By Carson Kohler
If you still have an objective statement floating at the top of your resume, highlight it and then tap “delete.”
Gone are the days of writing resume objective statements, and thank goodness, too.
The outdated practice forced you to package your career goals into two or three lines.
Unable to drill down on specifics, you probably wound up with some vague description packed with fluffy buzzwords.
Truth be told, that objective statement was a waste of valuable resume real estate.
But what’s the difference between an objective and summary, you ask?
Resume objectives often look like this:
Objective: Highly-motivated marketing professional seeking an opportunity in a technology company, leveraging my new Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration to increase my marketing skills and experience.
Objective: Seeking a new position with a successful organization that will enable me to grow professionally in the field of marketing.
Notice the focus on the benefit to the job seeker (which is not likely to impress the employer).
An objective focuses on your professional needs and your career goals. A summary, on the other hand, addresses a company’s needs and how you can fulfill them, highlighting the skills you bring to the table.
Although a summary will only run two to three lines, it’s important to pack it with a punch.
This, after all, will be one of the first parts of your resume an employer reads and will set the tone for the rest of your document.
Everyone’s resume summary will look different, but use these six tips to help your resume stand out from the crowd:
It might sound silly, but a lot of job applicants will scan a job listing, mentally check off several of the requirements, and then submit their resume.
But here’s the thing:
Your resume will stand out even more when you customize it to the job listing and the hiring company.
Those two to three lines of your resume summary are the perfect place to get specific about the job, the company, and what you bring to the table -- without rewriting your resume each time.
It’s important to remember the resume summary is NOT all about you.
Sure, it should highlight your experience and skills, but it should do so through the lens of the desired position.
To get yourself thinking in the right direction, ask yourself these questions:
By answering these questions, you will begin to think about your qualifications -- but in a way that relates to the job for which you are applying.
Yes, your resume summary is the perfect opportunity to offer a nice overview of what you can bring to a job, but it is also a great place to drill into a few specifics.
For example, if a job requires you to travel three months of the year and that’s no problem for you, call it out in your summary.
This will immediately help you stand out from other applicants because you have said outright that you are willing to be on the road -- which might not be the case for others.
The idea is to set yourself apart from the pack, so if you can find something in the job listing that you think other applicants might not be able to fulfill -- whether it’s a skill, a language, an advanced degree or certification, or a unique experience -- don’t hesitate to highlight it in your summary.
Which sounds more impressive to you?
“Over 12 years of experience writing about personal finance for multiple publications”
“Over 12 years of personal finance writing experience with bylines in 35 publications.”
Although you should quantify your experiences throughout your resume, it is particularly important to highlight these tangible numbers in your summary. That way, you can hit the reader with impact right off the bat -- rather than try to showcase your experience with vague adjectives.
Once you have drafted your resume summary, take a step back and consider what should be cut. It is important to be as concise as possible. Remember, this is valuable real estate at the top of your resume.
The generally accepted resume-writing practice is to refrain from referring to yourself by your name or personal pronouns such as “I,” “me,” “she,” or “he.”
Instead, write your resume in what is known as the absent first person, where all pronouns are dropped from the sentences, freeing up valuable resume real estate.
Also, look for empty and overused words that lack any true meaning. These might include “self-starter,” “motivated,” or “hardworking.” Instead, you should be showing how you’re all those things and more.
Once you think you’re done cutting, see if you can’t squeeze a few more words out. You don’t want your summary to be a skeleton of nouns and verbs, but make sure each word packs a punch.
See these examples of Summaries that quickly show employers why this resume is from someone highly qualified for the job they have applied for --
ENTRY-LEVEL FINANCIAL ANALYST
Recent graduate of a top-tier university with a bachelor’s degree in finance and two years’ worth of internships and co-ops developing and analyzing cost models, performing quality assurance reviews, and learning how to build process solutions to improve forecast accuracy and compliance for internal and external clients in the defense and cybersecurity industry.
Healthcare Human Resources Executive
Respected human resources professional with more than 15 years’ experience leading operations, projects, and staff in healthcare organizations. Proven track record in guiding sizeable, cross-functional teams in the design, redesign, and launch of cutting-edge business solutions, driving greater efficiencies, engagement, and revenues. Expert presenter, negotiator, and businessperson; able to forge solid relationships with strategic partners and build consensus across multiple organizational levels.
ENTERPRISE SALES REPRESENTATIVE
Solution-based IT recruiter with 5 years’ experience quickly building trust, overcoming objections, and filling positions for internal clients in record time. Experienced at training talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers on various Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) recruiting software platforms via product demos. Capable of securing new business through aggressive sales and lead cultivation with corporate talent acquisition departments, recruitment agencies, and staffing firms, while overseeing the complete sales lifecycle.
Dynamic project leader with more than 10 years of experience driving strategic goals and securing incredible savings across departments. Capable of identifying requirements, preparing and maintaining timelines, and determining appropriate schedules for timely project completion. Demonstrated excellence liaising with executive leadership and advising on escalated issues to develop appropriate resolutions. Adept communicator with an ability to collaborate with all levels of management; comprehensive understanding of progress initiatives and cost estimate development.
A resume summary is the perfect opportunity to tailor your resume to each job you apply for. It should highlight your experiences through the lens of the job listing and attract the attention of the hiring manager. Ask yourself: What unique skills and experiences can I bring to the table? Get specific, and don’t forget to cut the fluff! It is time to leave those empty buzzwords behind. Good luck!
Carson Kohler is a full-time writer at The Penny Hoarder, where she has covered career, job-search, and personal-finance topics for the past three years. She earned her master's in writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia and her bachelor's in English at Clemson University. Since becoming a regular contributor to TopResume, the leading resume-writing service in the world, in 2018, Carson has written dozens of articles on every aspect of the job-search and resume-writing process. Connect with Carson on Twitter and LinkedIn.