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Best Things First: 7 Resume Summary Tips for Instant Impact

by THEA kelley | August 29, 2019

A recruiter looking a resume makes a decision within seconds. What do you want them to notice right away? Put it at the top. Follow these seven resume summary tips for instant impact.

Give recruiters a mile-high view that tells them what you’re looking for, grabs attention, focuses them on your best stuff, and makes you stand out for all the right reasons. That’s what a resume summary is for. Bonus tip: You may find it easiest to write the summary last, after you’ve addressed the other things a resume needs to have. 

1. Start with a headline that makes it very clear what type of role you’re seeking.

Notice I did not say “Start with an Objective statement.” Those statements are old hat. Instead, right under the contact information at the top, place a headline that immediately establishes what job you’re applying for. It could be the target job title, e.g., Senior Software Engineer, or a more generic phrase such as Customer Support Professional.

This is particularly crucial if you’ve held varying jobs in the past. Maybe you’ve been an Account Executive, a Sales Engineer, and a Business Development Manager. Make sure the person reading the resume knows that their Outside Sales Representative role is your current target.

2. Focus on your key selling points.

What are the top five things about you that make you stand out as a must-meet candidate? Ask yourself questions like “Why did my last employer hire me? What’s the key factor that makes me successful? Do I have qualifications that are hard to find? Questions like this will help you identify your unique selling proposition/key selling points, and that’s the kind of content you want in your summary.

3. Keep the summary brief.

I have seen resumes in which the entire first page is the summary, and the experience history doesn’t begin until page two. Personally, I think a summary that long is less likely to be read. I try to limit resume summaries to less than half of the first page of a multi-page resume, and even less for a one-pager.

4. Format the summary for quick readability and interest.

Use headings, subheads, bullet items, quotes, lists. No big blocks of text. Anything in paragraph form should be just a few lines.

5. Choose the right components.

A resume summary can include any (but preferably not all!) of the following:

  • A subhead under your headline.
    • Try a tag line, like “Anticipating customer needs, building customer loyalty.”
    • Another option is to use three phrases separated by punctuation or symbols: “Record-breaking Revenues || Creative Solutions || High Renewal Rates.”
  • An introductory paragraph, preferably no more than three lines.
  • Three to five one- or two-line bullet items, ideally taking the place of the introductory paragraph. These could refer to experience, education, skills or major accomplishments–whatever you think is most likely to make you stand out.
  • Quotes from LinkedIn recommendations or other testimonials, either set off with quotation marks, indentation and/or italics, or as a blurb block.
  • Competencies list. This could focus on broad abilities such as team leadership and strategic planning, or technical skills, or both.

6. Experiment. Keep the best and cut the rest.

Try creating a draft that has all of the above, then cut out the least effective component and read it again. Better? Try cutting one more part. The shorter your summary is, the more each of its components will stand out.

7. Look at examples, but be true to your professional self.

To help you visualize how these components can look, visit my Resumes and LinkedIn page and scroll down to “Samples” in the right-hand sidebar. Get some ideas, then figure out what works for you. Look for the intersection of (a) who you are and (b) what your target employers are looking for.

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