A hiring manager might read dozens of resumes in a day, searching for qualified candidates to fill a single open position. There are plenty of ways to stand out, including incorporating a professional resume template and resume writing tips from experts, adding color to your section headers, and using formatting to your advantage to make the content more easily scannable. However, nothing will catch a reader’s attention quite like a quality summary.

You can quickly craft a unique and engaging summary using strong language similar to the way marketing professionals use a “hook” to capture the attention of prospective buyers. Let’s take a step-by-step approach to understand the importance of a convincing profile, how to adapt the content, and methods to appeal to hiring managers across industries.

Understanding the Resume Summary

Your resume summary will be one of the first things a hiring manager reads about you. It’s your initial impression and, depending on how well you write it, can either increase or decrease the likelihood the hiring manager will continue reading.

Since the average resume receives six to eight seconds of attention from a hiring manager, you must use the summary to focus the reader on your personal value. Think of the summary as marketing content that demonstrates to the hiring manager all the features and benefits of having you on the team.

When To Use a Summary

No matter what you call this section – “Summary,” “Professional Profile,” or “Qualifications” – the goal is to offer the hiring manager a short description of your most essential skills to make a positive first impression.

Regardless of your industry or level of experience, include the most relevant elements of your professional past to clearly demonstrate the value you’ll bring to a new employer.

Summaries Versus Objectives

Avoid the resume objective, which was popular in the 1900s and early 2000s. A summary briefly highlights the skills and qualifications that differentiate you from other candidates; an objective states only the kind of role you’re pursuing. Check out the difference with these examples:

Human resource management expert with over 15 years of experience in employee relations and retention. Known for driving double-digit increases in staff satisfaction, improving performance, and empowering sustainable corporate growth.
Obtaining a position as a human resource manager to advance my career and learn more about employee relations in the manufacturing industry.

The hiring manager likely knows you’re applying for a role in human resource management, so the language in this example won’t keep the reader interested. It’s also ineffective to mention the benefits to yourself because your entire resume, including the summary, should be about how you’ll contribute to success in the new job.

Emerging instructional designer incorporating best practices from seven years of classroom instruction to strengthen curriculum and learning opportunities for diverse student populations. Passionate about creating engaging content for virtual and in-person instruction.
To obtain a role as an instructional designer with the opportunity for growth and career advancement.

Notice how the objective is focused on you and what you want, while the summary statement is focused on how your skills and experiences will empower you to contribute to the new role.

The Elements of a Resume Summary

Content tailored to the job description

First, look at the job description for the role you want to pursue to determine what is most important to be successful. Think beyond the lists of responsibilities and requirements – focus on the underlying principles and skills you’ll need to demonstrate.

Without tailoring the content, you’ll likely be too generic and vague in what you write in your summary. Think from the perspective of the hiring manager and ask yourself, “So what? Does this content matter? Will this language distinguish me from other applicants?” Figure out if you’re setting yourself apart from others or if using language that could apply to everyone else seeking the same position.

Your summary should also include keywords and phrases pulled from the job description, but don’t make the summary a long list of buzzwords. It’s important to adapt the principles and concepts in the job posting and incorporate them into your summary, putting them in the context of your specific experiences.

Industry terminology

Don’t forget to customize the summary based on industry- or company-specific language you see in the job description to be sure you’re appealing both to applicant tracking systems (ATS) and hiring managers.

While more than 80% of all Fortune 1000 companies have adopted some kind of ATS, according to Steven Davis at Renaissance Solutions, you still need to target the hiring manager in the language you use.

Both ATS and hiring managers will be convinced you’re qualified if they see industry terminology used appropriately and in the right context.

Your professional brand

It’s important to identify your professional brand and to know what you offer employers that others can’t. Think about the summary on your résumé as a 15-second marketing pitch to hiring managers – what are the top skills, traits, characteristics, or abilities you need them to know and remember about you? Convey your most relevant strengths and top career achievements succinctly.

Writing Your Resume Summary

A concise summary is best, so keep the content to three to four lines with about three résumé-style sentences. You might add information about relevant skills, years of experience, hard and soft skills, and your own personality traits.

Here are a number of phrases you can use to craft compelling summary content:

  • Introductory sentence options
    • Emerging [industry] professional…
    • Trailblazing [industry] professional…
    • Delivering… [hard skills (public account expertise, project management expertise, and such)]
    • Champion for… [area of expertise]
  • Supporting sentence options
    • Focused on…
    • Passionate about…
    • Known for…
  • Other concepts to include
    • Quantifiable impact
    • Recognizable former or current employer names
    • Awards or significant achievements

Examples of Resume Summaries by Industry

Review the following effective resume summary examples and take notes about the kinds of language you can use for your own summary. There are many ways to create content that will draw attention, and here are a number of ways you can write a resume summary:

Resume summary for marketing

Delivering high-impact digital campaigns using data-driven insights to increase prospect engagement by up to 75% for brands like Kleenex, American Express, and Gucci. Known for inspirational team leadership and coaching high-performing teams through complex market shifts.

Resume summary for software development

Software engineering team leader known for driving product development and delivering innovative, highly scalable systems in Fortune 100 companies. Focused on empowering teams to identify technical problems and create impactful solutions. Provide inspirational leadership style within Agile and Scrum environments.

Resume summary for project management

Lean Six Sigma and PMP-certified project management leader known for introducing best practices and process improvements to strengthen outcomes. Passionate about leveraging leadership skills to drive team success for projects up to $200 million.

Resume summary for human resources

Senior-level HR director known for managing complex projects and programs for large companies of over 5,000 employees undergoing business transformations. Focused on building and optimizing talent strategies, employee relations needs, benefits package upgrades, and system integrations. Known for a hands-on leadership style, resourcefulness, and integrity.

Resume summary for health care

People-focused health care admissions and engagement team leader delivering unique marketing and sales strategies for sustainable growth. Consistently generate modern, scalable, and cost-effective solutions using technology and data. Go-to resource for diverse teams of up to 20 members with a servant leadership style.

Resume summary for law enforcement

Law enforcement leader with 25 years of experience in precincts serving populations of more than 250,000 residents. Focused on communicating effectively with individuals from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. Recognized with the Virginia Award for Distinguished Service in 2023 for enhancing public safety initiatives.

Common Mistakes To Avoid in Your Resume Summary

  1. Don’t include first-person pronouns. Full sentences and long, paragraph-style text at the top of your resume will likely overwhelm the reader.
  2. Avoid clichés and commonplace language. Hiring managers see much of the same content on multiple resumes, so keep your content fresh and interesting.
  3. Describing yourself as “seasoned,” “dynamic,” “hard-working,” or “experienced” doesn’t truly communicate any tangible value. Words and phrases like those are too overused to have any real meaning. Using phrases such as “proven track record,” “highly skilled,” or “excellent verbal and written communication skills” won’t differentiate you from other candidates.
  4. Write as concisely as possible. You only have a few seconds to entice a hiring manager, so make the content clear and succinct. When your summary is too long, some of the essential information may not be read by a hiring manager who is quickly skimming what you wrote.

How To Enhance Your Resume Summary

Use a professional template

Many job seekers are overwhelmed by the thought of crafting a new resume from scratch. There are resources available to make the process easier. Use the templates to help you communicate your unique value in a layout that will resonate with hiring managers. Instead of worrying about the formatting and spacing, just incorporate your knowledge and experiences into a simple template.

Seek expert advice

When in doubt, ask a professional. Every person has a different situation, and it can be difficult to know how to overcome hurdles specific to you. Don’t go through it alone; review personalized tips and career advice from experts there to help guide you.

Written by professional resume writers and loved by hiring managers

ResumeTemplates offers free, HR approved resume templates to help you create a professional resume in minutes. Choose from several template options and even pre-populate a resume from your profile.

Frequently Asked Questions About Writing a Resume Summary

How long should my resume summary be?

Because hiring managers only take a few seconds to look at each resume, it’s best practice to write about three sentences. If you write more than three to four lines on the page, a hiring manager is less likely to read the entire thing – they may overlook pertinent content.

Consolidate the content as much as possible. Focus on the aspects of your skills and experience related to the job you are pursuing to impress a hiring manager and make them eager to read more. 

Is it really necessary to include a summary on my resume?

While resume summaries are not a requirement, they can be a powerful tool and give the hiring manager a quick look into who you are as a professional. If you write a quality summary, you’ll focus the reader’s attention on your relevant skills and accomplishments to convince them you’re right for the job.

If you don’t include a summary at the top of your resume, you might miss the opportunity to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

How can I quickly adjust my summary for a specific role?

Customizing your summary can be quick and easy. Simply identify the keywords and important phrases you see in the job description, then incorporate them in a natural and authentic way into the summary you’ve written. Take notice of words or terminology you see multiple times on a job posting because they’ll be more essential to include in the summary.

It’s also a good idea to swap out terms that might mean the same thing, but you have written differently in your summary. For instance, if you mention “project coordination” in your resume summary but notice “project management” or “project delivery” on the job description, you could replace “coordination” with “management” or “delivery” to match the phrasing used by the company.