analysis earlier, but on resumes and LinkedIn profiles of people already working in your profession. Ask yourself:

  • What technical and soft skills often pop up for professionals in your industry?
  • What awards and accomplishments are displayed on their profile?
  • What does their educational and professional history suggest about career progression? What skills do they acquire as they get promoted?
  • If you have any of those frequently mentioned skills or awards, include it on your master list.

6. Convert Your Master List into a Recruiter’s Wish List (This is the Elimination Round)

You’re now at the most challenging step: combining your master list with what the job ad and industry demands.

It might hurt to think that not all of your skills and achievements are worth including in the summary. What was all that writing and brainstorming for?

Whatever you don’t include in your resume summary statement, can be listed in your resume’s work history or skills section.

For now, imagine you’re a strict editor, religiously pruning unnecessary words and information to improve a novel’s plot.

Ask yourself:

  • Which of my accomplishments are relevant to the skills listed in the job ad?
  • Which of my transferable and soft skills are required (even subtly) in the job ad? Which might be useful in the industry?
  • How can I solve the employer’s problems and add value to the company?
  • How can I differentiate myself from other professionals in this field?

In the graphic designer job example above, there’s nothing listed that suggests extraordinary skills in Flash Video, or any type of video editing might be needed. So if you have that skill in your master list, better relocate it further down your resume—in the skills section.

That way, it’s still there if the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) looks for it. But it won’t chip at the recruiter’s limited attention when reading your resume summary statement.

7. Find Your Fit: Choose What Goes into Your Resume Statement

Drawing from your newly refined master list (see previous step):

  • What are your top three selling points as a candidate? This includes job-specific skills, soft and transferable skills, and character traits
  • Based on the job ad, which problems or goals, are you the best person to solve?

That’s it for the tutorial. It’s time to learn how to write a resume summary through examples:

Here’s a Rough Template You can Use

This template combines a one or two sentence short intro, with a list of bullet points so you have the best of both worlds:

(Adjective) and (keyword) (job title) that combines a background in (job-specific skill) and (transferable) skill with expertise in (industry) to deliver (employer goal).

  • Delivers top notch (tangible result) related to (skill)
  • (Notable certifications if any)
  • Excellent (soft skills) that help with (employer problem or issue)
  • Known for providing the best (transferable or job related skill) in (job task)"

Resume Summary Examples

1. IT Manager

IT Manager with 8 years of experience in web development and operations management. You’ll get the combined expertise of an employee-centered leader and analytical problem solver that retains and develops top talent, while running multiple profit-generating projects.
* Expertise in web and software structuring, and security that lead to less client problems and troubleshooting pains later
* MCSE and MCSD Certification, with in-depth knowledge of SQL, Python, and Java
* Well-known for providing the best translation of geek speak into client-friendly language 

2. Writers

Research-driven and versatile Freelance Writer that combines journalism and data analysis with copywriting experience to deliver content that generates a buzz.
* Writes articles and press releases that drive up pageviews and sales conversion  
* Professional yet persuasive communication skills used for helping clients build relations with influencers and the press  
* Known for writing revenue-driving landing pages for startups and authors

8. Turn “I” and “Me” into “You”

None of the examples in this piece have an “I” or “me” to avoid the first person, self-centered tone sometimes found in resumes. Since a resume summary statement is read by a recruiter, it should be written for their benefit.

Changing a sentence’s structure so it’s focused on “you” (the employer) reinforces the message of the value you bring to the table.

9. Add Quantifiable Figures

A professional summary for your resume should be detailed. So much so that potential employers can see a vivid image of the ROI you can deliver—and how you’re going to do it. Try adding numbers, percentages or any other quantifiable metric when writing a resume summary.

Example Resume Executive Summary

Here’s an example of a resume executive summary for a Sales Director:

* 17 years of combined field and management experience in sales
* Increased sales in the southwest region by 25% via creative loyalty programs and sales incentives
* Hired and mentored two award-winning sales teams that ended up generating profits above 7% the national average

10. Drop in Relevant Names

Have famous clients, customers, or vendors? What about an Ivy-league degree or industry recognized certification? Include it when writing a resume summary to boost your resume’s social proof.

When name dropping clients or vendors, just make sure you’re not bound by any confidentiality clauses.  

Final Reminder: Don’t Include Tasks and Achievements You Don’t Care for?

Good in Excel but hate typing formulas and analyzing numbers? Don’t include it. Same goes for every other skill you have but don’t enjoy. Doing so will pull you into a job that you might not like. 

Take Action on Your Resume

After you've applied the tips above to make your resume summary statement stand out professionally, turn your attention to other critical components that will add the polish your resume deserves. 

Additional Resume Resources

If you need more assistance with writing a killer resume, work through these Envato Tuts+ tutorials (or browse through our resume tutorial category): 

Also, there are a number of professional resume templates on Envato Market, with creative examples features in this article curated by our Envato Tuts+ staff:

Crafting a resume that lands you the job you're aiming for takes a deft hand with: applying the right strategy, writing approach, and attention to detail. Good luck applying!  

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