How to write a career summary in your resume

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Do you want to know how to write a career summary in your resume so you can grab a recruiter’s attention?

Hiring managers want to quickly skim over applications to find the most suitable candidate so it’s important yours stands out.

Did you know recruiters usually only cast their gaze on a CV for about six seconds?

Scary when you think about all the time and effort you put into some applications!

When you realise just how small the window of opportunity is, it makes sense to maximise your CV appeal.

What is a career summary?

A career summary is also known as a professional summary or qualifications summary.

It is like a billboard designed to catch the attention of the hiring manager of a specific role. It should be short, punchy and to the point.

billboard saying "you looked" representing how a career summary is like a billboard

As the name says, it is a summary of your key skills and experience relating to the job you are applying for.

Each career summary should be crafted for the role you want to clearly show how you are the most suitable candidate.

Imagine the job is a puzzle with a missing piece; show the recruiter that you are the missing puzzle piece they need.

The good thing about including a career summary on your resume is that not everyone can be bothered.

Your CV will immediately stand out just by showing you’ve put in more effort than the others.

image of lady saying "you had me at your career summary"
…said every recruiter ever.

What a career summary isn’t

A career summary is not the same as a resume summary. A resume summary is a general summary of your CV content.

While a resume summary is still good, it’s not as role specific as a career summary.

A career summary is also not a resume objective, because you don’t discuss what your goals for employment are. These aren’t as popular because they can come across as fluffy and vague.

How to write a career summary

Let’s break down the nuts and bolts of how to write a career summary in your resume.

Once you find a job you want, use the following steps to craft a stellar summary on your CV.

Know your role

Research the role before drafting the summary so your content meets the criteria of the position as best as possible.

Man and woman in a car talking about a job application.
Man says to woman, "How do your skills match that job you're applying for?"
Woman says, "I dunno. I was just going to ad lib and hope for the best."
Man turns to woman with look of shock.
This is not recommended.

A recruiter can see you are truly interested in getting that job when you match the content of your career summary to the role requirements.

Position, position, position!

Your career summary should be at the top of your resume like A-grade prime real estate.

You can think of it like a high impact billboard; you are the product and the recruiter is the buyer.

Serve up the entrée!

When you write a career summary in your resume, the header line is the entrée to the main course of the body . It is where you describe yourself professionally and also include your years of experience.

Here’s an example for a team leader in a call centre applying for a team leader role in customer service:

Qualified customer service professional and people leader, with over 8 years’ experience in high volume contact centre

This opening line tells the reader you have developed yourself with a certification, quantifies your years of experience, and shows you have worked in a busy call centre environment.

Reading between the lines, this opening line also shows you have:

  • multi-tasking skills;
  • critical social skills;
  • conflict resolution skills; and
  • a certain level of maturity required to lead and mentor others.
man saying "this is the most delicious intro line I have ever seen" (in a career summary)

Now it’s time to WOW!

You’ve enticed your reader in with a catchy opening line, now to really WOW them with your skills!

When you write the body of your career summary, it should be 3 to 4 bullet points of your most relevant skills and experience from your resume. It should directly link to the job vacancy, so this is why understanding the role pays dividends.

Bullet points display information neatly, allowing the reader to quickly read your content.

Make sure you quantify your achievements whenever you can because it gives credibility to your statements.

Use relevant keywords to highlight how you are the most suitable candidate, and hook the recruiter into reading your whole resume.

Here’s an example of how you might write the body, using the previous example of a team leader in a call centre applying for a team leader role in customer service:

Qualified customer service professional and people leader, with over 8 years’ experience in high volume contact centre

  • Leading and mentoring a team of 14 staff on 24 / 7 rosters, across 2 sites since 2017
  • Certificate IV in Leadership and Management through ABC College in 2016
  • Implemented process improvements resulting in a 50% increase in productivity and 25% reduction in caller wait times over a 4 month period
  • Implemented flexible work arrangements resulting in 30% reduction in staff absenteeism over a 6 month period

This example shows the applicant works well under pressure, is invested in creating the type of work environment that benefits both the business and the staff, and can deliver results over a particular time frame.

image of a happy staff member holding a laptop and a cup of coffee

Small effort, big rewards

When you write a career summary in your resume, that small amount of effort will help your application stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Remember, hiring managers only spend an average of six seconds perusing a resume, so make sure your career summary gives them the best six seconds of their recruiting life.

images: iStock, imgflip

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