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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

Resume summary: What it is, why it matters and how to write it

19 min read
Resume summary: What it is, why it matters and how to write it
Artwork by:Evgeniya Skubina
A resume summary is one of the most important components of any resume, and it’s probably the most challenging part to write.

Yet here you have the golden opportunity to summarize your greatest professional qualities in your own words — as if creating a self-portrait in writing. If done well, your resume summary can start off your CV with a bang, catching hiring managers’ attention immediately. But if done poorly, it can be an instant turnoff.

In this guide we’ll explore the answers to the following questions, with actual resume summary examples:

  • What is a resume summary?
  • What is the objective of the professional summary?
  • Should you have a summary on your CV?
  • How do you write a profile summary?

What is a resume summary?

The resume summary is also known as a resume profile, and sometimes as a personal statement or job objective. The resume summary serves to summarize your experience, skills and other qualifications for any job you’re seeking. 

Unlike the rest of the resume, the summary is not in the form of a list, but is written in your own words in the order you choose. This means the summary is a unique opportunity to highlight your most impressive qualifications right up front, and also to showcase your personality, passion and drive. 

Every resume should have at least five elements

  • Header with contact info
  • Resume summary
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Skills

Notice that other than the resume summary, all of these are lists: lists of the ways to contact you, of your past jobs, of your past schools and of your skills . There’s not a lot of freedom for creative expression in these sections — you’re mostly just putting facts on the page.

But the professional resume summary is a blank canvas for you to introduce yourself and boast a little about what makes you a great candidate for the job you want. So you need to choose your words very carefully.

Expert tip

What is a GOOD resume summary?

Now you know what a resume summary is, but what is a truly great summary. First, expand your notion of “summary” to include “profile.” You aren’t really summarizing your career here, you’re revealing a bit about who you are as a worker and what you can do for your new employer, so profile summary is a better name.

What is a good summary for your resume? Simple. It’s one that answers the questions: “What will you bring to the company?” and “Why should I hire you?” The bottom line: You want the interview, and your profile summary is a great place to explain why you should get it.

A resume summary should generally be about four or five lines across the top of your resume, a total of three or four sentences. But note that you don’t even need complete sentences, as the word “I” is not really necessary. Below is a professional summary example.

Resume Summary Example: Art Director

Passionate and experienced art director with a proven track record of successfully managing illustration and graphics assignments and delivering consistent client satisfaction. Adept in overseeing all aspects of project management, offering innovative solutions and mentoring artists. Known for strong leadership skills and the creativity and organization to effectively oversee all development and design processes. 

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What is the objective of a profile / summary on your resume?

The objective of a resume summary is to provide a “quick read” synopsis that allows a job recruiter to rapidly scan what you consider your top qualifications for employment. 

Hiring managers may or may not have time to read every word of your resume, ponder all your bullet points and process all your self-described skills. But the resume summary at the top of the page should showcase the most relevant and impressive points to consider from the entire resume.

If the resume summary doesn’t make a positive impression, the rest of the resume probably won’t either. But if the professional summary makes recruiters say, “Wow, this sounds great,” then they’re likely to scrutinize the rest of your resume closely — which, in turn, increases the chances of a positive response to your job application.

Expert tip

What happened to the job objective?

A professional summary for a resume is sometimes called a job objective because it may be used to clarify exactly what type of job you are seeking. However, this is not always necessary. 

If your resume summary focuses, for example, on your experience as an accountant , your education as an accounting major, your accountant certification and your accounting skills, it should be pretty obvious what type of job you’re seeking. But if any clarification is needed about a specific position you’re looking for, you can also clarify this in your cover letter.

Should you have a summary on your CV?

The answer to “should you include a summary / profile on your CV?” is a resounding “yes!”. Note that outside the U.S. and Canada, resumes are generally called CVs (curriculum vitae). But whether you call it a resume summary or a CV summary, it’s basically the same element, governed by the same goals.

IIs a summary necessary on a resume? Without a doubt, it is absolutely essential. 

No. 1, any job recruiter would find it odd if you left this out, since it’s one of the basic elements of every resume. And No. 2, without a summary you’d be forfeiting a unique opportunity to describe in your own words all the reasons you’re a great job candidate. 

If you’re tempted to skip the CV summary, perhaps to save space, don’t even think about it. It’s arguably the most important section of the entire resume.

 

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How do you write a resume summary?

Resume summary writing is probably the most challenging aspect of your job application. Don’t rush it. When you sit down to write your resume summary, take some time to think about your greatest strengths , along with the life experiences that best demonstrate your competence for the job you’re seeking. Consider these tips to guide your resume summary writing:

  • Brainstorm a master list of what you might include.

Brainstorming is a process in which you write down ALL ideas, as if no idea is a bad one — even if the list ends up being way too long . This kind of uncensored thinking will inevitably result in a lot of stuff you’ll have to throw out. But it can also produce some unexpected gems that you wouldn’t have considered if you were trying to edit the list in your mind before writing anything down.

  • Consider all your qualifications, not just the obvious.

If you have years of experience in your field, an advanced degree and every certification under the sun, these are all clearly points to consider in writing your resume summary.

But try to look beyond your experience, education and skills toward less obvious aspects of your candidacy. These might include your innate drive, passion, creativity and resourcefulness. 

Expert tip

How do you write a short summary of yourself?

This question is too broad. Narrow your thinking down just a bit and breathe a sigh of relief. You’re not writing a short summary of yourself, you’re writing an enticing elevator pitch for your candidacy.

Here’s one method of breaking down your resume summary writing task:

Quickly introduce your professional self, highlight your biggest career success (making sure it illustrates what you can do for your new company) and tell a short story that shows off your work style. End with a description of your highest-level skills.

  • Use powerful, provocative language.

Avoid flabby, weak, vague language. Search your vocabulary for strong action verbs , descriptive adjectives and compelling, original ways of expressing yourself. Your writing needs to be free of clichés and “fluff,” which is language that sounds fancy but says nothing.

  • Don’t repeat yourself.

Try to avoid repeating any major word in your professional summary. For example, don’t describe yourself as “an experienced educator” and then say you have 10 years of “experience teaching in public schools.” Don’t say you are “a passionate graphic designer” and then say you have a “passion for effective design.” This kind of repetitive writing is indicative of lazy and unimaginative thinking. 

  • Strive for a variety of sentence constructions with an ear-pleasing “flow.”

“Flow” is a writing skill in which sentences are structured so that one transitions naturally to the next. It involves changing up the way you write each sentence, providing variety in your approach, and making sure the end result is not choppy or jarring. One way to check for good flow is to reread your resume summary out loud to make sure it just “sounds right” when you read the whole thing from beginning to end.

  • Customize your resume summary for ATS software.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that employers use to filter resumes according to whether they contain critical keywords . For example, if a top law firm is specifically seeking an attorney with experience in mergers and acquisitions, it’s likely to program its ATS to search resumes for that precise term — “mergers and acquisitions.” If the law firm receives 500 resumes and 100 of them don’t have that crucial phrase, the ATS is likely to route those to a reject pile. Then the human being responsible for this hire can focus on the 400 resumes that do. 

The best way to pass the ATS test is to scrutinize each job listing for the precise qualifications the employer is seeking, and to include those words in your resume. The professional summary can be an excellent place to do this.

A related issue: Resumes should be adaptable documents that are customized for each job application . Resumes can be presented in various formats, but stone is not one of them. Be prepared to revise your resume to target each potential employer.

  • Proofread carefully.

Reread your resume relentlessly, and your resume summary in particular, to make sure it contains no typos, misspellings, bad grammar or strange punctuation. In a one-page document, even one writing error can sink your ship.

To sum up:

Do
  • Choose your language carefully; be bold and access a thesaurus if you’re stuck
  • Highlight soft skills that distinguish you from other candidates
  • Let your voice shine through
  • Craft 3-4 sentences that have a natural rhythm
Don't
  • Repeat your employment history or other sections of your resume
  • Write just one resume summary; customize for each position
  • Use stilted language or too much jargon
  • Forget to proofread, spell check and grammar check

Resume summary examples

There’s nothing like practical material for inspiration. Below are some resume summary examples that hit the right notes in various professions. Review these resume summary samples to plan how to better write your own:

Resume Summary Example: Lawyer

Seasoned trial attorney with a passion for justice and a dedication to ethical practices. Expertise in case law, skilled at public speaking, widely recognized as a formidable litigator. Broad experience with pretrial motions, courtroom arguments, appeals and all aspects of case management. 

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Resume Summary Example: Human Resource Manager

Experienced and motivated human resources manager with five years of experience overseeing the HR department for a major tech company, implementing new strategies to improve hiring practices, training and retention. Knowledgeable about employment law and effective organizational planning. Highly competent communicator, skilled in developing initiatives to improve profitability and growth. 

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Resume Summary Example: Truck Driver

Reliable, experienced truck driver with a solid history of safe practices, timely deliveries and respect for the road. Adept at problem solving and scrupulous about following all company guidelines and protocols. Proven track record of cultivating positive relationships with clients, delivering shipments successfully and properly maintaining vehicles at all times. 

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Resume Summary Example: Web Developer

Experienced Web Developer adept in all stages of advanced web development. Knowledgeable in user interface, testing, and debugging processes. Bringing forth expertise in design, installation, testing and maintenance of web systems. Equipped with a diverse and promising skill set. Proficient in an assortment of technologies, including Java, ASP.NET, C#, IIS, Tomcat, and Microsoft SQL Server. Able to effectively self-manage during independent projects, as well as collaborate in a team setting.

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Resume Summary Example: Senior Accountant

Experienced and dedicated Senior Accountant, bringing forth several years of valuable industry experience and a commitment to providing a variety of financial and analytical review services to company departments and clients. Adept in ensuring compliance with accounting principles and federal and state regulations.

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Resume Summary Example: Marketing Manager

A seasoned industry veteran with 12 years of experience in digital marketing strategies, bringing new brands to foreign markets, coordinating media buying, PR campaigns, disruption marketing and traditional support-based methods for strong ROI. With a dedicated focus on performance analytics and pragmatic KPIs, I would welcome the opportunity to lead and manage a team of creatives and digital specialists to deliver powerful results for the company and brand(s).

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Resume Summary Example: Creative Director

A creative specialist with more than a decade of experience at the avantgarde of the advertising and short-film industry. With eight Red Dot awards and several dozen national-level creative campaigns under my belt, I would love to bring my expertise, artistic and creative vision to new projects and teams, pushing the boundaries of big-brand advertising in a new corporate family and culture.

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Use these resume summary examples for inspiration, and follow our tips to craft a summary of your own that will impress recruiters. 

Resume.io is a leading provider of resume templates and occupation-specific writing guides , and our builder tool makes it easy to prepare your own. Best of luck, and happy job hunting!

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