4 Rules for a Great Resume Summary

A resume summary can be a big help in getting the rest of your resume read.

(TL;DR? Skip to the end for the 4 simple rules.)

Why use a resume summary?

Recruiters typically spend an average of 6 seconds determining whether to keep or toss a resume. You need to make the most of those seconds, which means the content at the top of your resume needs to be compelling.

One way to do this is with a summary statement. Unlike an objective line, a summary can give longer, more meaningful and targeted information. Use this space to speak directly to the recruiter or hiring manager by customizing your summary for that specific job.

A generic resume summary is not good enough. If you are going to use a summary at all, you have to do it really well.

Read through the job description and pull out the most important item or two that the company needs for this position. For example, it could be based on industry experience, a specific skill set, leadership qualities, or proven expertise. Jobs have many different facets and requirements, but you need to pinpoint the key quality the ideal candidate must have.

Once you’ve determined the ‘must have’ factor for this job, write your summary around how you fit that criteria. If it’s industry experience, “With 8 years of experience in the martial arts video industry writing popular scripts…” If you need to highlight your expertise, “Award-winning martial arts video script writer with 17 movies rated over 4 stars…”. The idea here is to show your accomplishments in the exact area needed for the desired role. You may have a lot of other related or useful skills, but the summary needs to focus on what’s most important to get past that initial resume screening.

A good summary will focus on the main accomplishments and results you’ve achieved in related positions. The first thing a hiring manager looks for is evidence that you can perform in the job, and your summary can confirm that.

What to avoid

Don’t use generic statements. The single biggest mistake you can make is having a generic resume summary. Summaries need to be powerful, and they need to be unique to you. Avoid generic keywords such as ‘team player’ ‘highly motivated’ ‘goal-oriented’… these are meaningless terms which cannot be given concrete examples. Not only that, but words like these are found over and over in resumes, and will be skimmed over instead of read.

Summary Rules to Follow

  1. Customize to the specific position.
  2. Focus on the most important qualities of that position.
  3. Give real accomplishments and results.
  4. Don’t be generic.