How to Write a Resume Summary [+ Examples]

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A resume summary is a brief explanation about who you are professionally. It can help recruiters or hiring managers quickly gain a sense of your experience and skills.

[Featured image] A woman, wearing a long-sleeved blue dress shirt, smiles while writing her resume summary on her laptop.

A resume summary delivers a concise story about your experience near the top of your resume. It's intended to help grab a recruiter's or hiring manager's attention, and help them gain a sense of who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer.

Depending on your professional experience and career goals, a resume summary isn't always necessary, but adding one to your application materials may be beneficial. In this article, we’ll cover when you should use a resume summary, what it should typically include, and examples you can follow to craft your own. 

Resume summaries: Key facts 

Strong resume summaries tell a story, synthesizing in narrative form the experience and skills you detail elsewhere using bullet points. Generally, it’s a good idea to include information about your: 

  • Experience: Lead with your most recent job title and summarize your years of experience. 

  • Impact: Include any major accomplishments and/or achievements, especially if you can quantify them.  

  • Skills: Detail any important skills—both workplace and technical—that relate to the job to which you’re applying. 

Examples:

Senior project manager with eight years of experience successfully leading large teams and identifying opportunities to reduce overhead and cost. 

Licensed microbiology technologist with over five years of experience working at a major hospital lab. 

Successful certified financial planner with six years of experience consulting with clients, determining their long-term goals, and developing tailored plans to achieve results. 

Creative social media manager with four years of experience overseeing all major channels for a fintech start-up. Trained in Hootsuite, Buffer, and Google Trends. 

When should you use a resume summary? 

There is no strict rule about when to use a resume summary. Generally, it’s more common to include one when you’ve amassed some professional experience, say around three years, because it can help you outline the larger theme of your career.

You can also use a resume summary when you’ve held a number of different jobs and want to connect those various choices to a larger career path. 

If you’re looking for your first job or are a recent graduate, it may be preferable to use a resume objective, which includes a summary but also specifically outlines what you want to find in your next role. 

Resume summary vs. resume objective: What's the difference?

A resume summary is a synopsis of your career trajectory and accomplishments. A resume objective includes that same information but also states your more immediate career goals.

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How long should a resume summary be?

The length of your resume summary will depend on the amount of experience you have to convey and kind of page length you have to work with. If you have less than 10 years of experience, keep your resume to one page and use a one to two sentence summary. If you have more than 10 years of experience, keep your resume to two pages and use a three to five sentence summary

Let’s look at two different examples in terms of length: 

  • Creative UX designer with over three years of experience. Skilled in app and website development, including user research, wireframe and site map design, and A/B testing. 

  • Creative UX designer with ten years of experience managing web-based projects, specifically apps and websites. Skilled in undertaking user research to understand both user flow and end user; creating wireframe and site maps to understand best practices; and conducting user tests, including A/B testing, to identify issues and fix before launch. Organized and detail-oriented individual with experience working remotely.  

Where should a summary go on your resume? 

No matter which type of resume you use, a summary appears near the top, usually underneath the contact information you include as part of your header. It’s important to keep a summary as close to the top as possible because it sets the stage for the information that follows and can help a recruiter get a better sense of your experience right away. 

Resume summary tips 

Use the following tips to craft an impactful summary that highlights your candidacy. 

1. Align your summary with a company’s ideal candidate. 

Review job descriptions and take note of any language used to describe a company’s ideal candidate, especially when it comes to their responsibilities. If you have experience handling those tasks, highlight them in your summary. For example, if a company wants a candidate who can “identify new tools to streamline processes,” talk about your experience tackling that problem in the past.  

Learn more: Resume Keywords: How to Find the Right Words to Beat the ATS

2. Highlight technical and workplace skills.

You’ll also want to peruse job descriptions and take note of any required workplace and technical skills so that you can address them in your summary. Technical skills are the expertise you have working with specific tools or performing specific tasks related to a job. Workplace skills typically refer to the general skills you develop through work and which make you a strong employee, such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.  

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

3. Find adjectives to sell your skills.

A summary takes up valuable space on a resume, so choose your words carefully. You can find ways to add adjectives that qualify your experience and training. For example, instead of saying “Project manager with X years of experience,” you can describe yourself more specifically, saying, “Versatile project manager with X years of experience.”  

Explore further

Strengthen your credentials and qualifications by earning a Professional Certificate from industry leaders such as Google, Meta, and IBM. Learn about growing areas like Project Management, UX Design, Data Science, Marketing Analytics, and Sales while developing job-ready skills for each type of profession. Plus, when you successfully complete a Professional Certificate, you can add that detail to your resume summary. 

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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