6 Tips For Creating an Executive Summary

In 2012 PowerCandidate surveyed hiring managers across multiple industries and career levels to gain insight regarding the optimal resume design. The sample group ranged from HR representatives to CEOs, providing us with great confidence in the feedback we gathered. According to the results nearly 80% of hiring managers prefer to see something other than an objective statement at the top of your resume. They feel that objective statements are generic and become repetitive as they scan hundreds of resumes searching for the optimal candidate. Here are some actual quotes from hiring managers that participated in our survey.

  • “Objectives are often hollow statements that say nothing of a person’s qualifications. I prefer a career summary.”
  • “An objective at the top is old school and not as relevant to employers. Hiring managers want to quickly understand an applicant’s experience and accomplishments.”
  • “Objectives are unnecessary. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments and experience over submitting a generic statement you hope is written creatively enough to stand out. It won’t.”
  • “Objective statement should be called obvious statements. We know you want to work for the company. You submitted your resume.”

So, what do they prefer to see in place of the objective statement?

Start your resume with an executive summary. The executive summary highlights your experience, unique value and accomplishments. This allows hiring managers to learn about you within seconds to determine if you offer talents that align with their objectives. It’s amazing what you can say about yourself in a four to six sentence paragraph. Why limit the first section on your resume to a single sentence no one wants to read when you have the flexibility to write an entire paragraph that peaks curiosity?

6 Tips When Creating Your Executive Summary 

  1. Know what is important to the employer and the requirements of the position. Your summary must align with the company’s objectives.
  2. Know yourself. Make sure your executive summary describes you. Let’s clarify. We see information in executive summaries that candidates cannot back up with proof.
  3. Talk to yourself. Yes, it can help you develop material for the executive summary. Act as if someone just asked you to tell a story about your experience and unique value.
  4. Start writing. You can document step three or just skip it and start writing. Write a five to ten sentence description of yourself. Revise it and condense it until the summary can be read effortlessly, leaving any reader with a concise understanding of your value.
  5. Gather feedback from friends, family and peers. Ask them to describe your value and experience as they see it.
  6. As a general rule, keep the summary limited to four to six sentences.

So what should your executive summary look like when you are done? Well, that will depend on your unique style, the industry in which you work and experience level. The key is that your executive summary should be compelling to the reader. It should convince her that you are more capable of helping the company achieve its goals than competitive applicants. Here is an example from one of my past resumes.

Executive Summary Example

Business development professional with twelve years of progressive responsibility in sales, client services and leadership. Verifiable track record of maximizing revenue and expanding market share. Effective in developing relationships at VP and CXO levels, having partnered with leaders at mid-size and Fortune 50 companies. Previous eight years have been spent in the BPO industry, overseeing the acquisition and management of multi-million dollar and multi-year contracts. Respected by clients, peers and senior leaders for my commitment to driving results and transforming concepts into reality.

As mentioned in tip number two above, make sure the executive summary reflects your unique experience and strengths. When crafted thoughtfully, your executive summary can mean the difference between having your resume pitched or passed along for a second review.

Cole Proper is the founder of PowerCandidate, LLC, a career advisory company focused on helping job seekers accelerate the success of their job search. PowerCandidate provides job search coaching services and publishes self-development eBooks.