How to Write a Resume Career Summary
Your resume is one of the most important tools you have when hunting for a new job. It can be one of the first – and only – things the hiring manager looks at and they are notoriously bad at spending a lot of time on your resume.
It’s essential to write a solid resume and a good career summary can help you with this process. In this post, you’ll learn what career summaries are, why they matter and what are the building blocks you need to use to write one. You’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a career summary and examples to use while polishing your summary. So, let’s get started!
WHAT IS A CAREER SUMMARY?
In order to know what to include in your career summary, you need to know what it is and what it isn’t. The problem is that many confuse career summary to career objective, even though these are two different things.
So, what’s a career summary? It is a brief introduction to your work history and your personal skill set. It showcases these unique skills and abilities in a way that shows what you can offer to the company you are applying to. In essence, you’re not just outlining your past accomplishment and work duties but highlighting the skills you have that could specifically benefit the company.
A good way of thinking about the essence of a career summary is by thinking it’s an answer to a question. A good career summary answer the question, “What can I bring to the company given my experience and skills?” You want the hiring manager to read the career summary and immediately recognize how your past experience and skills align with the skills needed for the role. With the career summary, you are showing why you’d be a good addition to the team.
Because career summary is such an essential insight into your suitability for the role, its place is usually right at the top of the resume. It tends to be right below the contact information. This makes it one of the first things the hiring manager sees and scans – so make it count.
As mentioned above, a career summary is not a career objective. The point of a career objective is to outline what kind of roles you are looking for and what direction you want your career to take. The career objective is more suited for general resumes – for the moments when you’re not applying for a specific job but perhaps just posting your resume on a recruitment site for possible matches.
WHAT’S THE IMPORTANCE OF A CAREER SUMMARY?
Now you know what a career summary is but why should you care about adding it? A good career summary is an important part of the career summary because it adds depth and clarity to your resume. As mentioned earlier, it can immediately catch the hiring manager’s attention and show them why you’d be a good pick.
Hiring managers are not famous for spending a lot of time reading resumes. In fact, they can spend just six to ten seconds eyeing the resume and you need a way to catch their attention in this small amount of time. Therefore, a crisp and tailored career summary can catch their attention – something you can then build on with the rest of your resume and application.
The importance of a career summary is to show your value to the company. It essentially says in a few short sentences why you’d be a beneficial addition to the team.
In more practical terms, a career summary is a great place for using keywords. In a world that uses technology as part of the recruitment process, a career summary is great for being picked by the applicant tracking system (ATS). You can take the employer’s own words (you’ll see how later) and turn them to your advantage.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD CAREER SUMMARY?
Before moving on to the steps of writing a good career summary, let’s examine the elements needed for your summary. What makes a career summary what it is supposed to be?
In its essence, a career summary is three to six sentences. It’s a concise paragraph, often supported by a bullet point of a few important credentials. The information for your sentences should be drawn from:
- Your years and your scope of experience
- Your relevant training, degrees and certifications
- Your specific accomplishments or any recognition you’ve received
- Your skills and experience to set you apart from other candidates
- Your areas of expertise
Note the above is to guide you in your writing and not a list of things you must mention in the career summary. The next section will showcase in detail how to choose the things you talk about. The above list just gives you an idea of the elements that can build a good career summary.
So, you need to write a short paragraph including the above information. Your career summary must also be specific and relevant. The most important element of a good career summary is that it’s tailored to the job you are applying for.
Finally, a good career summary focuses on your ability to offer value to the company. You need to ensure you focus on outlining what you can offer to the company, not so much in explaining how great you’ve been. In essence, your career summary must be forward-looking.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO WRITING A RESUME CAREER SUMMARY?
Now, you should have a clear picture of what to aim for with your career summary. You know its importance, what it is and what makes a career summary good. So, how do you write one?
These are the five steps to writing a resume career summary.
Step 1: Research the company
Like most things with a job application, the starting point for a career summary is research of the company. As mentioned above, the whole idea of the career summary is to show how you’d fit the organization and how your skills would bring them benefits.
Start your research by reading the job description and analyzing it for keywords. You want to write down the skills, requirements and values the employer specifically mentions. This will reveal you the kind of person they are looking for and gives you the opportunity to identify the keywords that’ll help you tailor the resume with ATS in mind.
You should also visit the company website and read its mission statement. This helps you notice the values the employer finds most appealing and interesting. These can also be good building blocks to use in your career summary.
Write down any terms you find popping up. Once you have a list of the keywords and key skills and values, you can start building your career summary further.
Step 2: Identify your skills, abilities and accomplishments
Your next step is to start identifying your skills, abilities and accomplishments. You should do this by examining your credentials through the findings you made during the company research. You want to look at each requirement and identify if you can demonstrate this skill or ability with your past experience or accomplishments.
You can first just identify the skills and values that match, writing down short sentences for each aligning requirement. Remember your attributes might not always be exactly same but still offer value for the company. For example, the company might be looking for a customer service expert. You might not have direct experience in customer service but you have mastered communication skills during your time as an assistant teacher.
It is, essentially, about the value you can add. So, focus on identifying those skills and accomplishments that best add value to the organization. Think about the role and your skills – what can you bring to the table that others won’t be able to?
Write down the things that pop to mind in raw, unstructured sentences. The time to polish your career summary is a little later. Right now, you just want to identify your strengths and the value you bring. So, once you have the list done, you want to pick three to five attributes you think to deserve the most attention.
Step 3: List most important credentials
The career summary should also have a bullet point list of your credentials or areas of expertise. You can draw these up from your past employment positions, qualifications and other professional accomplishments.
You want your past credentials to have a meaning to the company. These should be picked with the employer’s needs in mind. In essence, you want to show how your credentials will help you in your future position. How could your credentials help the employer solve problems they might have?
So, keep your focus on the research and pick three to five credentials.
Step 4: Write and polish your summary
Now it’s time to polish your career summary. You should turn to your chosen skills, attributes and credentials and format them into coherent and concise sentences.
You can start polishing your sentences by focusing on these important writing tips:
|Use power words
|Avoid personal pronouns
Make sure your sentences are short and easy-to-read. You don’t want to have over 15 words in a sentence. Instead, break the sentences down and use bullet points for credentials.
You’ll also need to add a headline. The section could simply be titled, “Career Summary”. But you can also add the job title here if you want.
Step 5: Proofread your career summary
Finally, you need to remember to proofread your career summary – like the rest of your resume. Nothing kills the hiring manager’s interest quicker than spelling mistakes or grammar errors in your resume.
Read the summary a little after you’ve finished it. Step aside and do something different to come back to with ‘fresh eyes’. It’s easy to become blind to your spelling mistakes when you stare at the summary for too long.
Aside from re-reading the summary after a while, there are few other tricks to try to ensure your resume is error-free. You should:
- Read the summary aloud.
- Print the summary.
- Switch the font and font size to test.
- Ask someone to proofread it for you.
You could also get another person’s thoughts on the summary in general. Another perspective can help you see sides of you might not have mentioned or remove parts that don’t seem to fit the picture.
By the end of these steps, you should have a great career summary to include on your resume. Now you just need to build the rest of it and send it to the hiring manager.
A FEW EXAMPLES OF GOOD CAREER SUMMARIES
To put the above together, it’s helpful to examine actual examples of career summaries. Below is a selection of career summaries that have managed to capture the essence perfectly.
The examples are for different job positions to give you a better idea of how to tailor it not just for the job position but also the industry. The first two examples below are from a Forbes article on the topic of career summaries.
The first post is a marketing and brand expert position:
“Editorial-minded marketer and communications strategist transforming the way brands interact with audiences through content. With over seven years of experience at consumer startups, media companies and an agency, brings a thoughtful perspective and blend of creative chops and digital data-savvy. Entrepreneurial at heart and a team player recognized for impassioned approach and colorful ideas.”
As the post points out, the statement works because it shows the experience in context and highlights the special skills the person could bring to the organization. It shows the unique value of the candidate and builds a clear idea of what the person has done and what the person wants to achieve.
Note the way the candidate mentions entrepreneurialism at the end? This can be a great way to mention this skills if you are applying for a startup position.
Award-winning journalist and digital producer offering extensive experience in social media content curation, editing and storytelling .Adept at transforming complex topics into innovative, engaging, and informative news stories.
Now, the second example is a journalist and content creation position. The above career statement is powerful because it’s on-point and short. It’s not trying to blabber on but picks out those immediate reasons the candidate would be a good pick.
If you are more interested in the paragraph + bullet point format discussed above, you could also consider the following examples. The first is the position of an IT Manager from simple-resume-writing-instructions.com.
|Results-oriented IT Professional with proven leadership skills. 8 years experience as an IT Operations Manager, plus 5 years as technical and desktop IT support in an enterprise environment.
It’s a sharp and polished career summary highlighting past experience well. You can identify its use of keywords – the position might require specific certificates, which the summary points out. In fact, in highly technical roles the use of keywords is often important because of the detailed skills required to succeed.
The site also had another, purely bullet-point formatted summary, that’s worth analyzing. This is the position of a Benefits Manager and it’s crisp and clean:
It has great use of accomplishments. The summary has quantified these achievements and made detailed claims about the value of the candidate. It makes easy to understand points about the skills and showcases certification, which can be important in terms of keywords.
When you are writing your career summary, you should examine the above examples and use them as a guide. Never copy but use them for direction and advice!
THE BOTTOM LINE
A good career summary is essentially a glimpse of your skill set and the value you can bring to your potential employer. It helps the hiring manager understand what benefits the company can expect from hiring you through the lens of your past achievements and experience.
To write a good career summary, you must know your skills and be able to tailor them to your audience. You might not talk about your biggest achievements – you need to talk about the qualities and qualifications that make you perfect for the specific role. So, make your resume stand out and ensure you catch the hiring manager’s attention with a career summary.
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