The Career Summary: What, Why, How

As it is the key to every job application, there’s a lot riding on your resume.

In many cases it’s the only thing a hiring manager will look at, and even so, not for very long. When crafted well a resume can give a great perspective of your employment history, from where you have worked, to your accomplishments within each company. Ideally, it will reveal the skills you’ve attained.

The difficult part in crafting a resume is finding a way to translate what you have done already into a demonstration of what you could bring to the table. Adding a career summary to your resume is a great means to do just that.

First of all, what is a career summary?

A career summary is brief introduction that is meant to convey your personal skill set. View it as a place to showcase how you are unique. What combination of skills and experiences makes you an asset? What can you provide that no one else can?

Many confuse the career summary with a career objective, placed at the head of the resume. The career summary is something entirely different. Rather than expressing where you want to be (everyone wants to be challenged and learn things),  it is an opportunity to express who you are and how you can fit into an organisation. A career summary answers the following question:

What, given your experience and skill set, can you bring to a company?

This is valuable for a hiring manager glancing at your resume as it helps to paint a full picture of you as a candidate.

Why is a career summary important?

In addition to giving depth to your resume, the career summary is a great opportunity to include additional resume keywords. Keywords such as ‘strategic planning’ or ‘communications’ are especially important as more companies are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to view and sort resumes. Many ATSs rank applicants by the keywords in their resume. For example, if I were a hiring manager looking to hire someone with customer service skills, I would search “customer service.” If an applicant has that phrase in a few places throughout their resume, they would rank higher than one who did not include that phrase in his or her resume at all. Along that line of thinking, this is also a great place to include the job title listed on the job description. That way, your resume will show up if a hiring manager searches the position they are recruiting for.

Career summaries also grant you the space to mention more general terms. Perhaps you are motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit that you think will score you extra points at the start up for which you are applying. This might be an awkward or difficult phrase to include as an accomplishment in a position or as a skill in a list. It feels more organic and appears more noticeable in a career summary.

How do I add a career summary to my resume?

Firstly, it’s important to be yourself. Think about who you are and what you have accomplished. Then think about the company. What skills do you have that make you better than the other candidates applying? These are the points you want to display. It’s all about revealing yourself and your achievements.

Be sure to tailor your career summary to the position you are applying for. If you don’t know which skills to highlight or how to phrase them, check the job description for inspiration. It’s a great resource for knowing exactly what the employers are looking for. It’s also helpful to check the company’s mission statement. Align yourself with their goals and values. Tailoring is so important, not only to show the hiring manager you are a good fit, but also because you don’t want your application to feel generic by including a cliche phrase like ‘motivated self starter’.

Your career summary should be a short paragraph, about three good sentences. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to do too much through the career summary. Be concise and to the point. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Check out the examples below:


Diligent and compassionate early childhood educator with a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and 6 years working experience. Has built up a reputation for being a hardworking role model, through acting as a facilitator for encouraging intellectual and social development in students. Effective communicator and resourceful teacher with proven ability to enhance students’ performances, including increasing average reading levels.

Account Executive

Success-driven Account Executive with 12 years of experience managing multiple high profile clients simultaneously. Extensive expertise in managing multifaceted marketing campaigns ranging from B2B to reputation management. Highly skilled in driving sales, communicating with clients, event PR, managing multi-million dollar budgets, branding and tailoring information for various audiences.

Follow through

Finally, make sure you support what you lay out in your summary throughout your resume. If you are going to talk about your innovative thinking, have some key examples throughout your resume to prove you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Image: Shutterstock

By James Hu

James Hu is the founder and CEO ofJobscan, an analytics tool that helps job seekers land more interviews by comparing one's resume against any job description for keywords and match rate. Jobscan's Resume Writing Guide and Resume Formats provide everything you need to know about resumes to standout to recruiters and make it past ATS. James has previously spoken on Fox Business News, Harvard Medical School, and General Assembly.