Professional Development Resumes & Cover Letters

Should You Include a Summary on Your Resume?

Written by Peter Jones

Gone are the old days of the “Objective” paragraph at the top of a resume. Everywhere you look, job gurus are insisting that the “Summary” statement is the next new thing. Does that mean we should all run out and add one to our resumes? Not exactly.

In some cases, it’s just a matter of fashion. Style, not substance. In those cases, it’s best to resist the trend and stick with the traditional. Here’s a primer for determining whether or not you need a summary statement—and, more importantly, whether one could help or hurt you.

Ask Yourself: Where are you now?

Figure out what you would feature in the summary. Just a distilled repetition of information you already have in the body of your resume? Are you just taking up valuable real estate on the page to repeat yourself?

If you have a wealth of seemingly disparate experiences that require a bit of context to tie together—i.e. you want to feature a particular core set of skills to unify your job history, or you have multiple years of experience and would like to highlight the arc of your work journey (aka, your brand)—then it can be an incredibly useful tool.

Ask Yourself: Where do you want to be?

Do the requisite soul searching to figure out what you really want in your next position. What kind of job are you after? What skills do you enjoy utilizing the most? What accomplishments highlight those skills best? What are you passionate about? Once you answer these questions, you’ll be much better prepared to highlight the skills and special information that would make you more appealing to hiring managers in that area.

Ask Yourself: Where is your industry?

Do a bit of legwork to figure out what your ideal industry is after. What skills will matter most to hiring managers in your field? Are these skills you have, but perhaps aren’t clear enough in your work history?

Wield your summary to show HR you have what they need most. Consider what your biggest selling points might be and focus on those. Show how uniquely equipped you are to tackle their biggest issues and address their biggest needs. Show you care about their core concerns.

Craft your statement.

Be concise. You have limited space and you really don’t want to just regurgitate the bullet points in your resume. Try not to repeat anything that follows in the Summary. Instead, focus on providing valuable context, narrative-shaping, and synthesis that will hopefully prove to be game-changing. Use this space to show your potential employer what you have to offer, but make sure to target and match that with what they’re looking for and need the most.

About the author

Peter Jones