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When to Include a Summary in a Resume

If you begin your resume with a summary instead of an objective, you can still target the resume's summary to specific job positions with the desired mix of strengths, skills, accomplishments, and other background elements. A summary can range from a sentence or two to about half a page.

A summary is known by many names. Among the most popular are skills summary, highlights summary, asset statement, power summary, career highlights, career summary, career profile, career focus, summary of qualifications, and accomplishments profile.

Use a summary in your resume under these conditions:

  • You’re a person with widely applicable skills. Recruiters especially like a skills summary atop a reverse chronological resume because it lets them creatively consider you for jobs that you may not know exist.

  • You’re in a career field with pathways to multiple occupations or industries (an administrative assistant, for example).

  • You know that your resume is headed to an e-database. Because you want to be considered for multiple related positions — which may have the same or similar requirements — you try to design your summary broadly enough to accomplish this goal without sounding as though you’re a jack-of-all-trades.

Advantages of a summary

Recruiters believe that what you’re prepared to do next should be pretty evident from what you’ve already done. Another argument is premised on psychology: Employers aren’t known for being overly concerned with what you want from them until they’re sure of what you can do for them.

Summaries offer an easy way to identify the qualifications you have that match a particular job’s requirements. Or identify qualifications that position you for related positions unknown to you in a given career field.

Disadvantages of a summary

A summary doesn’t explicitly say what you want and why the employer would want you. The summary resume can backfire if it claims everything from soup to nuts yet misses the targets identified by employers for specific positions.

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