An Easy Formula To Help You Craft The Perfect Resume Summary or Profile

Whether you call it a “profile” or a “summary” (the terms are synonymous), this section at the top of your resume where you briefly highlight your skills, experiences, and accomplishments, can make good use of prime real estate. Because people typically read from top to bottom, left to right, the space directly under your name and contact information is an area employers are pay attention to.

But how do you craft a standout summary?

To create a summary, we love this formula in the book Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service by Heather Krasna, a career coach and expert:

[Adjective] [noun] with [number] years of experience in [special skill], a proven ability to [relevant, measurable skills], and a strong background in [relevant contexts in which you have worked] seeks a position as [relevant objective].

An example from the book that illustrates the formula in use:

Highly motivated nonprofit professional with three years of experience in program management, service delivery, and fundraising; a proven ability to lead groups of up to 50 volunteers, organize events with up to 500 participants, effectively raise over $100,000 in grants yearly,and streamline processes to maximize efficiency; and a strong background in youth services programs with underserved populations seeks a position as a leader in a human services nonprofit.

You can also turn this into a bulleted list. For example,

  • Highly motivated nonprofit professional with three years of experience in program management, service delivery, and fundraising.
  • Proven ability to lead groups of up to 50 volunteers, organize events with up to 500 participants.
  • Effectively raise over $100,000 in grants yearly and streamline processes to maximize efficiency.
  • Strong background in youth services programs with underserved populations seeks a position as a leader in a human services nonprofit.

Here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind when you craft your summary:

  • Keep your summary brief. 6 lines or less should be sufficient.
  • Tailor your summary to the job by highlighting transferable skills and relevant accomplishments.
  • Aim to use words from the job description, provided they accurately describe what you want to portray about yourself in your summary.
  • Summaries can be in paragraph format or in a bulleted list.
  • The way you use a summary can vary by industry or job function. For example, in Heather’s book, she notes that job seekers who have technical experience may just want to have a bulleted list of software and hardware they are familiar with, whereas those in more creative fields might use lively adjectives that showcase their personalities.

When should you use a summary?

In short, it depends. Heather suggests using it to highlight relevant experiences and skills that might end up towards the end of the resume if listed chronologically. Lily Zhang at the Muse suggests it’s great for seasoned professionals or people with varied work experiences who need a way to tie all of their experiences together. Amanda Augustine, career expert at TheLadders, thinks it’s an elevator pitch and useful for many professionals. If your experience is straightforward and you’re applying for similar work, consider jumping straight to your work experience and including relevant accomplishments with each job, instead of crafting a profile.

We’d love to hear from you! Are you new to using a resume summary or profile? What differences have you noticed in response from employers after you started to use a summary? Share with the Idealist Careers community in the comments section below!

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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