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A professional summary is a small paragraph positioned at the top of a resume, right below your contact details. It highlights the main benefits you’ll deliver to your target employer in relation to your target job. This section highlights your skills, experience, and expertise with the aim of improving your ATS score, showcasing your USPs, and swaying the recruiters in your favor. An interesting summary in a well-written resume may convince the decision-maker to explore the other parts of the resume, while an unclear and vaguely written one may result in rejection.
How is a professional summary better than an ‘objective’ section?
A professional summary is often replaced by an ‘objective’ section in many resumes. We suggest using the former instead of the latter because ‘objective’ as a section tends to focus on your interests and career goals as a job seeker. As a generic statement, it fails to add value to the employer because it does not demonstrate what you bring to the table. On the other hand, a professional summary strengthens your resume by showing that your achievements and the benefits you provide align with the target employer’s interests.
Valuable components of an effective professional summary
Here is a list of things to focus on while writing your professional summary.
As mentioned above, this section should highlight the benefits you will bring to your target employer. To achieve this, you can start with a one-sentence job title matching the target job title, as this is the most potent way to boost your ATS score. Choose three adjectives in line with your soft skills to begin this section. Follow them with a description of your professional experience, job duties, and responsibilities.
For example, “Creative, resilient, and dynamic marketing manager with experience in…”
The next few sentences should demonstrate your key strengths and skills, and the related achievements and advantages you can deliver to your target employer. This space can be used to cover important brands you have worked for, areas you specialize in, relevant industry experience, and the scale of organizations you have worked for. The decision-makers may not always read your entire resume but will definitely glance through your summary, so make sure they’ll gain a high-level idea of your experience.
Lastly, close with a single concise sentence about your career aspirations that aligns with your target employer, industry, and job role.
For example, “Actively pursuing marketing manager roles across the retail industry.”
A professional summary is the best section to include the relevant keywords for your resume. To identify them, take a thorough look at the job description, specifically the ‘Education’, ‘Personal Specifications’ and ‘Job Specifications’ sections. Alternatively, you can run your resume through Jobscan to determine the soft and hard skills it may be missing, then install them in this section, wherever relevant.
This will not only make it easier for the ATS to successfully parse your resume, but also make a good impression on the reader. Keywords grab the attention of recruiters who would otherwise discard your resume after a glance. They make it easier for them to shortlist you for the next round because they tout the essential requirements.
Deciding the correct length is an important aspect of writing this section. A long summary may lead the reader to skip it altogether, which also creates a negative first impression. Using too few sentences, such as three or four, will result in leaving out relevant information. We suggest writing five to six sentences, about seven or eight lines, to cover every detail your potential employer will want to know.
4. Narrative, tone of voice, and language
Consistent narrative, tone of voice, and language throughout the sections are essential if you want to appear coherent and thoughtful. The narrative is first-person, but it is best practice to avoid using pronouns in any section of a resume.
For example, “I managed a team of 300 civil engineers” or “I devised a growth strategy for a mobile platform.”
Using pronouns in every sentence can make your resume sound monotonous and uninteresting, reducing your chances of progressing to the next stage. Try:
“Managed a team of 300 civil engineers” or “Devised a growth strategy for a mobile platform.”
The language should depend on the geography, i.e. use British English in the UK, Canadian English in Canada, Australian English in Australia, and American English in the US and the rest of the world. Your tone of voice should always match the target job and industry, sounding confident, qualified, and motivated to apply for the position.
A professional summary is an important statement that lays the foundation for the rest of your resume. A well-written professional summary explains your potential contribution to your target employer while also briefly describing your past experience, in combination with your existing skills and expertise. It should be aligned with your target job and be customized for every application.