What is a Resume Summary?
A resume summary is a short statement that typically goes at the top of the resume to pinpoint your skills and highlight parts of the rest of your resume. Resume summaries typically describe who you are as a professional, what skills you possess, and where you would like to go with your skills. A resume summary can be called many different names, but profiles, resume statements, career statements, personal profile statements, and a summary of qualifications are all different names for the same thing. A resume summary should essentially illuminate how your skills and experience fit together to work well with the organization for which you’re applying. It should also seek to make your resume stand out among other applicants.
Some career experts say that resume summaries are a must, while others say they are outdated and can be a detriment to the prospective employee when poorly written. Since not all career experts agree on whether or not you should create a resume summary, it’s likely that not all employers have the same preferences on resume summaries either.
Objective Statements vs. Summaries vs. Profile
In the past, most people had objective statements on their resumes rather than summaries, but it’s important to note that they are not the same thing. An objective statement’s purpose is to describe to the potential employer what the applicant’s desired position is and what their personal goals are for attaining a job. This has become an outdated practice because these days, employers know what job you’re applying for, and therefore, the objective just takes up space on your resume. If you’re going to have a header section that orients the employer to your resume, make sure you write a version of a resume summary that tells the employer what you bring to the table rather than telling the employer what you want. This is why most career experts say if you’re going to have some sort of profile, make it a gripping summary rather than an objective statement.
Pros and Cons of Resume Summaries:
Pro: Create a Focal Point for the Resume
Some experts say that a summary helps center the rest of your resume. Since resumes are often just nicely formatted lists of your accomplishments, creating a resume summary helps orient the reader toward the skills and experiences that are well suited for the position you’re applying for and gives them the key takeaways you want them to have.
Con: Take Up Space
The standard size of a resume is one page, and some people argue that having a resume summary just takes up precious space and limits the accomplishments you can list to really prove your qualifications.
Pro: Give Your Resume a Voice
The whole goal of your resume is to grab the attention of the prospective employer, and while your accomplishments may not automatically jump out among the rest of the stack, having a catchy, action-oriented summary can do just that. It also can help show that you know how to articulate yourself and write well.
Con: May Be Redundant and Unnecessary
If you have to submit a cover letter with your application, then chances are whatever goes in your resume summary has already been conveyed in the cover letter. When in doubt, leave the summary out if you’re already required to submit a cover letter.
Pro: Help Your Advertise Yourself More Effectively
Some employers spend less than 10 seconds reading a resume, and if they do that, they are likely to read the first few things on the resume and move on. For some, this means that resumes with resume summaries that effectively advertise the applicants are the ones who make the cut and the ones who don’t get thrown out. This can also help if you have spotty experiences, because it can make you stand out among candidates with better credentials but poor self-promotion on their resume.
Con: Employers May Think You’re Trying to Hide Something
Because many people in the past have used resume summaries to make themselves stand out when they aren’t necessarily qualified or have the right experiences for the job, many employers have started to view resume summaries as a way of making yourself look good or filling your resume when you aren’t actually qualified. This is especially true for candidates looking for entry-level positions.
So, Should You Put a Summary on Your Resume?
The truth is, whether you add a summary to your resume or not is a matter of personal preference. There are certainly both pros and cons of doing it, but it’s impossible to know what the preferences are going to be of each prospective employer. If you’re already submitting a cover letter, you should consider leaving the summary off; other than that, it’s all about making the choice that seems best for the job you’re applying for.
Some career experts suggest that resume summaries are best for professionals with an abundance of experience to really highlight their main career experiences and their self-definition as a professional. If you’re looking for an entry-level job or an internship, on the other hand, a resume summary may simply look like you’re trying to cover up your lack of experience.
If you decide to include a resume summary, here’s a tip: bullet points are in and paragraphs are out. Try to highlight your skills or create a professional persona by adding bullets that describe who you are and what you do, for example, “graduated at the top of the class in political science,” or “extensive experience implementing community-based programs for various nonprofits,” or “over two years experience volunteering with local women’s shelters.” Make your summary skim-able and aim to write exactly what you want the prospective employer to take away from your resume about you as a candidate.