How, when, and why to write a resume summary statement.
A resume summary statement is basically a quick way for you to catch a hiring manager’s eye by briefly listing key information at the top of your resume. It’s a summary who you are professionally – not a synopsis of your resume – and lets them know what to expect from you.
It’s become a standard and, if done well, can give you an edge in the hiring process. You might also see it called competencies or a qualifications summary on some of those resume templates you’ve been Googling.
Don’t confuse it with a resume objective, which is kind of an outdated version that usually has something like “I hope to secure a position…”
Take a look at these examples:
English Languages student with leadership and academic training at the [Your University]. Expertise in social media platforms and Microsoft Office. Proven experience in research projects, time management, and organizational skills with a background in office administration. Able to provide employers with administrative support and professional communication skills.
It essentially says that the resume belongs to a person who went to college and has the necessary skills to graduate, in about fifty words.
Now, this one:
Biology Major with demonstrated skills in research activities and clinical experiments. Blends academic training with lab management experience from the [Your University]. Incorporates administrative experience in an office setting to provide employers with proven scheduling, communications, and organizational expertise.
It’s brief and to the point. It seamlessly moves into what the writer actually did while a student, and it asserts that the writer actually has experience performing the administrative tasks. The second one adds value to the resume – the best part about reading the first one is that you get to stop reading it when you’re done.
This is your foot in the door. Think about it in terms of Tinder.
Say you’re a hiring manager out on the prowl, and it’s hard to find the right one. You’ve got a pretty long list of criteria and some high standards – your work friends say they’re too high and you should just settle.
So, then on Taco Tuesday you have five tacos and like seventeen strawberry margaritas. Whatever, they were on special. Inhibitions are lowered, and you give the online thing a shot.
Now, you’ve got a lot to offer people, and all sorts of folks want your attention. You’re slammed with potential – lucky you – and as important as matching with the right one is, you just don’t have time to really look at each one.
There’s a whole lot of swiping left going on.
Face tattoo. Swipe left.
Grammatical errors. Swipe left.
Then, suddenly, you see someone with a cute, genuine smile. Intrigued, you look closer. A hiking selfie Picture holding a puppy dog and a child – the caption says “the dog is mine, the kid is my sister’s lol”. Swipe right.
The smile is a decent-looking resume format. The outdoorsy selfie is a college degree. The cute dog picture is your resume summary statement.
The tattoo and errors are tattoos and errors. Sorry, not sorry.
A resume statement summary is more or less just a few well-worded, targeted sentences that sum up your skills and experiences. Think of it as a shortened cover letter or a written elevator speech.
At the top of your resume, just under your contact information. The purpose is to quickly grab the hiring manager’s notice as soon as they begin reading – which is, you know, usually at the beginning.
To make sure the reader gets the gist of who you are as soon as possible. Imagine you’re a hiring manager skimming dozens of resumes – kind of like a jobseeker skimming dozens of resume templates.
Some employers run resumes through screening software, so this is an opportunity to stick some keywords in that don’t mesh with you job description bullet points.
If you can write a good one – more on that below – pretty much everyone benefits:
But if you want to indicate that your resume is either outdated or a template from Microsoft Word, use an objective statement.
Remember how I said you should write a good one? If you don’t have much to summarize because of limited work experience or academic experience that’s not relevant to this role, omit it altogether. Save the precious page-one space – expand your job role sections instead.
Like your cover letter and resume itself, you’ve got to tailor your summary statement to each position. If you’re submitting it to a job search website and can’t really customize it, then decide upon a target industry and do the best you can for that field.
This is the headline that sums you up. It’s pretty much the only part of your summary that is just about you. You should begin with a title that explains your professional identity, such as:
It should go without saying, but you need to know as much about this position as possible.
The average hiring manager will spend a matter of seconds glancing at a resume before they decide how to act.
You want to make sure that it’s not a large block of text they’ll be tempted to skip over for an easier-to-digest snippet. We’re talking:
There’s no need to write filler if it feels short. It’s about economy of words – each one has to earn its place.
The job market is a seller’s market these days, so you need to make a quick, convincing case for why they should choose you. Do not turn it into an objective statement by ending with something like “I hope to secure a ______ position with your company”.
Don’t steal your job descriptions’ thunder or be redundant, but think about anything you may have left over that didn’t make its way into the rest of your resume.
As with all things resume, don’t lie. Also:
There’s a school of thought that says that young people don’t need summary statements – if I agreed, I wouldn’t have bothered with the Tinder analogy. It’s ok to rely on academics to strengthen your qualifications, just make sure that you describe what you actually did. If you acquired some skills that are relevant to the work place, make them work for you here.
If you find yourself trying to bullshit your way through it, then just leave it out entirely.
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