Summary Section
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Scott Vedder, a Fortune 100 recruiter and author, has referred to the résumé summary as the “movie trailer” of a résumé: “It’s where you highlight upfront the most important things about you” (see "5 Critical Parts of a Resume" by Daniel Bortz on Placed in one of the most looked at sections of your résumé, a summary is generally no more than a few sentences in length. The summary is meant to highlight your best skills as well as a concrete example or two of what you have accomplished in your professional career thus far. Keep in mind, though, that a good summary is not labeled “Summary” on a résumé but is rather a short summary of your credentials or work experience located just beneath your headline.

The primary objective of the 3–4 sentence summary underneath a well-constructed headline is to further highlight concrete skills and experience by tying it to focused accomplishments. Returning to the example of the food service shift manager applying to the student support position at BYU-Pathway Worldwide, an applicant with this kind of background wanting that type of job might include a summary that says the following:

I am a detail-oriented manager with a proven ability to communicate and improve company policies. I have led key initiatives that reduced employee misconduct by 32% and contributed to entry-level employee retention. I was recognized as an empathetic listener that works well in collaborative and high stress environments.

Notice the usage of keywords and phrases drawn directly from the job posting such as “detail oriented,” “communicate,” “collaborative,” and adherence to “policy.” As opposed to a general description of what this applicant does day to day on the job, this summary details what this applicant has accomplished and how it directly correlates to what they would be doing within the employer’s company.

By customizing the summary section of your résumé in this way—looking for applicable keywords and phrases as well as concrete experiences that correspond to what the potential employer is looking for—your résumé is sure to help you stand out as a strong contender for an interview.

Since summaries are key to getting a recruiter to notice you and because they can be difficult to write, let’s look at a couple more examples. The next two examples highlight differences between an entry-level applicant and one with more experience. We’ll continue to use Juan (the chef or aspiring chef) as our example.

His entry-level summary below was used when he was applying to be a prep cook. Look for ways that Juan used his summary to get noticed and help resolve concerns about his inexperience.

Prep Cook Example

I love cooking! Ever since I was young, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with food and flavors and watching every food show on TV. But my real love of cooking traces back to my abuela, who not only taught me how to cook but how her recipes are connected to our Mexican heritage. I’ve admired Diego’s Mexican Kitchen’s for your similar approach to food and culture and want to continue the training my abuela started with your fine chefs.

What stood out to you in this summary? Did you notice how Juan resolved concerns that he is inexperienced by referring to his love of food and experiences with his grandmother? Did you catch that he used the restaurant's name and connected their values to his and his willingness to learn? If you were hiring for a prep cook, do you think Juan’s headline and summary would get him an interview?

Now let’s look at the summary Juan used when he had enough experience to apply to be a head chef.

Head Chef Example

My love of food has not only shaped my career but helped me discover my passion for helping people connect with each other and the Mexican culture. I have been the head chef at Diego’s Mexican Kitchen for five years. During that time, the restaurant has received numerous awards and recognition including the Vanegas Stars’ Best Mexican Restaurant in 2018. I’m now ready to take my skills and love of cooking to the next level.

What stood out to you in this summary? Did you notice how Juan’s passion for food and people is still coming through? He did add, however, things that would best appeal to someone looking to hire a head chef including his past experience and accomplishments. He also indicated why he’s looking for a new job while simultaneously complimenting the hiring manager's restaurant by saying he’s ready to take his skills to the next level. Perhaps a simple improvement he could have made was including the name of the restaurant that he was applying to in his summary.

Ponder and Record

  • What keywords and phrases should you prioritize and include within the summary section of your résumé?
  • What concrete experiences or statistics could you share to support the skills you are wanting to highlight?

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