Why You Need a Resume Summary (and Not an Objective)

Whether you're looking for a new role or you're eager for new opportunities to learn and develop your career skills, your resume is crucial to standing out above your fellow job-seekers. A well-written and concise resume is the key to unlocking that interview door, but how important is it to include a modern resume summary or a traditional objective statement? Recent studies show that recruiters and hiring managers spend as little as six seconds (!) skimming each resume. Snag their attention by knowing how to write a resume summary.

First things first. What is a resume summary, and is it really better to have than an objective statement? An objective tells an employer what you're hoping to gain from a job, whereas a resume summary describes how your professional strengths and experiences can benefit a company. An objective statement still serves an occasional role in the job hunt, but it's largely considered outdated and should only be used in specific circumstances. (Check out this article on resume objective statement dos and don'ts for guidance.) For experienced employees looking for new roles in their chosen career fields, a strongly written summary statement is the superior choice.

Here are three tips on how to write a resume summary that stands out.

  1. Keep it short and sweet. The resume summary normally sits near the top of the page. With just six seconds to wow a recruiter or hiring manager, that brief summary section is valuable resume real estate. You need to make every word and skill pop, so be direct and specific. Demonstrate your career value by tailoring your unique skills to the job posting you're applying to.

    PS: If you're unsure about what to focus on for your particular industry, seek out some resume formatting help
  1. Not sure how to write a resume summary tailored to your potential employer? Pay close attention to all of the details in the job posting, and conduct a little research on the hiring company's website. Are there certain phrases or ideas that are repeated? Those phrases usually define the open job position and the company culture. Describe how your professional experiences relate to the job requirements with those terms in mind. By presenting your qualifications in terms of the company's needs and culture, you'll stand out as the ideal candidate to meet and interview with.
  1. When determining which skills to mention in the resume summary, create a list of your strongest attributes and pick your top three. Avoid using generic skills or statements that don't cast unique insight into your experiences or employment value. Instead, delve into clear specifics that describe how your top three skills benefited your previous employer, or how you'll apply those skills to your new role. By providing concrete examples, you demonstrate a clear understanding of your strengths and qualifications in relation to the open job position.

For example, if you're applying to a managerial role, avoid a vague statement like the following: "Hardworking individual with management skills."

Apply the three rules above to write something similar to the following: "Experienced retail manager overseeing multiple teams of 12 individuals working on brand, product, and customer engagement. Streamlined product distribution system and increased store productivity by 12 percent."

By specifying your exact role, the size of your teams, and how you improved a process, you prove that you're an effective leader with a proven track record. You have high employment value!

In summation, do your research, find your strongest skills, and tailor them to your future role. Keep these three tips in mind and you'll learn how to write a resume summary in no time. 

My Perfect Resume has a resume builder that includes dozen of resume summary samples you can tailor to your experience. Also find cover letter examples that will help you craft a winning one in no time at all!