It’s critical to have a great summary section

Wed, Sep 30, 2015 @ 07:00 AM / by ATR International

A while back we wrote about how Objective sections in resumes are outdated and recruiters don’t find them useful (Get Rid of that “Objective Section” on Your Resume ASAP).  So, what should you have instead?

A great Summary section.

A Summary is your opportunity to answer the “tell me about yourself” question succinctly.  It’s a chance to emphasize your key skills, experience and career highlights so that a recruiter can quickly see your potential suitability to an open position.  The Summary is the first, and often one of the only things a recruiter reads.

A good summary statement should be a part of every resume but it’s particularly useful if you are:

  1. A recent college graduate.  You can highlight the skills that are most relevant to the job.  The positions you held previously and the companies you worked at might not match what you are applying for but you can highlight the skills you learned that are transferable.  It’s also a place to showcase your education and academic achievements up front, instead of only at the end where education shows up.

  2. Someone making a career change or switching industries.   Again, you have the chance right up front to feature what you know that is relevant and transferable to the position.  Without this, a recruiter or hiring manager might assume you’re not a fit because your work experience isn’t traditional or what they expect to see.

  3. Experienced professionals with diverse experience or a lengthy work history.   In this case, the Summary serves as an “executive summary” of your resume. You can pull the most relevant and impressive skills and career accomplishments and present them at the top.  A recruiter can get more detail if they read your specific work experience but this overview is a helpful way to pull them in.

How do you create a Summary section?

Think about the most critical skills and experience that you have – three or four is enough.  What are the most important things that you would want to tell a recruiter about yourself if you were speaking with them?  Make sure that they align with the job description and requirements.  Are you familiar with the term Elevator Speech or Pitch?  Think of your Summary as a personal elevator pitch, an opportunity to tell the reviewer about the strengths and accomplishments that truly make you stand out as a candidate.

For example, you might highlight your expertise in drawing engineering plans, your ability to manage large technical projects, or your years of managing an IT department or team.  Depending on the length of your career these will vary.  Senior IT professionals and managers should definitely include business skills along with their technical expertise.  Write your statements using specifics to support your claims.  Consider the difference between these:

  1. Significant technical experience

    - or -

  1. Leverages technical expertise on hardware setup and configuration to ensure exceptional user support and resolve operational issues.


  1. Experience with security and classified information.

- or -

  1. Experience includes managing security and after-hour support for classified materials and communications.

Provide enough detail that it makes your statements meaningful and tells the recruiter something real that allows them to truly understand your qualifications.  But while you want to include details don’t make your summary too long.  The recommended length is not more than 4-5 lines.  Remember the idea is to catch the reviewer's attention not turn them off with a block of heavy text.  Don’t give in to the temptation to go longer than this!  Another don’t?  Don’t write in the first person – no “I dids” allowed.

Your Summary is a good place to:

  1. List technical skills like programming languages you know and have worked with.  Something like “Proficient in the following: C++, Java, C#, Python” can tell a lot about you in a few words.  It’s provides very relevant information that an IT recruiter wants to know about you right away.  Does it tell all the good stuff in detail?  No, but that’s not the Summary’s purpose.  It’s to attract the recruiter’s attention and keep them reading on to your Experience section.

  2. Let them know about any certifications that you have, especially if the job description makes it clear that’s important to them.  If you’re PMP or CompTIA Project+ certified, put it in the summary.  Generally certifications end up in their own section after Education, which is fine and they should be listed there as well, especially if you have many.  But many recruiters aren’t going to make it that far so bringing a few key ones up to the top isn’t a bad idea.  Remember, you have a minute or less to make an impression in most cases.

  3. Optimize your resume for an ATS reader using keywords from the job description.  Take a look at the words and phrases they use and adjust your copy to match where it makes sense.  Many companies use ATS software and while it can be frustrating to think about being “evaluated” by a machine, it is a reality that you need to consider.  Optimizing with keywords in your summary is a relatively easy way to address this.

  4. Tailor your resume to the job position.  Advice from everyone and everywhere is to tailor your resume to each position as much as possible.  Keywords are one way to match your resume to their job description, as we note in #3.  Read the job description and make sure that you have something about yourself that matches up with the key skills and experience they are looking for.  The Summary is an easy place to edit and change things and if you are only making changes to one part of your resume, it can also be easier to proof and avoid mistakes.

The top of your resume is your first chance to make a great impression and establish your unique value as an employee and a Summary section is the best way to do that.  Simply saying something like “I’m looking for a position,” a typical opening for an Objective section, doesn’t do any of that.  You have limited space, so it’s critical to carefully plan what you write. It needs to be concise AND convey the best of your professional accomplishments in a way that makes the reader want to know more.

Creating a great Summary will open your resume with a bang and help you get noticed more by recruiters, hiring managers, or anyone reviewing it.  If you don’t have one already, get busy creating one today!

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Topics: job search, resume, summary

ATR International

Written by ATR International

Founded in 1988 in response to the burgeoning demand for temporary personnel, ATR International has been providing our clients with IT consultants and enterprise-wide staffing services for over 25 years.

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