Should You Write a Summary or an Objective Statement?

Nancy Anderson
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A career summary on your resume represents a vital piece of information that employers need to know about your skills and experience. Rather than an objective statement at the top of your document, consider a summary that demonstrates the top-level skills you bring to the table for an employer.

Where Your Career Summary Goes

A career summary goes right below your contact information, and it's the first major section of your resume. A strong summary statement draws the eye to top-level information, and it lets hiring managers make quick decisions about whether you have the necessary qualifications for a particular position. A dynamite summary can stand out, even after you get through an applicant tracker or receive a recommendation from someone in your job network.

Versus an Objective Statement

An objective statement is a simple, one-sentence statement that basically says you're trying to land a job. This outmoded summary no longer works in terms of making a targeted, specific statement geared toward showing you're a perfect fit for a position. A career summary utilizes hard numbers, your actual job title and the skills you need to be successful at a particular firm, which is so much more than listing your career goals.

Leverage Your Summary Section

Your summary section shows your best skills, highest accomplishments and what you take pride in when it comes to your career. Research your target employer and tailor your summary to each position. If you're going after a sales job versus a coding job, the summary statement should highlight your skills in either of those specific areas.

Think of your summary section as a quick elevator pitch. If you only had 30 seconds to convince someone to dive deeper into your skills and experience, what would you say to that person? You need to show the value you bring to an employer that's different from anyone else vying for the same position.

First, look over your work history to find commonalities. Discover if you held similar roles at each employer, if every company had a similar size or if each company had similar corporate cultures. Then, determine your best skills. Do you communicate well and inspire people to achieve goals, or are you a tech-savvy person who loves crunching numbers? Definitely put your best foot forward when developing a summary statement.

Third, focus on relevant accomplishments that you can back up with hard numbers. For example, a one-sentence summary may look like this, "Senior vice president with 15 years’ experience leading teams of 10 to 20 people that increased sales by as much as 15 percent in each quarter while improving team efficiency by 50 percent." Not only do you list your area of expertise but also what you did for previous employers.

Don't Forget Keywords

Every word in your resume is valuable. Don't forget to include keywords from the job posting in your career summary. Look at the top qualifications, such as the overall type of position or years of experience and put that in your summary.

A career summary introduces your resume and gives hiring managers a snapshot of your top-level attributes. An effective summary section can elevate your job prospects versus other candidates, which is why a quick summary is vital to success.


Photo courtesy of Mighigan Engineering at Flickr.com

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