The Art of Writing a Great Resume Summary Statement
In resume writing, you know you need more than just a list of jobs and education, but how to begin? Or rather, how should your resume begin?
First, nix the objective statement. It is almost impossible to write an objective statement without either telling the hiring managersomething they already know or focusing on what you want to get from a job. Both are things you should absolutely avoid in a resume.
Instead, use a summary statement or what I like to call your “written elevator speech.”
Why You Should Use a Resume Summary Statement
Professionals who work with career coaches and those who have done some solid web research have come to understand that they need to master their “Elevator Speech”.
This speech is a short summary of an employee’s value proposition and should be thought of as a “sales pitch” that is ready to go anytime you run into a potential hiring manager or networking contact.
A carefully prepared “Elevator Speech” is customized to the person giving the speech and contains information that makes the professional stand out while still focusing on things the employer wants to know (excels in cutting costs, not excellent deep sea diver).
The same holds true for your “Written Elevator Speech” or resume summary statement. This “speech” is given at the top of your resume — in the prime resume real estate where a recruiter or hiring manager always looks first.
The summary statement serves as an introduction to the reader that seeks to answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in just a few lines of text.
The resume summary statement will help your resume stand out by:
a. Catching the reader’s attention immediately
b. Ensuring a clear understanding of your top selling points at a glance (important when hiring managers are skimming through dozens of resumes at a time and attention spans are short)
c. Putting emphasis on your career highlights and key strengths in an easy-to-scan format
d. Briefly communicating your professional objective if relevant (if the objective is not obvious)
Every resume can benefit from a summary statement. For some candidates, it can be critical.
1. Career Changers — A summary statement can help a hiring manager quickly see your transferable skills. Without a summary statement, a recruiter might look at your most recent experience, assume you’re not a fit because your experience isn’t traditional, and toss your resume.
2. Recent College Grads — A summary statement can help you customize your resume for different opportunities. This is especially helpful if your background is somewhat general. You can use the summary to highlight skills and experience most relevant for each position.
3. Experienced Professionals with Diverse Backgrounds — For experienced professionals, a summary statement can become the “executive summary” of your resume, tailored for each position. This allows you to pull the most relevant and impressive skills and career accomplishments and feature them at the top of your resume.
Elements of a Strong Resume Summary Statement
The Basics — Your summary statement should consist of a title and a few lines of text. The text can be in paragraph form and/or use bullets.
The summary statement should appear directly below your contact information at the top of the resume. and should reflect a general (or specific) idea of your career goals.
Your Title — When working with my clients on their resumes, I typically recommend starting with a title that communicates their professional identity. Think of it as a headline that will catch the reader’s eye and help them see your fit for the position at hand.
Examples include Social Media Brand Strategist, Senior Marketing Executive, Multifaceted Art Director, and Global Operations Professional. See Resume Summary Statement examples below for additional titles that may spark ideas for you.
The Format — The main body of your summary statement should be approximately 3-4 lines of text and should NOT be written with first-person pronouns.
If you are tempted to make your summary statement longer to squeeze in more details, resist the temptation. Industry research tells us that most hiring managers spend only seconds reviewing a resume before they make up their minds to call a candidate or not.
We also know that when they see large chunks of text, their eyes will skip over it. Therefore, it is vital to limit the length of a summary statement to ensure it gets read.
Resume Summary Statement Examples
Below are several examples of “written elevator speeches” or summary/branding statements with titles.
A versatile and creative writer fuses a background in journalism and academics with expertise in business writing to deliver quality, customized material spanning news, marketing, web content, curriculum, and career development. Provides sales support and highly-rated client service and excels in meeting deadlines in quick-turnaround settings.
FINANCIAL & OPERATIONS SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL
Blends academic training in economics and business administration with hands-on experience in sales and operations support to offer employers a track record of delivering on tasks accurately, efficiently, and quickly. Known for providing best-in-class customer service and communications in a variety of business settings.
A proven leader of US and international sales organizations offers expertise in developing successful growth strategies and training both individual representative and team leaders in product benefits and customer service techniques. Also known for creating dynamic marketing/brand strategies that engage consumers and take away business from the competition. Effectively manages P&L on multimillion-dollar, multi-product lines of business.
How to Write Your Resume Summary Statement
Since you have limited space, it’s important to carefully plan what goes into your summary statement. Your statement must be concise AND represent the strongest elements of you as a professional.
Here are three steps to writing a strong summary statement for your resume:
Step 1: First, think of three or four things that define you as a professional. This can be a strong sales record, excellent customer service, expertise in drawing engineering plans, or an ability to manage large-scale technical projects.
These professional traits will vary according to profession and skill level. Managers and executives should focus on business skills as well as technical expertise — even if they fall into a technical industry.
Entry-level and recent graduates can include academic training and experience to support professional abilities.
Step 2: Next, think of the things you enjoy the most in your work. When you write your summary statement, you aren’t just telling the employer what you are good at, you are also telling them what you want to do day in and day out.
Ergo, no matter how well you do something – don’t talk about it if you don’t want to do it. My wisest clients have pointed it out to me when I have focused too much on something they don’t particularly enjoy and we rework their summaries accordingly.
Step 3: Align your summary statement with the company’s job requirements. Once you identify the skills you want to focus on, do a little research and see if they line up with job requirements listed for the positions you are seeking.
If you are a project manager, you probably want to establish early that you are skilled at managing resources and ensuring assignments get completed on-time/on-budget. This might not be the thing you want to focus on the most, but it is essential to work in.
More Tips on Resume Summary Statements
1. Customize for Your Experience Level
Each of the above example statements effectively sets up the skill sets, achievements, and even certifications/degrees that the applicants highlight throughout their resumes. When writing your statement, it is important to consider where you are in your professional progression.
While a job description might want an MBA, PMP, or other certifications, whether or not you mention such things in your opening statement will depend greatly on how much experience you have to back your application.
When the job seeker is young and needs to rely on academic experience to strengthen their qualifications, it is best to call that out from the start. Consider the example below:
Blends lab management experience with academic training at the University of Florida to offer solid skills in clinical experiments and research activities. Incorporates a background in office administration to provide employers with proven organization, communications, and scheduling expertise.
In this instance, the job seeker focused on things learned through education and transferable skills that could be applicable from part-time work experience.
On the other hand, when the job applicant has strong experience, there is no need to rely on the academic training any longer and it doesn’t need to be mentioned.
2. Focus on your most important selling points
Some requirements can be covered in the body of the resume and just aren’t important enough to place in that opening paragraph. One example I see a lot is proficiency in MS Office.
Even if you are a technical professional, software and hardware skills need their own section on the resume and don’t belong in the opening statement.
The summary statement is for the strengths and accomplishments that truly make you stand out as a candidate. Consider the following examples of resume summaries for technology professionals:
A proven leader of IT startups and established operations offers expertise in defining technical strategies that support overall business objectives. Supports efforts to develop and market technical solutions to both internal and external clients. Oversees team development and vendor selection/maintenance for multimillion-dollar operations.
COMPUTER/HARDWARE SPECIALIST /TEAM SUPERVISOR
Leverages technical expertise on hardware setup/configuration to provide exceptional user support and resolve critical operational issues. Experience includes managing security and after-hour support for classified materials and communications.
Known for creating and implementing training that expands team member capabilities and instructs users on system utilization/improvement. Works with government, civilian, and corporate stakeholders.
Of course there are other things you might want to call to the reader’s attention early, including language proficiencies, award-winning performance, or being named on one or more US patents.
While these qualifications can be contained in the body of a resume (and should still be placed there), it could be relevant to highlight them early to establish your unique value as an employee.
3. Skip the “I” and “me” stuff
Please note again that none of these opening paragraphs are written with first person pronouns. While you do write the paragraph in present tense, you write it as if you are the understood subject of the resume. This allows the focus to remain on the employer.
Use of “I, me, my” places the focus on the applicant and the goal of the resume is to sell the employer on what you can do for THEM.
By telling the reader what you “do” and what you are “known for,” you get the reader thinking about how you can do those things for them. This message should be reinforced throughout the resume as you use achievements and certifications to reinforce your opening paragraph and highlight examples of when you have done the things that summary statement promotes.
Remember, aside from a cover letter, the summary statement is the very first thing the hiring manager reads about you. It is your handshake long before you meet the interviewer.
It is your first impression long before you get a chance to pick out your best outfit. It requires more than “I am seeking a job as….” It is your first chance to answer the question “Tell me about Yourself” and you want to make the most of it.