3 Steps for Writing a Resume Career Summary

Do you have a goal to change jobs in the year ahead? Are you working on your resume, or getting ready to? If so, let’s talk about the oft-debated question:

Should I include an objective OR a career summary on my resume?

I’m going to take a hard stance on this one… You absolutely need a career summary and you must, under no circumstances want to include an objective statement.

Here’s why.

Lose the objective statement

You don’t ever, never, ever want or need an objective on your resume. The person looking at your resume already knows your objective–to land the job.

So do yourself a favor and use this valuable real estate for a much better purpose.

Kill the objective, and go with a career summary.

Why you need a career summary

If you’re in it to win it with your job search (which, duh, of course you are), grab at this opportunity to announce your professional brand right out of the gates.

This is your shot to set the tone for your entire resume and provide the reviewer with an instant peek at who you are and in what you specialize — with your target audience / job in mind.

Also, realize that most recruiters are just ripping through piles of resumes every day. Their goal is to determine if you’re a “yay” or a “nay” within just a few seconds. Your summary can help a decision maker quickly connect the dots between “Here’s what we need” and “Here’s what [YOU] can walk through our doors and deliver.”

And done well? The summary will also likely entice that person to continue reading the rest of the resume.

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(Newsflash: you definitely want them to read the rest of your resume.)

How to write a great career summary

Here’s a simple strategy that we use when developing resumes for our clients. Follow this roadmap and you’ll end up with 3-5 bullet points that quickly and powerfully spell out your value proposition (or, as we call it, your “so what?”) to the intended audience:

Bullet #1

This is a biggie. You want to construct an overarching statement about who you are professionally, and in what you specialize.

Consider this the elevator pitch of the summary.

Example:

Influential and transformative marketing director with 10+ years of experience building brands and driving revenue growth through innovative strategy, team leadership and meticulous project execution.

See what we did there? This quick statement tells the reviewer:

  • I’m a marketing leader.
  • I’ve got 10+ years of experience.
  • I’m strong with strategy, team leadership and getting down to business in managing projects.

Assuming these are things that the job calls for, you’re in business.

The adjectives at the beginning of this bullet point–influential and transformative—also help to paint an immediate picture of what this person is like as a marketing leader.

Bullets #2 and #3 (and maybe #4)

These middle bullets should each highlight a specific strength you bring to the table, or experience you have that aligns directly with what your target employer is looking for.

Not sure what they’re looking for? You can figure this out by studying job descriptions that capture your attention then make an educated guess about which skills you think are most important to cover.

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If you can include specific, objective evidence of your strengths in these areas? Even better.

Examples:

A “best of both worlds” marketer with deep expertise across both digital and traditional marketing platforms,

Superior rapport-building, client relations and negotiation skills. Drove a 47% increase in revenue and improved brand recognition by negotiating a multi-year strategic alliance with a leading global retailer.

Bullet #4 (or #5)

And now, the final bullet, which is the one that you can use if you need to explain something specific to your audience.

This one can really come in handy when you’re maybe not a super obvious on-paper match, or if you’re trying to make a deliberate career pivot. You can use it as a quick opportunity to marry your skills for — and outline your intentions to — the reviewer, so that he or she can understand how or why you’re a good match for a particular role.

Remember, no one is going to deduce this for you. You’ve got to connect those dots.

Let’s say that the marketing professional we’re outlining above was a bookkeeper early on in her career and now she’s planning on looking for a job as a marketing director for a financial services firm.

Her knowledge of both marketing and finance may very well help land her the interview, but if that early career experience is buried in her resume (or never mentioned), the reviewer isn’t likely to put two-and-two together on how valuable her combined experience could be.

And so, she could spell it out with a bullet point that might go like this:

Present a skill set that combines marketing leadership with early career accounting experience. Specifically interested in meshing these areas of expertise to deliver value as a senior marketing leader within a financial services or accounting firm environment.

In one quick bullet, we’ve tied the current and early career experience together and, assuming this person is applying for marketing leadership jobs at financial services firms, this statement may help set her apart from competitors who don’t have that bookkeeping background.

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Interestingly, that last bullet reads a bit like an objective, doesn’t it?

It does. But bite your tongue!

A version of this blog was previously posted on JobJenny.com.