Complete Guide To Writing The Perfect Resume Summary

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Last updated: March 29th, 2024

resume summary

Last updated: March 29th, 2024

Reading Time: 11 minutes

You want to impress the hiring manager with your resume introduction, but the window of opportunity is shorter than you think. Some HR professionals argue that a hiring manager takes six seconds to determine if a resume belongs in the “Call” or “No Call” pile.

From the very first word, the clock is ticking. But it’s not just humans you need to impress.

One in three Australian companies are utilising AI tools to fill vacancies, so your resume summary must contain keywords that will help it get past robots’ filters.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to craft an authentic resume introduction that appeals to both hiring managers and applicant tracking systems, and I’ll share with you plenty of examples along the way.

By the way, do you want expert help with writing your resume? Consider using our:

What Is A Resume Summary?

Your resume summary is a short introductory statement that features at the top of your resume. It comprises the most notable aspects of your professional persona, such as your experience and accomplishments.

This is not to be confused with a career objective.

  • Resume summary – an overview of your professional career.
  • Career objective a description of your future aspirations.

A career or resume objective is forward-looking – and not used in Australia – while a resume summary focuses on your track record.

This can be problematic if you lack experience, but I’ll show you how to solve this problem later.

Your resume summary isn’t a personal statement where you outline your dream job and enter into a flowery spiel about how the world is your oyster.

It’s the written equivalent of an elevator pitch.

Recruiters want to know about the value you can deliver, not who you aspire to be.

Ingredients Of A Great Resume Summary.

Much like making a cup of coffee, there’s a natural order to writing a good resume summary. You need to add the elements in the correct sequence. Here’s a list of ingredients:

  • Current job title or educational background.
  • Your experience or qualifications summary.
  • Most relevant skills.
  • Most relevant achievements.

Here’s how that would appear for a resume summary statement for a Chief Sustainability Officer job post:

“MBA-qualified Chief Sustainability Officer with twenty years of experience in leadership and operations management at ASX-listed companies. In 2023, I pioneered the relaunch of 270 products to eliminate two tonnes of single-use plastic from our supply chain annually, saving the business $300,000 and boosting sales by 8%.”

Important!

Skills can be inferred rather than explicitly expressed. The best way to do this is by including metrics of your accomplishments.

In the above example, we can reasonably assume that the candidate has excellent project management skills, given that they implemented such a transformational project.

But what about technical roles?

It’s not necessary to start listing your soft skills – save that for later.

However, if you are applying for a technical role such as a data scientist, you should mention the critical hard skills required for the job, such as your ability to code in Python.

If in doubt, check the job ad for essential hard skills.

Here’s a quick refresher on hard skills versus soft skills:

Hard skillsjob-specific abilities like programming, graphic design, or speaking a foreign language.
Soft skillspersonality traits like strategic planning, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, excellent customer service, proven leadership skills, and conflict resolution.

Rather than explicitly expressing that you have the skill, it’s better to demonstrate how you use that skill.

Which is better?

“I have ten years of experience using Python and am versatile in using the built-in functions for a wide variety of tasks.”
“I used Python to build a natural language planning (NLP) model that performed sentiment analysis on human-to-AI chatbot interactions.”

The latter describes the specific application of the programming tool, whereas the former withholds that information and keeps the hiring manager in the dark about the candidate’s proficiency.

You Must Tailor Your Resume Summary To The Job.

Let’s back up for a minute.

Everything we write must point toward the job description. You need to know what the company is looking for, which includes:

  • The skills the candidate requires.
  • Experience carrying out similar job duties.
  • If the candidate’s personality aligns with the culture.

Take, for example, this job vacancy listed on Indeed for a Management Consultant position at Accenture. Here are some of the duties that are prominently featured:

  • Responsible for rigorous data insights, to identify and validate value-creation opportunities.
  • Design compelling business strategies and transformation solutions.
  • Construct advanced quantitative models and synthesise large amounts of information.

This particular consultancy role is in the banking sector, and there is a considerable emphasis on data and information management.

Now, management consultants come in many flavours: strategic, financial, operations, marketing, and the list goes on. So, which achievement should a marketing consultant focus on when applying for this specific role at Accenture?

  • The quantitative market research they conducted that involved over 100,000 respondents.
  • The creative media campaign they managed that reached a million viewers.

Both may be equally impressive, but which showcases the skills that the Accenture recruiters are looking for? Your resume opening should echo the role you are seeking.

Study the job description.

A tailored resume summary statement will stand out for all the right reasons.

Brain Dump.

Once you’ve immersed yourself in the job description, you’ll no doubt have an abundance of ideas flowing. At this stage, you should tame your inner perfectionist.

You’re exploring new ideas.

Just start writing and dump your ideas and words on a page and clean them up later. This is a freewriting session where you can download your mind onto a blank page.

The worst thing you can do is lose an idea – a certain phrase or a certain subject you want to include. It’s much easier to create a rough first draft and improve it. By writing down all these ideas, you are providing yourself with choices.

You can then decide which direction you want to go – for instance, which achievements and skills to mention that align with the specific position.

If you skip this process and just start aimlessly writing, who knows where you’ll end up? Remember, Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, “If a man knows not which port he sails, no wind is favourable.”

Applicant Tracking Systems & AI.

Almost 80% of Australian recruiters are using applicant tracking systems, which collect relevant information from applications and filter them for the most relevant candidates.

Like it or not, recruiters need more efficient ways of filtering candidates out, and applicant tracking systems are here to stay. So, here are some tips for how you can prepare your resume summary:

  • Include important keywords.
  • Use a standard font like Arial or Helvetica.
  • Minimise the use of graphics, text boxes, and tables.

The most important of these is the inclusion of keywords, but don’t get carried away with that just yet. You will hinder your chances if you don’t follow the guidance below.

Add keywords and avoid stuffing.

Referring back to the Management Consultant position at Accenture, the best place to start is to take a copy of the job description and paste it into a free tool like Duplicate Word Finder.

Once pasted, you will see an exhaustive list of duplicate words in the right-hand pane, some of which will be completely irrelevant, like “work”, “with”, and “more”.

These can be dismissed.

Towards the top of the list, some industry- and job-specific words will stand out alongside the number of mentions:

  • Consulting (6).
  • Data (4).
  • Operations (4).

“Consulting” is one of the most prominent keywords.

Think about how you can insert this (or one of its variants: consult, consultant, consultation, consultancy, consulted) in the following statement:

“In 2023, I implemented strategic cost optimisation measures for a client through the automation of expense tracking, which resulted in net savings of $656,035.”

With a subtle rewording, this could read:

In 2023, I [consulted] a client through a strategic cost optimisation process that involved the automation of expense tracking, which resulted in net savings of $656,035.”

If you repeat keywords or stuff them into your resume summary, the applicant tracking software will flag the information as poor quality. A single mention will more than suffice.

Important!

The keywords should fit naturally with the syntax of the sentence. A well-structured sentence without keywords is always preferable to an illegible sentence loaded with keywords.

Without further ado, here are some professional resume summary examples to steer you in the right direction.

Resume Summary Example For Entry-Level Job Seekers.

The following entry-level resume summary examples will help those who are fresh out of university or college, or those ready to climb the career ladder.

Don’t let your lack of experience deter you. Instead, focus on your academic achievements and any in-depth knowledge you have acquired through self-study.

Job role: Telephone Customer Service Personnel

Enthusiastic graduate with a Master’s Degree in Humanities from the University of Sydney. During my studies, I coordinated a team of eight students as part of our final major project on Navigating Workplace Diversity. Because of this and my consistent focus on my individual assignments, I graduated with first-class honours, manga cum laude.

Resume Summary Example For Middle Management Jobs.

This resume opening statement is for those who have extensive experience in leading a team and are ready to take a sideways step or step up to the next rung on the professional ladder.

Job role: Social Media Manager

Passionate content creator and funnel builder for a construction pricing SaaS tool with eight years of experience. I’m an expert user of Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut, and I write captivating copy that converts prospects into customers. My most notable campaign saw one of our reels go viral, reaching over 16 million views and resulting in over 280 new paying subscribers in a single month.”

Resume Summary Examples For Technical Roles.

This resume introduction is an example for a technical role, where there is a greater need to emphasise hard skills.

Job role: App Developer

“Tenacious Software Engineer with 35 years of experience working in blue-chip companies HP and Oracle. Loves immersing oneself in programming languages specifically Java, C++, and Python to design, execute, and maintain complex architecture. In my current role, I launched an update to the company’s proprietary application that allows users to link their app to a smart printer and print from any device, anywhere.”

Resume Introduction Example For Operational Roles.

Here’s a resume introduction example for an operational role which, like technical roles, requires an emphasis on hard skills. Examples of operational roles include teachers, tradespersons, and nurses.

Job role: Prison Nurse

“Compassionate District Nurse with six years of experience in psychiatric nursing settings, currently studying towards a PhD in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Melbourne. Recently, I published a patient education programme to educate patients and their families about bipolar disorder support, medication, and self-care practices. This has since been rolled out nationally – in print and digitally.”

Resume Introduction Example For Executive Positions.

Resume opening statements for leaders, visionaries, and corporate entrepreneurs should exude experience. Here’s an example.

Job role: Non-Executive Director of Innovation

“Influential Executive Director of Operations at Australia’s largest grocery retailer, Woolworths, with sixteen years of experience as Director of Sales at Newcrest Mining. As a consummate public speaker, I address different arms of the business daily to ensure the alignment of our strategic operations. Under my stewardship, my team added over 200 SKUs to our online channel, resulting in a 14% increase in online sales year on year.”

Operations Manager Resume Summary.

An operations manager’s resume will showcase one’s ability to lead and inspire a team, overcome complex operational challenges, and achieve output targets.

Job role: Branch Operations Manager

“Tenacious operations manager working for a household beauty brand, overseeing the product management system. I ensure that our operations are efficiently executed, forecast production and stock ordering, and uphold compliant practices. In 2023, I won Colleague of the Year for my outstanding contributions in an end-to-end supply chain project which increased Overall Operational Effectiveness by 13%.”

Data Analyst Resume Summary.

A resume summary for a data analyst should hone in on hard skills and demonstrate proficiency in other administrative tasks.

Job role: Reporting and Insights Analyst

“Financially astute data analyst with 20 years of experience working for insurance brokers. I have advanced knowledge of SQL and integrated a company-wide data warehouse that replaced a legacy system implemented by external consultants (for an insane fee!). I’m also proficient in the use of Power BI, Python, and Alteryx.

Teacher Resume Summary.

A teacher’s resume summary will underscore their proven ability to lead a class, teach a subject-specific curriculum, and implement behaviour management practices.

Job role: Secondary Teacher – English Studies

“Experienced secondary teacher of English Literature and Language Studies for 18 years, holding additional responsibilities as Head of Year and Leader of Extra-Curricular Activites. I’m also a published author of a trilogy of thrillers and have academic work published in the English Australia Journal. In my most recent year, my students had a pass rate of over 72% in their end-of-school English exam.”

Receptionist Resume Summary.

A receptionist’s resume summary should outline their experience in customer service, administrative tasks, and communication skills.

Job role: Dental Receptionist and Administrative Assistant

“Highly organized and friendly receptionist. I have 40 years of experience greeting patients, scheduling appointments, handling phone calls, maintaining records, and providing excellent customer service. I am fluent in all MS Office applications and use other software to carry out my daily duties. In 2023, I achieved my long-service award after working for 25 years at National Dental Care.”

What To Avoid When Writing A Resume Summary.

Now that we’ve covered what you should do, I want to just highlight three salient aspects of resume summary writing that you shouldn’t do.

Below, in the FAQs section, I cover exactly how long a resume intro paragraph should be.

1. Don’t use hyperbolic language.

Almost every other article out there seems to be written by marketing wizards and wordsmiths who tell you that you need a powerful hook – and I’ve deliberately steered away from providing you with this kind of advice.

Writing hooks is a dark art, and candidates all too often veer into exaggeration. Hiring managers aren’t unused to seeing statements like:

  • Single-handedly saved the company from financial ruin by smashing my sales targets.
  • Manufacturing maestro with the Midas touch who turns raw materials into gold.

Exaggerated statements repel recruiters.

Weed them out.

2. Don’t be vanilla.

After reading the above, you may well conclude that a resume’s opening statement should be void of expression.

That’s not the case.

The other extreme to avoid is being too vanilla. The goal of your resume intro is to demonstrate who you are by sharing the highlights of your professional career. Playing small won’t do you any favours.

These highlights should be things you’re proud of. It’s fine to let your passion shine, providing it doesn’t come across as an egocentric pat on the back.

3. Don’t skip the proofreading.

I won’t labour the point here about bad grammar.

Your first, second, and third drafts will likely contain grammatical errors.

When writing, your eyes become trained to see what they expect to see, and pesky errors escape our detection.

There are no excuses for bad grammar nowadays because:

  • Grammarly, the most popular software for copywriters, is free to download on your desktop and as a Chrome extension.
  • Text To Speech Reader is another free tool to use online; simply paste your resume summary in here and listen to it play back. Errors that escape your detection from your eyes won’t escape your ears.

Once you’ve completed your proofreading, save a copy as a PDF to prevent any further changes from being made. A stray finger can introduce errors that you may be blissfully unaware of when submitting.

Final Word On Your Resume Introduction.

If you’re on the job hunt, you may be tempted to deviate from this advice. Perhaps you think that being contrary will make you stand out.

But you won’t make a good first impression if you use your resume summary statement as an opportunity to tell anecdotal stories about your personal interests or, as I once read, about the time when you got a selfie with David Beckham and how his words of encouragement inspired you to become the person you are today.

A well-crafted resume summary tailored to the specific job will highlight your professional background and bring your key skills to the hiring manager’s attention.

That’s all they want to know about you at this stage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Resume Intros.

Here are some frequently asked questions about writing an effective resume summary that will strengthen your job applications.

What is the ideal length of a resume summary?

Your resume summary should be no more than five sentences long, but two to four sentences is optimal. As a general rule of thumb, keep below 70 words. The clue is in the name: summary.

If you’re tempted to “go the extra mile”, maybe because you believe your experiences are worthy of an extra paragraph or two (or maybe you’re convinced an autobiography would be better), it may come across as self-indulgent.

Highlight what truly matters.

Can I use the same resume summary for a different job application?

You aren’t fooling anyone if you copy and paste your resume summary for different job applications. A different job warrants a different resume summary. Each business operates in a different sector and has its own distinct culture, and each job post has different duties.

Most applicants who claim they’re applying for hundreds of jobs without landing a single job interview are relying on the same formula.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – that’s the definition of insanity.

Quality over quantity matters.

How do I make my resume summary stand out from the competition?

Fellow candidates, that is, your competitors, are using AI to generate their resume summaries. More fool them! Recruiters can smell these a mile off. Here are two contrasting resume summaries for a Chief Sustainability Officer job vacancy:

AI-Generated: Results-driven and seasoned Environmental Strategist with a proven track record of implementing comprehensive sustainability strategies to integrate environmental, social, and economic responsibility into their core operations. A visionary leader with 20 years of experience in driving transformative change and enhancing corporate reputation, reducing environmental impact, and driving long-term profitability.
Human: “Conscientious Environmental Strategist with twenty years of professional experience in corporate leadership and operations management. In 2023, I pioneered the relaunch of 270 products to eliminate two tonnes of single-use plastic from our supply chain annually, saving the business $300,000 and boosting sales by 8%.”

Which one do you connect with?

The AI-generated piece tells us nothing specific about the candidate. It makes two key assertions but provides no supplementary evidence:

  • Proven track record of implementing strategies.
  • Leader with experience in driving transformative change.

A potential employer will wonder what relevant experience this candidate has in actually driving transformative change. Whereas the human-written summary statement gives specific examples of how they drove transformative change since they’ve illustrated this point with the example of eliminating single-use plastic.

Besides, applicant tracking systems can now accurately predict the likelihood that content has been written by generative AI.

Just like Willy Wonka’s golden goose egg contraption (the Eggdicator), which discriminates between good and bad eggs, no matter how polished a resume looks, it will automatically land in the “good egg” or “bad egg” pile, depending on its composition.

Tommy

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