The summary section of your resume is often the first section a recruiter or hiring manager will see when they review your resume. For that reason, learning how to write a strong resume summary is a critical skill for any job seeker who wants to make a strong first impression.
Here, we walk you step-by-step through the process of writing a summary section. We provide writing tips and content examples for job seekers of every experience level and for all three of the major resume formats.
What is a resume summary and why is it important?
A well-written resume summary consists of three to five sentences that emphasizes your unique value. Think of it as your sales pitch. By highlighting your most relevant skills and experience and, for applicants with significant work experience, your professional achievements, it shows potential employers what you'll bring to the table if hired.
Depending on the resume format you choose, this section might be titled "Professional Summary" or "Career Objective." Either way, this section is an opportunity to highlight the experience, achievements and characteristics that make you uniquely qualified for a position.
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Write a resume summary in 6 simple steps
- Study the job ad.
Before you start writing, gather some basic information from the job ad. Make a list of the required skills and experience listed and begin to compile notes on the parts of your experience that align with those requirements. These are the keywords and phrases that you will want to incorporate into your summary section. As you study the job ad and the requirements, ask yourself what specifically makes you the right person for this role? This is what you'll want to zero-in on in your summary.
- Do some light research.
Spend some time on the company website to see how it describes itself. Is it casual and light? Or does the company use a highly professional tone? You'll want to adopt the same tone in your summary statement.
- Write your opener.
Write a sentence that includes one or two words to describe you and your experience as it relates to the job ad. For example, "Friendly and engaging server with five years of experience in busy neighborhood dining establishments." (If you are new to the workforce, or are using a functional resume format for another reason, you'll want to approach this a bit differently. Read on to learn how to write a Career Objective statement.)
- Highlight relevant skills, experience and education.
From studying the job ad, you've learned the skills, experience and education that are most relevant to the position. In a sentence or two, bring those to the forefront. For example, "Strong work ethic and highly organized. Excellent verbal communication skills and a proven track record for developing strong relationships with co-workers."
- Mention at least one relevant achievement.
If you are an experienced applicant, add in a sentence or two that describes a professional achievement. Doing so tells employers instantly what you'll bring to the role. This can be done through a short sentence describing your achievement or by adding data and metrics to the summary. For example, "Regularly turned up to 35 tables during Sunday brunch. Praised by management for the ability to upsell high-profit menu items and fine wines."
- Put it all together.
Here is an example of what you will have crafted if you follow the steps above:"Friendly and engaging server with five years of experience in busy neighborhood dining establishments. Strong work ethic and high-organized. Excellent verbal communication skills and a proven track record for developing strong relationships with coworkers. Regularly turned up to 35 tables during Sunday brunch. Praised by management for the ability to upsell high-profit menu items and fine wines."
4 Tips for writing your resume summary
- Be concise. Writing a clear and succinct summary allows the reader to focus directly on your qualifications. Briefly explain why you meet the criteria required for the role. You will get the opportunity to explain in detail how you applied those skills in other sections of your resume and during the job interview.
- Use keywords. Keywords are often presented in the job description and in the summary of required qualifications. Study the language used in the job ad and stick with it. With more and more companies using applicant tracking systems (ATS) in the hiring process, these keywords become critical to landing an interview. ATS software scans resumes for keywords to eliminate unqualified candidates. If they don't appear in your resume, it won't be seen by a human recruiter. Your summary section is a great opportunity to include the most critical keywords at the top of your document.
- Mention both hard and soft skills. While many job seekers are tempted to focus on hard skills on their resumes, soft skills count just as much. These personality traits, like strong communication or problem-solving skills, are difficult to teach so employers actively seek out applicants who possess them. Your summary section is a great place to describe yourself in your own words. Use it to call out the soft skills you possess that make you great at your job.
- Use memorable details. The goal of the summary section is to entice the hiring manager to want to learn more about you. You want to give them a bit of information that will make you memorable and keep your name in their heads. Do you have a special skill, interesting credential, or something that you are particularly good at? Is there something you do that no one else can? Including these details in will make an employer want to come back for more.
Resume summary examples by experience level
Your summary statement will change over the course of your career. Here, we provide examples of what this section should look like for job seekers at every career stage.
- "Focused and attentive Assistant Professor of English. Recently completed Ph.D. Experienced in cultivating welcoming and engaging learning environments. Friendly and personable with the skill to stay organized and on top of important deadlines. Dedicated to the development of an English curriculum reflective of the needs of students and work environments. Strong knowledge of teaching methods and techniques."
- "Clear communicator who practices multitasking and excellent problem-solving and relationship-building abilities. Helps to organize and participate in various office events such as Open Houses, fundraisers, and office meetings. Adept at doing tasks spanning all aspects of plant operations, including performance and efficiency, contract, and project management."
- "Enthusiastic Personal Fitness Trainer capable of providing personalized attention and professional instruction to maximize clients' health and fitness goals. Adept at tracking and recording data to show the progress of each client. Skilled at counseling clients in the area of nutrition for fat loss and muscle growth."
- "Motivated individual with a bachelor of science in mathematics. Possessing strong accounting and deductive reasoning skills. Eager to accurately and efficiently maintain client and company balance at J Cooper Trading. Successfully assisted in the Payson School District's payroll disbursements and two consecutive internal audits."
- "Results-driven Data Scientist with a proven track record in processing and analyzing large amounts of data. Proven ability to identify business needs and develop valuable solutions to drive accuracy and process efficiency. Seeking an opportunity to drive business effectiveness through making recommendations based on data findings."
- "Experienced Transportation Inspector possessing strong attention to detail. Talented in maintaining safety standards through the use of outstanding problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Capable of serving as a point-of-contact for all transportation-related inquiries and issues."
- "Compassionate, solutions-oriented Genetics Counselor dedicated to providing exceptional care and providing testing/treatment options for children, adolescents, and adults dealing with genetic conditions. Comforting approach with a deep understanding of related issues and options."
- "Patient-focused Doctor with over 15 years of experience in acute and residential care. Expertise in providing therapeutic care for patients with mental, behavioral, and poly-substance disorders. Team-oriented with success in leading nursing teams and coordinating care for adolescent to geriatric patient populations."
- "Gifted Spanish speaker with an aptitude for conveying emotion, style, and content of Spanish speakers. Bringing in-depth knowledge of cultural context and idiosyncrasies. Proven ability to provide translations quickly and accurately developed over five years of teaching Spanish. Looking to utilize my expert Spanish skills in a new position as a translator."
- "Well-organized professional bringing excellent multitasking abilities developed over six years of support experience. Commended for consistently driving team success with knowledgeable enforcement of company procedures and skillful personnel training. Looking to leverage skills and passion in cars as an Automotive Technician."
Resume summary examples by resume format
The contents of your summary statement are largely dictated by your level of professional experience. Your career stage also impacts the resume format you choose and that, too, will influence the type of summary statement you write. Here we outline the relationship between your resume summary statement and the three main resume formats.
A chronological resume is the right choice for those job seekers with significant professional experience in their field who want to showcase a long work history, an impressive career trajectory or significant professional achievements. This resume type calls for a summary section that is titled "Professional Summary."
Who should use this resume format: Mid-career and executive-level applicants.
How a professional summary should appear on this resume format:
"Effective project leader and problem-solver with advanced programming skills and a hard-working mentality. Talented at managing all facets of business operations, including financial tracking, inventory coordination, and social media marketing. Seeking to apply expertise and extensive experience in marketing to take on a challenging new role with a growing team."
A combination resume format is a great choice for a variety of applicants since it allows them to highlight both their work history and skill sets. This resume type calls for a summary section that is titled "Professional Summary."
Who should use this resume format: Entry-level applicants with some relevant work experience, such as an internship; professionals with several years of relevant work experience who want to show off both skills and career progression; and applicants who are making a career change.
How a professional summary should appear on this resume format:
"Responsible management professional well-versed in setting the direction for work areas and ensuring the quality and accuracy of performance within multiple stores. Skilled at creating innovative and eye-catching merchandise displays to boost income. Leveraged decisive leadership approaches to boost key metrics continuously."
The functional resume is skills-focused, making it perfect for those who are just entering the workforce, or who are making a career change and therefore don't have direct relevant work experience. The functional resume format most often uses a section called a "Career Objective" or "Summary Statement" rather than a traditional professional summary.
Who should use this format: Entry-level applicants, those with gaps in their employment histories, freelance and gig economy workers, and job seekers who don't have relevant work experience.
How a career objective or summary statement should appear on this resume format:
Career objective: "Former police officer looking to transition into a role as a security guard. Well-spoken, polite, with strong conflict-resolution skills."
Summary statement: "Motivated accounting professional focused on maintaining accurate, compliant records and controls responsive to dynamic operating conditions. Highly skilled in account reconciliation with an eye for identifying and correcting errors. Detail-oriented and methodical with excellent mathematical skills, GAAP expertise and IFRS knowledge."
5 ways a resume builder can help you write your resume summary
Here's how our Resume Builder can help you craft a compelling resume summary:
- Job-specific content suggestions
- Skills integration
- Keyword recommendations
- and spell-check
- ATS compatible fonts
Resume summary FAQ
Below are three frequently asked questions about the resume summary section.
How long is a summary statement?
A good summary statement should be between three to five sentences, or at least 50 words. You want something concise and attention-grabbing that references that specific job you are applying for and that highlights your most critical skills and qualifications.
Should I use a resume objective or a summary?
This depends on your level of experience and the goal of your resume. A professional summary is a descriptive cataloging of your accomplishments in an active voice. A professional summary is typically used on a combination or chronological resume format. Functional resume formats, which are often used by applicants without relevant work experience, usually feature a career objective. These consist of one to two sentences that solely convey the job seeker's professional goals.
What is a good summary for a resume with little experience?
Just because you don't have a wide range of experience doesn't mean a summary isn't for you. Align the summary to the opportunity. If you have very little experience, you can use the space to tie the skills or qualifications mentioned in the job posting to your transferable skills to show potential employers how you might thrive in the role.