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Resume-Writing Essentials: Five Most Powerful Career Summaries

A woman is talking to another woman in an office.

​Old-school resumes used to start with a career objective to alert the reader to the type of position the job seeker was targeting. Over the past 10 years, objectives have been replaced with the much more powerful career summary section, which allows job seekers to highlight their most notable skills, qualifications, achievements, credentials and other distinguishing information as it relates to and supports their current objective. Instead of stating "that is what I want" (as in an objective), job seekers can tell readers, "This is the value and expertise I bring to your organization."

The career summary also allows you to:

  • Communicate your brand.
  • Position yourself for the types of jobs you will be pursuing now.
  • Integrate essential keywords.
  • Set yourself ahead of the competition.

 Note that the career summary section can have many names, including executive summary, professional summary, professional qualifications, career profile, executive profile and more. Or, it can have no heading at all as you'll see in some of the examples below where just a headline communicates who the job seeker is.

There are an unlimited number of ways to write, format and design career sumary sections. Your decision will be based on how the rest of your resume is structured, so that you select a career summary that both blends with and complements everything else. Here are five of the most common styles:

  • Headline
  • Paragraph
  • Career Achievements
  • Credentials
  • Combination

Headline Format


Recruitment & Staffing | HRIS Technology | Succession Planning

Training & Development | Employee Relations | Benefits & Compensation


  • Immediately communicates who the job seeker is with a crisp, hard-hitting, to-the-point introduction.
  • Puts essential information front and center in an attention-grabbing format.
  • Front-loads keywords, which are critically important for both human readers and electronic resume scanning systems. 

Paragraph Format


Human Resources Professional with 10+ years' experience building and leading best-in-class HR organizations for major corporations in the technology industry--Apple, Intel and Microsoft. Expertise includes technical staff and management recruitment, onboarding, training and development, employee relations, performance standards and evaluation metrics, and HRIS technology. Accustomed to working with diverse multinational teams throughout North America, Europe and Asia to leverage human capital to meet challenging business needs. SHRM-SCP, MBA-HR.


  • Presents a clear and concise (three-five lines) overview of the most important information, carefully selected to position each job seeker for specific job targets.
  • Provides a good framework for constructing a "tell-me-about-yourself" introduction (e.g., who you are, length of career, notable employers, top qualifications, distinguishing degrees and credentials).
  • Written to engage readers with keywords and qualifications closely aligned to their specific hiring needs.

Career Achievements Format 


  • Achieved 126 percent of staffing goals for company headquarters at less than 50 percent of projected cost.
  • Designed and launched 27 new training programs for hourly teams at 1,250 locations nationwide.
  • Eliminated training gaps in hazmat handling and emergency response, reducing safety incidents 214 percent.
  • Introduced team initiatives that identified performance opportunities and improved productivity 9 percent.



  • Leads with a headline for instant recognition as to the job seeker's expertise.
  • Prominently positions a job seeker's most notable achievements as the cornerstone of the resume.
  • Effectively integrates metrics and other measurable information to boldly communicate success.

Credentials Format 


Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

22-Year Career – Bayer, J&J, Pfizer, Merck 

Executive MBA – Harvard University | BS in Business – Duke University

On-Air Guest & HR Contributor – CNBC, ABC News, CBS Sunday Morning

Featured HR ContributorTime Magazine, Forbes, HR Magazine 



  • Introduces a job seeker's three to five top achievements right away for maximum impact.
  • Is unique and distinguishing and is formatted in an easy-to-write presentation style.
  • Immediately positions the job seeker ahead of the competition with impressive qualifications.

Combination Format

 Recruitment & Staffing Professional

Multinational Companies · Turnarounds · Emerging Growth Enterprises

15-year career leading recruitment, staffing and workforce management programs that have positively impacted performance, productivity and profitability. Stanford MBA degree.

  • IBM: Ramp-up staffing for new international ventures in Europe and Asia.
  • GE: Recruitment of new executive leadership team for global acquisition.
  • ILI: Redesign of nationwide staffing models to support aggressive turnaround.
  • Intel: Creation of technical recruiting programs for fast-track growth.
Corporate and nonprofit Board member. Published author. Accomplished speaker.
  • Technical Recruitment
  • Executive Recruitment
  • Global Talent Sourcing
  • Future Workforce Planning
  • Post-Merger Employee Integration



  • An effective writing strategy that integrates key components of other formats to create a full-picture career summary.
  • Outstanding use of prime resume real estate to showcase headlines, notable achievements, credibility-boosting professional activities and all-important keywords.
  • Visually distinct and attention-getting format.

After you review these five career summary styles, decide what works best for you and your career. Then use that style as a guideline for writing your own career summary so that you shine and attract employers.

Remember, resume writing is marketing. You're the product and the resume is the marketing communication, sales sheet, advertisement and promotional message. What can you write in your career summary that will capture readers' interest, demonstrate that you have the requisite qualifications for each targeted job, and help you land an interview? Focus on those items and you'll find that it's easier to sell yourself to prospective employers.

More important, it's easy for employers to understand your value, experience and qualifications. If you can accomplish that, then you've done a great job with your resume and should begin to instantly see the results--more responses, better outreach, more interviews and, ultimately, the perfect offer.

Wendy Enelow has written more than 20 books on resumes, cover letters, keywords and career management, including the recently released MODERNIZE YOUR RESUME: Get Noticed … Get Hired (Emerald Career Publishing, 2016) and MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed … Get Hired (Emerald Career Publishing, 2016).

Have a question for Wendy about writing resumes, e-notes, LinkedIn profiles and other career communications? Please feel free to e-mail your queries to


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