Do I Really Need a Summary Section on My Resume?

I know, I know. The Summary section on your resume takes up valuable space on the page. Including this section on your resume might seem unimportant, irrelevant, or a waste of precious space. So when job seekers ask me, “Do I really need to include a Summary section on my resume?” I almost always answer: “Yes! This section is very useful, and worth taking up that valuable ‘real estate’ at the top of your resume.”

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Why a Summary Section is Important

The power of the Summary section is that it gives the reader a quick overview of the relevant skills, experience, and personality traits you bring with you wherever you go.

Think of it this way: The Job Objective on your resume is about your future. The Experience section is about your past. The Summary section is placed right between those two sections, and builds a bridge between your past and your future. Its placement near the top of the resume means that the reader (hiring manager, or someone in that type of role) will see it first, before reading about your experience and accomplishments.

In other words, including a strong Summary section on your resume will support your Job Objective, and give a “sneak preview” of the experience and knowledge you will discuss in greater detail in the Experience section of your resume. And here’s another great bennie: Building this section helps you think about the connection between your future job and what you have done in the past. That means that it helps you to focus – on your resume, and later, in your job interview – on the key skills that you currently have that you would like to use in your next job. This is especially useful for career changers, since your work experience and prior job titles might not easily show the skills and qualities you possess that will be needed in your new target job.

What Should I Include in My Resume’s Summary Section?

To decide what goes into the Summary section of your resume, try answering the following questions:

  • What makes me good at what I do?
  • What would I bring to my next job that would make me stand out as an ideal candidate?
  • Or, if it’s hard for you to “brag,” or to think about what makes you great, how about this question: What would my supervisor, boss, team members, or co-workers say about me and how I do my job well?

Now, to help you focus even more, here are some “hot” tips:

  • Start out by stating the number of years of experience you have in that type of job, field or industry, especially if it matches up with the amount of experience the employer is looking for in their ideal candidate.
  • Take your cues from the job posting – how does what they are looking for match up with what you’ve got to offer? Try to include as many of the qualifications listed in your target job as possible, without exceeding four bullet point statements in the Summary section.
  • Think about what you love to do, what you have been recognized for doing well, and/or what positive things others may have said about you.
  • You can also include technical skills, language fluency, or other special abilities that set you apart from the crowd, and are relevant to your job objective.
  • In some cases, it’s a good idea to include what you are passionate about, as it relates to the target job.

Do’s and Don’ts for Building a Strong Resume Summary Section

  • Do emphasize the skills, experience, and personality/character traits that you are proud of and that relate to the target job.
  • Do keep each point to no more than three lines long.
  • Do put a little bit of white space between each of the bullet points.
  • Don’t fill the page with Summary statements! Aim for a maximum of four bullet points for your resume’s Summary section.
  • Don’t use overused phrases, such as “Excellent communication skills”; instead, describe what type of communicator you are. For example, are you dynamic? Articulate? Engaging? Thorough? Straightforward? Energetic? Clear? Humorous? Interactive? Have some fun with it! (Also see 3 Examples of Overused Summary Phrases on Resumes.)

Sample Summary Statements

To get your juices flowing for your Summary section, check out the following sample Summary statements that I have written for some of my resume clients over the years.

As you will notice, each statement is fairly broad, but contains key information that would be relevant to a particular position, company, organization, and/or industry.

Summary statement for an administrative assistant:

  • More than eight years of experience as an Administrative Assistant for both middle managers and executives.

Summary statement for a project manager:

  • A dynamic team leader, skilled in building and guiding teams to achieve outstanding results.

Summary statement for an international sales professional:

  • Articulate, engaging communicator, able to tailor presentation style to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Fluent in French and Italian.

Summary statement for a nonprofit PR professional:

  • Proficient in digital and social media platforms, with a passion for using new technologies to strengthen cross-cultural and cross-functional collaborations.

With a strong Summary section, you will entice the hiring person to keep reading your resume, and to find out even more about your skills and accomplishments. The more they read, the better you look! Good luck!

bethBeth Brown is the senior resume writer on Susan Ireland's Resume Team and co-author of The Damn Good Resume Guide.

Read more resume articles by Beth Brown.