By Mike Simpson
What is the best way to start my resume?
How do I get the attention of the hiring manager?
These are questions we have all asked ourselves at one point or another.
And to muddy the waters a little bit, we have the ongoing “battle” between “Team Resume Objective” and and “Team Resume Summary Statement”.
What, you’ve never heard of this age-old war over the real estate at the very beginning of your resume?
Don’t worry, it’s a relatively new struggle brought about by our constant desire for finding an advantage over the other candidates vying for the same jobs we are. And we’ve made all of this much easier by giving you our free Resume Summary Cheat Sheet.
“But what’s the difference, and which one is right for me?”
In a previous article we tackled Resume Objectives and what they are and who should use them (head over to take a look and see if this is the best choice for you).
Generally speaking, people who were just entering the work force, perhaps lacked experience in their fields, or were in the middle of a massive career change benefited most by using an objective statement.
But what about someone with experience or someone who isn’t changing their field?
Well, that’s where the summary statement comes into play!
If you just want to jump straight to the resume summary statement examples further along in this article then CLICK HERE
Understanding the Resume Summary Statement
So what exactly is a resume summary statement?
A resume summary statement is similar to an objective statement in that it is a quick way for a job seeker to catch a hiring manager’s attention by summarizing critical information at the top of your resume in an easy to read format.
Before we go any further, I want to stop you right now. A “Resume Objective” and “Resume Summary Statement” are NOT interchangeable. They are, in fact, two very different things and should not be confused.
Resume statements essentially are just a few short, well worded, well targeted sentences that summarize your skills and experiences.
Sometimes called “Qualification Summaries” or even just “Competencies,” these two or three sentences can, when done right, give you a real advantage in the hiring game.
I don’t get it. I’m already qualified to do the job. What’s the point? Can’t they just read my resume and get that information themselves?
Absolutely.But remember, hiring managers are often going through dozens, if not hundreds of resumes per available job, so anything that can make their job easier is a good thing.
Imagine this…you’re the perfect candidate and you just know you’re the one the company should hire but the manager has been going through mountains of resumes. By the time they get to yours, they’re just skimming…trying to make it through.
They glance at your resume but, in their tired overwhelmed rush to get done, miss a few key sentences. Your resume, and your prospects at the company, are accidentally ignored.
Cue long drawn out overly dramatic cry of despair:
Now imagine if that SAME resume had had a summary statement at the top clearly outlining why you’re the perfect candidate.
Instead of skimming, the hiring manager read that, nodded in satisfaction, and dropped your resume on the top of the “To Interview” pile.
Cue victory dance!
Think of a resume summary statement as a good friend at a party. They want to introduce you to the hiring manager in such a way that the manager wants to talk to you!
A great resume statement is your job seeking wingman!
Okay, let’s go to our make believe place and pretend we’re outside the gates to a huge party. There are hundreds of guests (job seekers) waiting along with us but only one bouncer (hiring manager). Everyone wants to get into the party (job) and meet the host (your new boss).
Problem is, this bouncer is VERY picky and is only letting in a very small group of people.
Everyone lines up and gets just ONE SHOT to impress the bouncer. You can see people in line ahead of you eagerly walking up to the bouncer and having varying degrees of luck. Most get pointed towards the exit before they even open their mouths.
A few manage to get in a word or two before they too are pointed towards the door. You watch in slack jawed amazement as just three people out of the hundred ahead of you actually make it past the velvet ropes.
Then suddenly it’s your turn. You stand in front of the bouncer, your heart in your throat, your mouth dry. You start to extend your hand for a hearty handshake but before you can get it up, you catch a blur out of the corner of your eye.
A man swoops in, standing next to you with a huge grin on his face. He reaches out, grabs the bouncer’s hand and shakes it for you.
“Hey! I have got to introduce you to this guy!” the stranger tells the bouncer, looking over his shoulder at you with a smile. “Seriously, this guy worked miracles at his last job.
Not only is he an expert communicator with over 10 years of experience but he has the proven ability to manage multiple projects while meeting challenging deadlines…and didn’t our host specifically state those were the kinds of people he was looking to meet tonight?”
The bouncer looks at you. Gone is the squinty eyed glare replaced with a look of contemplation and…dare we say…interest?
He grunts and nods, reaches for the ropes…and you’re in!
But just who was that mysterious man?
That, my friend, was your resume statement…summing up your qualifications into a neat and tidy power packed punch of awesome directly targeting what the hiring managers are looking for.
Okay, so you’ve hooked me. Now, how do I write a good summary statement?
Well, read on to the next section to find out! But first, take the time to download our free Resume Summary Cheat Sheet, which hands you word-for-word-resume summaries you can use on your resume right now. Click here to get the Resume Summary Cheat Sheet.
How To Write A Great Resume Summary Statement
First off you need to do you research. Just like everything else you’ve done up to this point in your job search quest, you need to make sure that you’re maximizing your potential.
You have a very limited space to use on your resume and the last thing you want to do is waste any of it.
The goal is to get your statement down to four to six bullets (give or take a couple) distilled down into two or three laser focused sentences.
The first thing you want to do is go back and look at the job you’re applying for and determine your target audience. Re-read the job posting, keeping your eyes open for key phrases and words.
- Who are they looking for?
- What do they want that person to bring to the table? What value can they provide?
- What would l look for in a hire if I were the one posting this job?
Once you identify those things, it’s time to figure out how you fit into them.
- What are your top selling points? Find three or four things that define you as a professional and are unique to you. Are you a God among men when it comes to sales or customer service? Are you a DaVinci of schematics and CAD drawings? Make sure these are things you ENJOY doing…don’t list things you’re good at but that you hate doing…or you’ll get stuck doing them again.
- What critical problems did you identify in the job posting and how are you positioned to solve them? How does your summary align with the company job requirements?
- What are your career highlights and key strengths? How much experience do you have in doing what you’re doing? Do you have additional certifications or achievements that set you apart?
- Where does what you want and bring intersect with what the company wants and needs?
Now, keep in mind that the above things are things you WANT to put in your statement…and also remember there are things NOT to put in your statement. Things like:
- Microsoft Office. We get it. Everyone should be proficient with this suite of programs and if you’re not, then hurry up and get proficient. Even if you’re a technological wizard your hardware and software skills should go in their own separate section…not your summary statement.
- Things you’re good at but that you hate doing. We touched on this briefly above but it’s something that bears repeating. If you don’t like doing it in your job now, don’t list it in your summary statement or you’ll have to keep doing it.
- Tired, old adjectives. These are words like ‘results-oriented,’ and ‘hardworking,’ ‘innovative’ and ‘motivated.’ Use action verbs instead (we’ve written another blog post about action verbs that you need to read.. click here to read now).
If you know anything about the Interview Guys, you know that we value "tailoring" over almost anything else when it comes to virtually anything job interview-related. Hence our creation of the Tailoring Method (head over to the article to learn the basics of tailoring). Your resume summary statement is no different. During your research, you need to identify the Qualities (knowledge, skills and abilities) that your company values for your position and infuse them into your summary. See examples below for how to do this.
Now that we’ve looked at what to include and what NOT to include, it’s time to start writing your own resume statements.
Start out your statement by being specific! Make sure it’s tailored to not only the position, but the company as well. Are you applying to five jobs? You should have five objective statements. Ten jobs? Ten statements. Two hundred jobs? Two hundred statements. Get the idea?
Focus on how you’re a benefit to the company…not how the company can benefit you.
Keep it valuable…that is…make sure you point out what you bring to the table.
Keep it short and sweet.
Always open your statement with your title. Why? Because you want to communicate your professional identity immediately! You want whoever is reading the resume to know AT A GLANCE exactly who they’re dealing with.
Remember, there are lots of people applying for these jobs and the last thing you want to do is get lost in the shuffle.
Plus, if the job is specifically looking for someone to fill a role and you’re already doing that role at another job, you’ve just ensured that the hiring mangers take a second look at your resume!
Next, take all the things we discussed above and pull it all together into your summary statement.
Resume Summary Statement Examples
Here are a few resume summary statement examples for professionals who would be considered experts in their fields.
As mentioned above, you want to tailor these statements to the needs of the company you are interviewing with. For example, let’s say in this first example that the applicant researched the company and discovered that nearly all of their employees shared a common Quality… “management experience”. So this needs to be highlighted in the summary statement. The Quality is highlighted in orange (Be sure to support the fact that you have that quality with supporting statements:
Architectural Project Coordinator with over fifteen years of experience. Versatile, bilingual professional with management experience ranging in size from small private projects to full scale multi-million dollar high profile corporate construction projects. Ability to oversee and manage hundreds of individuals while ensuring timely completion of project deadlines all while remaining on or under budget.
This resume summary example is well done for a number of reasons.
First off, it’s short and sweet. Secondly, whoever is reading it knows exactly who they’re dealing with. It opens with the job seeker’s title, Architectural Project Coordinator.
You also know they’re a professional with 15 years of experience and then it quickly and cleanly goes into details about what they’ve accomplished in those 15 years.
Most importantly though is the fact that they have identified the Quality (or qualities) the company values and infused it into the statement along with some proof. Be sure to include a supporting line that proves you have the quality!
Let’s look at another. We assume that the applicant has done his/her research and is now tailoring the summary:
Current Administrative Office Manager. Versatile, reliable and efficient with 8+ years experience supporting managers and executives in high paced environments. Diversified skills include client relations, human resources, recruiting, project management, and administrative support. Excellent phone and digital communication skills.
Another solid summary!
Project Manager with 10+ years experience specializing in web production, education publications, public outreach and consumer packaging. Professional, creative, flexible with proven analytical skills. Adept at researching and crafting award winning marketing campaigns for a wide variety of clients and products.
Are you getting the hang of these?
Okay, here’s another one:
Experienced sales manager in retail industry with strengths in customer service, sales and negotiations. Proven skills in marketing, advertising, product integration, and promotions. Successful in developing strategies that have resulted in an over 20% increase in new customers. Instrumental in developing an incentives rewards program with a repeat customer success rate of over 45%.
Now, if I were a hiring manager, I’d want to know more about each of the individuals with the summaries we’ve looked at above.
But what if you don’t have any experience? Or if your experiences aren’t directly related to what you’re applying for?
Again, think long and hard before putting a summary statement on your resume if this is you. You might want to consider a qualifications summary which we outlined in last week’s post…but if you just have to have a summary…here are a few examples to help you get started.
For someone with no experience or a recent graduate:
Engineering Graduate with leadership training and experience with academic training at the University of Montana. Proven skills in project management, organization and research with a background in office administration and organization. Able to provide employers with administrative support and professional communication skills.
Okay, not bad. Certainly better than nothing…but again, make sure to seriously consider the objective statement first.
For someone who is changing careers:
Proven IT Specialist with experience in start-ups as well as established operations leveraging expertise in organization, computer networking, and problem solving to provide exceptional user support and assistance in resolving conflict. Experience includes managing sensitive materials and providing after-hours support for clients.
This one is good. It lets the person know that is reading the resume that the applicant is coming from a different field but that the skills they bring can translate to the job they’re applying for.
So there you have it. Resume Summary Statements. Your perfect resume wingman!
Remember that the most important thing for you to do is spend the time researching the company you are interviewing with and tailor your summary to the company you are interviewing with.
Thanks for reading!
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In it you'll get word-for-word sample resume summariescovering a variety of positions you can use right away.
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Welcome to "Tooling Up," a monthly column about job hunting and career development for scientists and engineers. I'm Peter S. Fiske, a Ph.D. in geological and environmental sciences, former postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and author of Put Your Science to Work. In this monthly column, we will explore all the practical aspects of seeking out, applying for, and landing a job. We will also profile career fields and meet the people in them. And we will answer your questions about jobs, job hunting, and your own search.
Are you enjoying this classic Science Careers article? Then check out these related resources from Science Careers:
I'm sure you've all taken at least one class with an instructor who thought it would be cute to pass out a quiz on the first day to see how much you know. When you bombed it (and we all did) the usual response was to feel terror-stricken and desperate, with the magnitude of your ignorance fully exposed for all to see. Instructors, as we all know now, love to put students in this desperate state of mind! I hated this experience.
So forgive me if I indulge in the same sort of game regarding resumés and CVs. Even if you answer all of these true-or-false questions correctly, it might get you thinking about your own CV or resumé.
- Question 1: (True or False) Resumés and CVs are basically interchangeable.
- Question 2: (True or False) The purpose of a resumé or CV is to get you a job.
- Question 3: (True or False) The main message you want to convey in your resumé is where you have been.
Answer 1. FALSE! Resumés and CVs are different, very different. The differences between the two include structure, content, length, and style. The most common mistake that science-trained individuals make in their job search is submitting a resumé that looks too much like a CV.
Answer 2. FALSE! The purpose of a resumé or CV is to get you an interview. Getting the job comes later, after going through interviews and sometimes follow-up interviews. Your goal when submitting your resumé or CV should be to get your foot in the door, that's all!
Answer 3. FALSE! A principal difference between a CV and a résumé is that CVs focus on where you've been, whereas resumés must also convey where you are going. A resumé cannot simply be a list of your past experiences. It must be a selection of those experiences and skills that are best suited to the job to which you are applying. How do you go about doing this, you ask? Well, just read on ...
Curriculum vitae (CV)
What is it?
A full list of your professional and educational history.
A summary of your experience and skills that are most pertinent to the advertised position.
How long is it?
Usually many pages; length is not important.
Usually one page only. Multiple pages only for senior-level positions.
When do you use it?
Used for academic positions and research positions in government and industry.
Used for every other type of job outside of academia and research science.
Do you include your publications?
A full list of publications is essential.
Even a partial list of publications is rarely included.
How important is style and layout?
Style doesn't matter that much; content is what matters most.
Style and content are important. Bad style is a real liability.
Should I modify it to match each specific job to which I am applying?
CVs do not need much alteration to fit each specific job opening
Resumés should be adapted to fit each specific job to which you are applying.
For scientists of all ages, applying for all types of jobs inside or beyond research science, a resumé or a curriculum vita (CV) are the number-one job hunting tools. Most scientists are familiar with the rules for constructing a CV; after all, we come from an environment in which CVs are the norm. However, most Ph.D. and master's-trained scientists and engineers have little or no experience writing a resumé. As a consequence, they end up creating a document that looks very much like, well, ... a CV. What's wrong with that? When you are applying for a job and competing with a whole batch of other folks who know what a resumé should look like, yours will stand out as odd, mismatched, and out of touch--not exactly the best first impression to make. Although you may be very bright and have an outstanding background, you will likely lose out to a more polished candidate.
Unlike the CV, which is a summary of all your experience, a resumé is a summary of those aspects of your education or job experience that qualify you for the particular job to which you are applying. Resumés are only a page in length (unless you have a number of years of experience in a particular field), and space is at a premium.
There are two general types of résumés: chronological résumés and skills resumés. Chronological resumés are the ones you are probably most familiar with: They list your work experience in chronological order. Skills resumés categorize your experience under several key skills areas: the skills needed for the job you are seeking. Chronological resumés are useful for demonstrating a pattern of working, especially if you are continuing in a general profession or field. They emphasize progression and a steady history of work. Skills resumés emphasize marketable skills and can be more useful for people making career changes or for people who have worked off and on for some time.
Basic Parts of a Resumé
There are some sections of your resumé that may appear identical to your CV. Other sections will be much different.
Name and Address: Your name, address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address should be centered at the top of the page, big enough to read easily. If your resumé is two pages long, be sure to put your name in the header of the second page.
Statement of Professional Objective: Objective statements are a common part of most professional resumés but are rarely if ever found on a CV. As its name suggests, an objective statement is a one-sentence statement of what YOU are looking for. Obviously, this statement may change depending on the type of position you are applying for. The objective statement tells the employer what type of position you are seeking, where you want to work, and what aspect of the field you are interested in.
Wait! Hold on a second! Why is this necessary, you ask? Isn't it obvious that you want the job; after all, you are applying for it! The short answer is: Employers use summary statements to weed out the clueless from the savvy. You cannot rely on your resumé alone to speak for your qualifications and career goals; you must articulate them at the beginning. Applicants who have carefully researched the job for which they are applying will be able to describe clearly and succinctly why they are applying for the position. Applicants who are simply mailing out a blizzard of laser-printed resumés to everyone advertising an opening will not be able to tailor their objective statement to the position and will be at a disadvantage.
An objective statement must strike the right balance between breadth and specifics. Saying something like: "Applicant desires a challenging position utilizing his skills and experience with the opportunity for advancement" says nothing to the employer, other than, of course, that you want a job.
- Still murky about the objective statement? Here are some good examples:
- "Challenging position as computer programmer or analyst incorporating skills in numerical analysis, resource management, and land-use policy"
- "Desire position in management-consulting organization requiring outstanding verbal, analytical, and teamwork skills"
- "Position as analytical chemist in semiconductor manufacturing company, specializing in transmission electron microscopy"
Each of these clearly states the applicant's goals, and some have even summarized a few of the applicant's abilities. As you can see, in order to construct a good objective statement, you have to have a specific objective in mind. And that requires researching the jobs for which you are applying.
Summary Statement: Some resumés also have a summary statement, which is another brief (one or two sentences) description of the applicant's most important qualifications. These usually include the most important skills for the job in question, years of experience in field, credentials, or areas of specialization.
Education: The educational background of research-trained scientists is usually outstanding on paper. It is something that people will really notice. A candidate who has a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in geophysics and graduated summa cum laude from Vassar College will cause anyone to sit up and take notice. In fact, any advanced degree in a resumé submitted for a position for which an advanced degree is not the norm can generally be considered an asset. For this reason, I put the Education section right under the Objective/Summary statements (if any). Put information such as "graduated cum laude" in this section, but put other academic and related awards in a separate section (more on that later).
Just so everyone is clear on this, you should put the following in the Education section in reverse chronological order:
- Name of institution (Ph.D., master's, undergrad
- Location of institution and Year of graduation (don't bother with the month)
- Department or major (or dual majors) and academic honors (i.e., cum laude, etc.)
- Any professional certificates or accreditations or minors
Do not bother putting in:
- The titles of your theses (that might go in work experience but only if applicable)
- The name of your adviser
- Your GPA (if it is requested, often along with GRE/SAT scores; list it/them separately)
- Your high school
Some master's and Ph.D. scientists tell me they have been turned down for jobs because they were "overqualified." Some have suggested that, in some cases, you should remove Ph.D. from your resumé and pretend that you never went to graduate school. A Ph.D. or master's is a liability only if you are unable to show a prospective employer the valuable transferable skills you have acquired along the way. Your challenge is to make clear how your education and/or training are relevant to the job you are applying for.
If you decide that the degree is not something you want to highlight, there are ways to de-emphasize it. One way is to put your education section at the bottom of your resumé. That way employers are already impressed with your experience before they discover your advanced degree.
Experience/Work Experience: This is the place to list three to five experiences/jobs that highlight the set of skills that is most desirable to the employer. Most importantly, you should show how you made a difference. How do you do this? By citing specifics. Use quantifiable measures of what you did: Don't just say you TA'd a lab section; tell employers that you "taught introductory laboratory chemistry to 23 students." Whatever you do, do not assume that a simple job title will suffice; most employers don't really know what jobs in other fields are like in detail.
In describing these experiences, you should use action verbs in an active past or present tense. For example, rather than saying "was responsible for operation, maintenance, student training, and certification of users for x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, 1992-1995," say "maintained and operated x-ray fluorescence spectrometer; trained and certified 44 students over 3 years." By using action-rich verbs and numbers, you highlight your accomplishments in quantitative ways.
If you are just emerging from graduate school, your school research experience may be the first and biggest item, but it shouldn't be the only one. Teaching experience can look good as a separate category, especially if you had real teaching duties as opposed to grading the problem sets from your adviser's class. Summer work for companies or part-time work done while in school is great, too. If you did something particularly notable in college, that can go in, especially if your work experience is limited. For example, I was the technical director of a theater on campus. With each of these items, you should list the following first as a heading: Job title, Name of the organization, Location (city, state) of organization, and Time of employment (again, use only years--nobody cares about months)
This information should all be on one line, perhaps in bold.
Other sections: You may want to include a list of particular skills if you have not already mentioned them in your description above. Computer skills and foreign-language skills might go in this separate section. Depending on the job, you might want to mention particular software that you are familiar with. Because most of the "real world" uses C or C++, you should mention if you have some experience in these languages. FORTRAN is not widely used in the programming world these days.
What not to include: It used to be cool to add some personal information such as hobbies and the like. After all, maybe the reader is an avid hiker like you; dude, you've got it made. But these days, personal information is not only extraneous; it can seem unprofessional. Skip the little section at the bottom of the resumé that says you love to ski, hike, shoot large animals, and collect spores, molds, and fungus. Also verboten are the following: date of birth, your marital status, the number of children you have, and salary requirements.
By law, employers are not permitted to ask you your age, marital status, or the number of children you have. They can ask oblique questions such as "Do you have any special needs that would affect the performance of this job?" You may think you're doing them a favor by divulging this information, but in reality, it gives them the impression that you lack experience in the workplace.
References: References, if requested, should be listed on a separate page with their full name, job title, place of employment, relationship to you, full address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address. Also, don't bother putting the statement "References available on request." Some people tell me that references are being used less and less these days, although I have received calls about people who have listed me as a reference. In general, my impression is that employers are relying more on the written job materials and the interview to make a hiring decision and are using references as a final check. However, references that are known to the prospective employer can be extremely powerful. These people often do get called, and if they are prepared to sing your praises, you have a terrific advantage. Do remember to prepare your references ahead of time for the possibility of inquiries.
Final pointers, tips, and advice
Writing a bad resumé is easy. Writing a good resumé is hard. It will take time and many drafts. Because research scientists are often targeting several very different career paths simultaneously, it is important to have several different resumés that accent different skills. It also goes without saying that resumés should be immaculate-looking and flawless in spelling and punctuation. (Bad spelling is a real kiss of death, so, for God's sake, proofread it and give it to your friends to read.)
Editor's note: This article was updated on 5 April 2007 with the author's new book title and improved formatting.
Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor.
Peter Fiske is a Ph.D. scientist and co-founder of RAPT Industries, a technology company in Fremont, California. He is the author of Put Your Science to Work and co-author, with Dr. Geoff Davis, of a blog (at phds.org) on science policy, economics, and educational initiatives that affect science employment. Fiske lives with his wife and two daughters in Oakland, California, and is a frequent lecturer on the subject of career development for scientists.