Should You Add an Executive Summary to Your Resume, And, If So, What Should It Say?
Long gone are the days of the “Objective Statement” where job applicants would list a one- or two-page description at the top of their resumes detailing the type of employer or position they were seeking. And, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Employers already have a fairly good idea of the position you want if you’re applying to their open role. Instead, they want to know what you bring to the table. This is where an executive summary comes in.
In short, an executive summary is a short paragraph that appears at the top of your resume that summarizes the most important elements of your qualifications or experience. It’s a kind of ‘snapshot’ of your candidacy that gives hiring managers a quick way to reference who you are and what you can offer by calling out the most important aspects of your resume.
But, not every resume needs an executive summary. How do you know if you should add this to your document before applying to your next job?
Obviously, if the application instructions ask for a summary, you’ll want to provide it. Otherwise, whether or not to include this often depends on your career level or years of experience. If you’re mid- or late-career, you’ll likely always want to include an executive summary because this allows hiring managers or committees to quickly and more easily make sense of a long, varied resume or CV. You’re highlighting the most important takeaways about your professional life so they don’t have to wade through the entire document to try and figure out the most important themes.
Job candidates who are embarking on any kind of a career or industry change would also benefit from including an executive summary at the top of their document as this gives the potential new employer a clear understanding of the value you bring, despite the fact that you may have taken a non-traditional career path to get there.
Conversely, if you’re just starting out in your career and applying for entry-level roles, internships, apprenticeships, or anything of this sort, you probably don’t need an executive summary as your resume is likely not that long or difficult to decipher.
In general, if your experience or work history is fairly straightforward and unvaried (for example, perhaps you’ve worked for the same employer for most of your professional life or you’ve held the same job title), an executive summary may be redundant because your career path will probably be clearly evident to anyone who reads it and won’t really add any new value to the document or to your candidacy.
If you’ve determined your resume would benefit from an executive summary, keep these best practices in mind:
- Keep it short. An executive summary should be no more than a few sentences. Don’t write a long paragraph or include a long list of bullet points. The tone should be professional, your content should be specific, and the writing should be error-free.
- Only highlight those experiences or qualifications that are relevant for the position to which you’re applying.
- Call out the most common themes in your career and make sure your reader can quickly discern the key takeaways about your career path so far.
- Be specific in your language when describing your experiences, capabilities, and background and avoid superfluous adjectives (like “passionate” or “hardworking”)