Resume Summary: How to Sell Yourself in 3 Seconds

resume summaryIf you haven’t written a resume in 15+ years, the likelihood is that yours begins with a big, fat objective. Unfortunately, that’s not the most effective thing to share to draw an employer’s attention. Ditch the objective and create an eye-catching resume summary instead.

Objectives Are All About You

Most of the time, objectives start with a canned phrase: “To obtain a position in which I can….” Unfortunately, an objective is all about you. And your resume is about the value you can provide.

What’s worse is that the objectives that start this way typically say a whole lot of nothing, such as: “To obtain a position in which I can be a benefit to a company while improving my career.” Huh? What do you want to be, then? There’s no way to tell with an open-ended objective like that.

While we used to include objectives in the resumes of the ‘90s, when employers had time to actually read every resume they received, these cumbersome statements fell out of vogue shortly thereafter.

Lead into Your Resume with a Headline

Instead of a say-nothing objective, a better choice is to lead into your resume with a headline, or title. If you think of your resume as a newspaper, you want the really eye-catching content to be “above the fold.” That means you lead with a headline, follow that with a quick summary of the article, and follow with the article in its entirety.

For generations, people bought papers based on their headlines. And that same marketing approach continues today in websites, brochures, and resumes.

Your headline is what you’re seeking, so it should be specific and brief. Think job titles: Account Executive, Chief Financial Officer, Marketing Analyst.

Hit a Home Run with Your Resume Summary

If you have an old-school resume objective, it’s possible that you also have a Highlights of Qualifications section. That’s how it used to go (again, back in the ‘90s), and job seekers would typically share a bulleted list of qualifications, such as “10 years of progressive experience in data analysis and management.” While it’s technically a resume summary, this approach did nothing to market the individual.

When you write your 21st-century resume summary, be sure that you are answering the question, “Why should I hire you?” The answer usually fits into about 3–4 lines and is high in value. One from a recent resume reads like this:

Visionary financial leader with a strategic approach to long-term planning and problem solving who collaborates with internal and external decision-makers to ensure compliance and success. Passionate mentor and coach with a focus on providing opportunities for employees to grow and enhance their abilities while advancing their careers.

Notice there are no personal pronouns (I, me, my) in the summary. Save those for the cover letter.

Ink & Quill Communications offers free resume reviews. Email yours to to see how you’ve done.