When and How to Use a Resume Summary or Objective
A resume has two sections: An Objective, and a Summary. Here are some tips to help you determine what’s best for you.
1.) Use the first section, the “objective”, to make clear your abilities, qualities, and career achievements. Write in powerful, but honest, advertising-style language that makes the reader raise their eyebrows with anticipation and realize that you are someone special.
2.) The second section, called the “summary”, is where you back up what you put into the first section with evidence that you actually did what you say you did. This is where you list and describe the jobs you have held, your responsibilities, your accomplishments and your education.
Most resumes make the mistake of skipping the assertions and going straight to the evidence. The real “meat and potatoes” are in the assertions section. But don’t give away too much. The best thing to do this is to leave the reader wanting more.
A commonly used term in the sales profession for getting them interested without giving away way too much information is “Selling the Sizzle, not the Steak.” Leave them with a bit of mystery, so they want to inquire about you to see if you are a good fit for the position.
You start by naming your intended job. This may be in a separate objective section, or it may be folded into the summary. If you are making a change to a new field, or you’re young and not fully established in a career, start with a separate objective section.
Your resume should convey why you are the perfect candidate for a specific job, just as good advertising is directed toward a very specific target audience. Your resume should read as if you are absolutely clear about your career direction, even if you aren’t.
The first step is to establish a clear path for your future, if you haven’t already. It will be easier to meet and fulfill your goals if you have a clear target. Even if you are not exactly sure what you’re looking for, you cannot let your uncertainty show. A vague or broad objective will look like you don’t have a positive or confident career path.
Example: Suppose the owner of a French fine-dining restaurant is looking for a gourmet cook, so he puts an ad in a local newspaper seeking an experienced cook with French fine cuisine experience. About a week later, he gets 100 resumes for this position from applicants who have experience with a variety of culinary ethnic dishes. The employer has no way of knowing whether any of them are really interested and qualified in French cuisine.
Your objective section can make your resume stand out from the crowd in the eyes of a busy potential employer. The employer is interested in hiring you for what you can do for them, not for learning as you go. So, you must keep in mind that your message has to tell the employer that you have something of value to offer that other candidates don’t have, or that you can do better. Remember, you are writing advertising copy, not your life story.
“OBJECTIVE” – Talented gourmet French cook seeking a position with a well-respected fine dining establishment to prepare appetizers, main course and pastry dishes.
An on-target objective statement like this will spark their interest. In this example, this sentence conveys very important and powerful messages: “I am interested, and want the job you are offering. I am the candidate you are looking for.”
Here’s how to write your objective. The first thing you should do is decide on a specific job title for your objective. Ask yourself how to best demonstrate that you are the perfect candidate. Think specifically about two or three qualities, abilities, or achievements that would make a candidate stand out as truly exceptional for that specific job.
Be sure you get to the point with the objective. But remember that an objective may be broad and somewhat undefined in some cases, such as “a mid-level management position in the medical industry.”
Here’s an example of a more general format:
OBJECTIVE: A management/entry level/mid-level position in an organization where “x” skills and “y” skills would be appreciated (or, in an organization seeking “x” skills and “y” skills.)
If you are applying for several different positions, you should customize your objective statement for each one. You may even want to change the majority of your resume for each job you apply for. There is nothing wrong with having several different resumes, each with a different objective, each specifically crafted for a different type of position.
Here’s another view on using an objective on your resume.
It is sometimes appropriate to include your objective in your summary section. Instead of this, create a separate objective section. The point of including an objective statement is to illicit a specific response from the reader.
If you are making a career change or have a limited work history, you want the employer to immediately focus on where you are going, rather than where you have been. If you are looking for another job in your present field, it is more important to stress your qualities, achievements and abilities first.
A few examples of separate objective sections:
- Vice president of sales and marketing in an organization where a strong track record of expanding market share and advancing software technology is needed.
- Senior staff position with a bank that offers the opportunity to use my expertise in commercial real estate lending and strategic management.
- An entry-level position in the hospitality industry where a background in advertising and public relations would be needed.
- A position in teaching mathematics where the ability to demonstrate easy to follow examples and exercises are needed.
The summary consists of several statements that focus the reader’s attention on the most important qualities, achievements, and abilities you have to offer. Those qualities should be the most compelling demonstrations of why they should hire you instead of another candidate.
It gives you a brief opportunity to convey a few of your most stellar qualities. Here’s another perspective from another source on why a summary is better.
Gear every word in the summary to your targeted goal. First identify the qualities the employer will care about most. Then look at that list and identify why you are the perfect candidate to fill the need.
Pick out the stuff that best demonstrates why they should hire you and assemble it into your summary section. Your summary should showcase abilities instead of experience.
Here’s an effective outline for your summary:
- A short phrase describing your profession/occupation
- A statement of broad or specialized expertise
- Two or three additional statements related to the following,
- Breadth or depth of skills
- Unique mix of skills relevant to industry or occupation
- Range of work environments in which you have experience
- A special or well-documented accomplishment
- A history of awards, promotions, or exceptional performance commendations, and
- One or more professional or career-related personal characteristics
A few examples of summary sections:
- High energy, creative, and versatile real estate executive with nine years of experience in property acquisition, development, and construction, as well as the management of large apartment complexes. Especially skilled at building effective, productive working relationships with clients and staff. Excellent management, negotiation, and public relations skills.
- Over 12 years’ experience as an interior decorating consultant working in a high-profile role with retirement communities to design living spaces that cater to seniors and surrounding community events. Motivated self-starter with excellent analytical, organizational, and creative skills.
- Marketing management executive with nearly 12 years of experience in advertising, copywriting, media placement and selection, policy writing, and strategic market development. Innovative approach to creating marketing campaigns for corporate initiatives. Skilled negotiator with strong management, sales and marketing background.
- Health care professional experienced in management and program development. Expertise in emergency medical services. A talent for analyzing problems, developing procedures and finding innovative solutions. Skilled in working with different cultures, and within a foreign environment with limited resources.
In this final and important section of your resume, you should go into more detail about your experience. You are still writing to sell yourself to the reader. Basically, do exactly what you did in the summary section, but go into more detail.
In the summary, your focus was on the most special highlights. Now you tell the rest of the story. Let them know the results you produced, what happened as a result of your efforts, and at what skills you are especially experienced.
Remember to write as if you were advertising a product. Tell the reader what benefits they will get from buying the product: you. Don’t include details unless they serve this goal.
Sometimes the skills and accomplishments section is a separate section. In a chronological resume, it becomes the first few phrases of the descriptions of the various jobs you have held. When it is a separate section, it can have several possible titles, depending on your situation:
- Summary of Skills and Accomplishments
- Recent Accomplishments
- Areas of Expertise and Experience
- Professional Career Highlights
There are a variety of ways to structure the skills and accomplishments section. Put your skills and accomplishments in order of importance for your career goals, regardless of which style you use. If you have many skills, the last skill paragraph may be titled “Additional Skills.”
For other job related statistics and relevant data, you can visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.com