Crafting A Stellar Career Summary For Your Resume

Are you a career changer? Or, are you satisfied with your stable career but interested in updating your resume? Are you a professional who has tried different things but are still searching for the kind of work that best suits you? Whatever your career situation, what your resume most needs is a stellar career summary.

What difference can a career summary make for you? Here are 4 reasons why you need one in your resume:

1.) A career summary communicates more about you and does so more powerfully than an objective statement.

2.) Employers love career summaries and use them to preview your resume. If they like your summary, they’re more likely to read your whole resume.

3.) A summary does a superlative job of masking weaknesses in your work history (too much experience, too little, too many different kinds of jobs, gaps in employment, ineffectual titles, and everything else you can think of)

4.) A career summary tells the employer what you most want them to know, up front. It therefore sells you well and sets you up to be asked the kinds of interview questions you really want to be asked.

All right, so a career summary is a good thing. What does it look like? A summary can be a short paragraph of 2-4 sentences or a brief phrase or sentence introducing a series of 4-8 bullets, depending on the communications style you prefer. It can be preceded by a job title or list of specialty areas that you wish to highlight. The summary always goes at the top of the resume immediately following your name and contact information.

Generally a good career summary will profile some mixture of the following kinds of critical details:

  • A brief overview of the breadth and scope of your experience
  • Academic credentials, if relevant
  • 3-5 skillsets that set you apart from the competition
  • 3-5 personality characteristics that describe the workplace you
  • Hints about your most important work-related values.

Okay, so all that sounds good, but what does a career summary look like? Here are two different versions of a summary that you can play with and make your own:

Career and Workforce Development Administrator

Coaching … Training & Development … Program Design

Seasoned, articulate and visionary professional with over 19 years’ experience in all facets of career and workforce development in both corporate and social service settings. Possess outstanding verbal, written and interpersonal communications skills and an inherent ability to build effective and cohesive teams. Deeply value creativity and lifelong learning.

Seasoned, articulate and visionary professional with over 19 years’ proven experience in:

  • Career Development
  • Workforce Development
  • Corporate Consulting
  • Social Service Delivery
  • Team Building
  • Program Design
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Communications

The key is to begin by brainstorming solid content. Choose your descriptive language carefully. Make every word count. Create content first; write a draft second. Then share your draft with others you trust before finalizing it for your resume.

10 Resume Misconceptions Job Seekers Encounter Throughout Their Careers

Over the years I have had clients approach me with misconceptions about résumé writing, cover letters and other written information they have submitted for their next career move. As the world of work constantly changes with technology, there are still some areas of writing résumé, posting and etiquette that still hold true and probably will indefinitely.

I was told that my résumé can only be one page

Remember that the résumé is your “Ad” to the employer. Think… when you read a newspaper or online ads are they long or short ads. “You want to catch ’em quick!” I am not saying or agreeing that all résumés need to be one page, but your summary should be compelling enough to entice the reviewer to contact you and to invite you for a phone screen or interview.

If you are networking at a job fair, a one page résumé is good enough. Once you speak to the representatives at the job fair, you leave the impression in hopes for the next step. You can prepare an in-depth résumé for the hiring manager or next level invitation 2-page résumé with highlighted skills, titles, and keywords.

However, there are certain types of résumés that are will be four to five pages long due to the content they contain by request of the employer. One type that come to mind is the federal government résumé. They have an online format to complete a résumé, but also allow you to upload a résumé. For more information on what is required, please go to USAJOBS.

Having bad credit will bar me from most good jobs

Careful here… I have heard this to be true for many jobs but NOT always. Yet still… you should still be aware of you stand with your credit. Now while you are looking for a job, your credit rating is probably the last thing on your mind while looking for a new job. Maybe you’re taking a second or a third look at your résumé and cover letter, or you are working with career coaches, friends or family review it. As of this writing, we are pretty much through with the financial crisis but it has become practice that companies will consider it a standard operating procedure for many companies to do a credit check, along with checking out your work and education references, or even doing a drug test or checking to see if you have a criminal history. This is especially common with large Fortune 500 companies, financial companies (banks, security companies, federal government (US), etc.)

I repeat, I recommend that you keep an eye on your credit to see where you stand. A rule of thumb is to keep your score at 720 and above to be considered to have good credit. Credit Karma is a site that allows you to review you pull your report and score at any time. Use this site not only while you are job seeking, but to keep wraps on your status with creditors and potential identity theft issues. Review this article at for more information.

Recruiters or the hiring managers will call me; I don’t need to follow-up

Really… following up is the part of the process to applying for a job. Employers usually list an opening and closing date for jobs. It is appropriate to follow-up one to two weeks after the closing date of the job announcement. If the job announcement states “NO CALLS ACCEPTED” or “NO FAXES ACCEPTED” then follow instructions, they will contact you if you meet the qualifications they state they are looking for.

I have to list my salary requirements on my résumé

No, you do not need to list the salary requirements on the résumé but if asked, please be honest. I coach my clients to provide a range when asked by the employer. Or, if my clients have already researched the position of choice and I will guide them to address it in a short narrative format that provides leverage when negotiating salary at the interviewing table.

I’ll add ‘References available upon request,’ hobbies, my age, and marital status to my résumé

No. It is understood that you have references. When asked to provide them, determine how many are necessary, and choose which references will best represent you for this particular position. Contact your references so they will expect a call or email from this company, and discuss the job with them so that they can represent you in the best possible light. Please, please, please do not add your age, hobbies and marital status to your résumé. This is not needed and can be considered as discrimination.

Cover letters are a waste of time and recruiters or hiring managers do not read them.

This is not entirely true. Cover Letters are used as an introduction and should accompany your résumé, whether e-mailed, posted on a job site, mailed, or hand delivered to an employer. Do not think that recruiters or hiring managers do not read them, because THEY DO! When writing your cover letter make it a powerful introduction that makes them want more. A strong fact and figure to support your credentials in the cover letter can support your case to getting an interview which is one step closer to getting that job. There are a couple of exceptions where cover letters may not be needed or necessary. They are at job fairs or when you are introduced to someone in person. But all in all make sure all of your career documents stand out and show out.

I can just post my résumé to a major job board and wait for the interviews to come to me

BE CAUTIOUS with this! I have never heard of jobs just coming to a candidate unless you have a rare skill or trade that hard to find in the WORLD. Just because you post to a job board does not mean you do not have to do the due diligence of following up with the employer to see where you stand. Continue to abide by the instructions that are posted on the job board and the announcement posted but FOLLOW UP.

I applied for the perfect position that was written just for me-the phone should be “ringing off the hook”

You would not believe how many times I have heard this one or have experienced this myself. But as just the same, there are others that are saying the same thing. Not long ago, there was a Program Manager position that client knew it was perfectly written for him. He tailored the résumé for the position, submitted the appropriate documentation expected a call and did not hear a word. Why? Many recruiters are probably receiving a mass amount of résumés and they do not have the time to call everyone back. This is true for small and large companies. In small companies many recruiters are serving in roles as HR professionals and administrative roles and do not have time to call. And for large companies, it could be sheer volume of résumés coming in that your phone may not be “ringing off the hook”.

I always use a picture with my résumé

No, break the habit please. I have seen and heard recruiters and hiring managers discard résumés due to this. In many countries it is illegal to discriminate in hiring based on the race or gender of an applicant, so many employers would actually rather you didn’t include your picture as it can lead to allegations of impropriety. The only example of this is if you are applying for a performing arts position (dancer, actor, model, etc.) then it will be appropriate to include a picture.

I want my ‘formatted résumé’ to be seen by employers on the Internet… so I’ll place it in their text blocks, anyway.

You should follow the rules that they have set for their online application program. No it is not necessarily a trick or scheme from the employer. I have seen where applicants neglected their direction and not gotten a phone interview or invited to the interview because the company could not read or understand the information submitted to them. Applying for a job takes work so take the time to complete the boxes and fill in the information they require. Many times they will have a place for you to upload your ‘formatted résumé’ into their system.