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Best Things First: 7 Resume Summary Tips for Instant Impact

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.

1. Focus on your key selling points.

What are the top five things 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 or key selling points, and that’s the kind of content you want in your summary.

2. Keep the summary brief.

As a rule of thumb, the summary should take up less than half of the first page of a two-page resume, and less for a one-pager.

3. 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.

4. Choose the right components.

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

  • A headline that immediately establishes what job you’re applying for. It could literally be the target job title, or a more generic phrase such as Customer Support Professional.
  • A subhead under that.
    • Try a tag line, like “Anticipating customer needs, building customer loyalty.” Okay, that one is a bit bland. Make yours unique.
    • Three phrases separated by punctuation or symbols: “Record-breaking Revenues || Creative Solutions || Consistent Renewals.”
  • 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.

5. 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 see read it again. Better? Try cutting one more part. The shorter your summary is, the more each of its components will stand out.

6. 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.

7. Remember what you’re trying to achieve with your resume summary.

Give recruiters a mile-high view that 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 write the summary last, after you’ve addressed the other things a resume needs to have. 

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