How to Write a Resume Summary

How to Write a Resume Summary

Back in the old days when you decided to look for a new job, you sat down at a typewriter with some 80-pound paper and began click-clacking away. You typed up your resume, being sure that you included all of your previous positions and tasks performed. You included your name and your snail mail address, and most importantly, your “objective” section near the top. Once you completed your masterpiece and used Wite-Out to fix any errors you found, you put it in a matching envelope and dispatched it to its recipient via the nearest mailbox.

Savvy job seekers know that the game has changed (as well as that it changed ages ago), and with that, so have the conventions of resume writing. The objective section (a brief statement about what you were looking for in a new role, and what you hoped to achieve) is a relic from those prehistoric days when people enjoyed a lifetime—or at least long-tenured—employment with the same employer. To a large extent, the employer, specifically the manager, was responsible for the employee’s career development, and as such, would have a vested interest in a candidate’s career goals and aspirations.

Obviously, this is not the case any longer. The employer-employee contract has fundamentally changed. You can no longer depend on your employer to determine your career trajectory, nor can you depend on them for long-term employment. You need to change the way you think, and come to think of yourself as the CEO of your own career. An employer hires you to solve a problem, and you work with that employer for as long as that relationship is mutually beneficial.

So, back to the objective statement. If you are using one, delete it immediately from your resume, and opt instead for a resume summary section. Why should you get rid of the objective and add in a resume summary? Simply put, the objective in no way addresses the business issue or pain that the hiring manager has. An objective is All About You. All About You does not get you called in for an interview.

Once your resume reaches an actual human, you have approximately six seconds to make an impression. That’s right—the average amount of time spent scanning a resume is six seconds. You will notice that I said “scanning,” and not “reading.” This is because no one reads your entire resume. You need to think of your resume as a marketing tool, and the resume summary section as your headline that conveys your key messages.

A well-written summary quickly conveys your track record of success. It gives concrete examples of how you have added value in your current or previous positions. In short, it should immediately make the person reading it think, “I need to speak with this candidate.”

You should tailor your resume to each position for which you apply. Special focus should be given to the resume summary section, as it quickly communicates what you can bring to the table for the role.

Focus your summary on your core strengths and what you bring to the role, as well as your major achievements. Most importantly, convey why you are the answer to the hiring manager’s pressing business need. Think of your resume summary as your written elevator pitch. It occupies premium real estate on your resume, so make it shine—after all, it will communicate succinctly who you are and what you value. Never underestimate the importance of a first impression. And never underestimate the importance of a succinct, clear, and powerfully worded resume summary.

Sample Resume Summary

Here’s an example of an effective summary section:

Financial services professional successful at advertising multi-billion dollar corporations, small businesses, and individual clients. Areas of expertise include asset allocation, investment strategy, and risk management.

Speaking of samples, if you’re looking to gather additional ideas on how to write and lay out a resume, well .. . look no further. Peruse our resume samples and examples and come out on top!

LiveCareer’s Resume Builder

Powerful, intuitive, and convenient, LiveCareer’s free Resume Builder contains dozens of customizable summaries that can be inserted into our templates with the click of a button. You’ll also find a list of suggested “Power Words” for writing your own. Our Resume Builder takes the guesswork out of creating a winning resume.

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About Debra Wheatman

Debra Wheatman is a certified professional resume writer and career coach, and the president of Careers Done Write, a leader in professional resume and career services. Debra is a globally recognized expert in the field of career planning and management, with more than 18 years of experience in corporate human resources. She has formed partnerships with more than 10,000 job seekers, advising people from diverse backgrounds in connection with career advancement, and can package executive level skills and accomplishments in a compelling and creative way to generate interest on behalf of decision makers at leading corporations. Debra has been featured on Fox Business News and CNN, and has been quoted in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and You can reach Debra directly at or via phone at 732.444.2854.
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