resume writing

If you’re going to write your résumé DIY style, know this: You have about 6 seconds to grab the recruiter’s attention before it ends up in the trash pile.

Six seconds. That’s the average time hiring managers and recruiters spend looking at a résumé. That’s all you get.

Needless to say, what you write in the first 1/3 of that paper better be potent. Gone are the days of the cliché ‘Objective Statement’ on a résumé, and good riddance!

Honestly, if your résumé opens with:

“Results-oriented so-and-so seeking a position with blah blah company where I can leverage my experience in blah blah…” 

…ditch it fast!

Think about it. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, you do your research to find the best bang for your buck. You read the specs. You want to know:

  • Does this do what I need it to do?
  • How well does it compare to other laptops or smartphones in its class?

Do you think a statement like this will answer those questions?

 “Results-oriented smartphone seeking an owner who wants a qualified device that can leverage its capabilities to give the user a great experience.”

Silly, right? You’re about to spend a good chunk of your money on something that is promising to be a great phone but gives you next to nothing to show you how or why it’s the best choice. If you want to know that, you should be reading something like this:

“Technologically advanced smartphone with 256GB internal storage, ultra-fast 3GB processor, and a 5.5” HD display that gives the user a seamless and smooth experience. The 2400mah battery will last throughout the workday without needing a charge, and packed with features like the most reliable operating system and fingerprint security.”

Ok, so people and smartphones are hardly the same –but the point is, the second summary tells you what the phone delivers, and how. The first is a vague-sounding canned answer and doesn’t stand out much at all.

So, which option would you feel better about laying down your $850?

Here’s the reality: Recruiters and hiring managers want the same thing on a résumé. They want to know what you can deliver, with proof, not some cloudy self-description like the all too familiar “Objective Statement” of yesteryear.

Not only does an effective summary (aka qualifications summary, profile, etc…) tell the recruiter what you can deliver, it also shows whether she/he wants to continue reading.

And one more thing: The summary or profile should be different for every single job you apply. The reason is, to sell your professional profile to a recruiter, you must show them that you are EXACTLY the person they need. You can’t do that using a résumé with the same summary for every job prospect.

How do you write an ass-kicking summary then? I’m glad you asked! Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of it.

You’ll need Microsoft Word (or whichever document creator you use) and your web browser.

Open a blank Word document and create a table with two columns and two headers above each column. You can alternately use this one I created for FREE.

You’ll also need to open a web browser and find a job posting or job description for which you might apply. You can look on job boards like, Careerbuilder, or Monster.

Wherever you’re looking, most of these postings have a section called “Responsibilities,” or “Position Duties,” or like our example, “Applicants must.” This is what you need to be able to deliver on to be successful in this role.

Step 1:

Open a blank document in Word (or whatever document creator you use). You’re going to highlight that section of the job posting and copy it to your clipboard, like so:

write a resume summary

Then paste it into your blank document.

Step 2:

Read through the job requirements and identify some keywords and phrases that are most critical to that role. Use the highlighter in your word processor to highlight those keywords and phrases, like this:

how to write a resume summary

Step 3:

Once you’ve identified the most relevant keywords, head back to your worksheet. On the left column of the worksheet, under the heading “Job Duties/Requirements” is where you will copy and paste the highlighted keywords and phrases you identified in the job posting. 

how to write a resume summary

Step 4:

In the right column of the worksheet, determine the matching skills you have. Write them in the form of things you have done, whether it was in a previous job role, volunteer work, education, or anywhere else, that shows the hiring manager exactly what you know and have accomplished that matches up to this company’s job role.

how to write a resume summary

(Hint: This is where a career management worksheet would be an invaluable tool)

Notice in the example, even if you don’t have something in your résumé to match ALL the duties, if you can hit most of them with solid examples, you can still put together a summary that gets noticed.

Step 5:

Yes, the hardest step. Don’t worry, the more you do this step, the easier it gets.

To start crafting your summary, use the table to string a few lines of text together that describe your skills that match the job description. Ideally, this should be 3-4 lines of text. You don’t want to give a full block of text to read here. You also don’t want to speak in the first person here (I am this or that…). You’re going to write this like you’re writing a product description –because you are selling yourself to the hiring manager. You’ll talk about your best features, abilities, (without saying the word “abilities” please!) and background experience as if you are recommending an excellent smartphone in an advertisement.

Remember: This is your elevator pitch. You have 6 seconds to convince the recruiter to keep reading.

Another handy tool to use for this step is a list of action words. Here is one I like because it groups words by categories. 

The example summary might read something like this:

Employment specialist with a unique blend of expertise in communications and assessment in a Human Services setting, working with diverse groups and individuals. Incorporates identifying client vocational interests, writing effective résumés, and proven record of successful job-to-candidate matching.

This summary tells the recruiter who you are (Employment Specialist) and what you can do for them without yet going into specifics. Remember: Tailor your summary to the particular job you’re targeting. The idea is to match up as closely as possible what the employer needs and what you know how to do because if you can’t communicate that in a few lines, there’s no reason for the recruiter to read on.

This first draft can be tweaked to sound better; hopefully, you get the gist of it. Try it out on a few job descriptions until you have a feel for it and get a flow going.

Notice the first two words of that summary: Employment specialist. This is the headline I chose for this particular job search. A headline is part of your personal branding, which associates you with the career you are pursuing and helps to position you with some form of expertise in that role. The headline is found just under your name in the heading of your résumé. We’ll discuss headlines and personal branding in a future post, so be sure to check back or better yet –get notified of new tips, free tools, and discussions.

 If you have any tips or tricks to share, please comment below!


Don’t have the time or resources to create a résumé? Contact me and let’s talk about your goals!

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