A summary is an optional first section of your resume that highlights your skills, achievements, and/or professional goals as a glimpse into what the employer will get in the rest of the resume. It is a good way to get the employer intrigued from the start.
It is located right underneath your name and contact information. It can be formatted as 4-5 bullet points or as 3-5 sentences (there are some things to consider with the sentences, which we will touch on a little later). One important thing to note is that a summary is not an objective statement. The difference?
An objective is 1-2 sentences or bullet points stating what you are applying for or seeking in your field. A summary, as mentioned, is your skills, achievements, and/or professional goals. However, a summary can include the concept of an objective (i.e. wants to be in a collaborative environment to offer ___ and ____.) Objective statements are phasing out and we are seeing more and more professional summaries on resumes.
I’ve explained what a summary is, and next, I would like to explain why you may want to include it on your resume.
A summary is good if you have years of professional experience or if you are fresh into the professional world. For my “years of experience” peers, it will help you synthesize your skills and achievements if you are not able to include all of your experience later on in the resume. It also lets employers know what a seasoned professional is offering from the get-go. For my “fresh into the professional world” peers, this will help you highlight top marketable skills that will complement the bullet points later on in the resume (whether the experience is 100% relevant or not). All experiences come with marketable skills and can be positioned at the very beginning of a resume to give a glimpse of what kind of professional you are and want to become.
Okay, Let’s get into how to write a summary.
You actually may find it easier to write the summary last. That way you can use what you have already written on your resume to form your summary on the topmost skills for the job you are applying for. Since you want your resume to pass the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the summary will need to be strategically structured to do the same. This means choosing your strengths but also cross-referencing with what the job is asking for. That is why it is important to look for top skills in the job description that you match up with. Check out our resource JobScan to help you with this step.
Remember, when writing a summary the focus is not necessarily on what you want from them but what you can offer them.
You also want to include your title in the first sentence/bullet point. (I.e. nursing student, Physical Therapist, Project Manager). If you have the experience follow up with the years of experience in number format (i.e. with 5+ years of customer service experience). Anytime you can quantify your qualifications the better off you will be.
Let’s say you have never had a job and therefore don’t seem to have the experience to pull from. What if I told you that internships, volunteering, and maybe even hobbies count too? They do! Don’t become discouraged if you have never had a job or if you haven’t had a job in the field you are wanting to get into. Remember, all experiences come with marketable skills!
Now… those things to consider.
A resume does not include “I,” “me,” or “my,” and this goes for a summary as well. The sentences may sound funny because they are not true sentences. They may start with words like “utilize,” “bring,” or “excel at” instead. This section may synthesize your professional skills, but it is not the end all be all. It is specific to the type of job you are applying for, and not random facts. It still needs to complement and strengthen what you have written in the bullet points throughout the resume.
Once you’ve written it, read it out loud to yourself and see if you can step into the employer’s shoes and answer the question they may ask you later, but definitely are asking themselves since the moment they opened your application…
Why should we hire you?