6 Tips For Creating an Executive Summary

While much advice is often devoted to the ideal format or template for a candidate’s resume, in some cases a cookie-cutter approach won’t be doing you any favors.  Education, experience, and qualifications are the expected areas of coverage on a resume. Sometimes, a resume objective will be thrown in at the beginning to add a little spice and context.  For certain high-level positions, however, an executive summary may be the best fit to help score an advanced position.

An executive summary is a typically paragraph-long description of an executive level candidate’s career history and accomplishments.  From projects accomplished to positions served at various companies, an executive summary can help a candidate stand out by highlighting their particular area of expertise.  Companies in need of restructuring will often be attracted by a candidate with experience in distressed markets. If an organization is facing bad PR, compliance or other scandals, someone with a track record in these areas may be just what is needed.  In short, an executive summary can help provide context and color to an advanced candidate’s qualifications, setting them apart from the crowd and helping find just the right fit for their skills and background.

What’s in a Great Executive Summary?

Now that we’ve covered the why’s it’s time to talk format.  An effective executive summary is succinct and to the point. The statement should lead off the page, or multi-page resume and is generally one to six thoughtful and info-packed sentences.  Here candidates should list out their personal and professional skills, professional experiences and individual accomplishments and backgrounds that may set them apart from other similarly situated candidates.  An executive summary wins out over an objective statement for job-seekers that have plenty to say about themselves, and the relevant credentials to back their words up.

6 Tips for Crafting an Effective Executive Summary

  1. Be Relevant – Get to know the employer or industry you’re targeting and ensure your executive summary fits the qualifications of the position.  
  2. Be Truthful – An executive summary is no place for empty boasting.  Be sure that your statements reflect your past accomplishments. If you make a claim about education or work history, you should be prepared to back it up with facts elsewhere in your resume.
  3. Work it Through – You may need several drafts to help come up with a sleek opening executive summary.  If you’re finding it hard to get started, imagine someone has asked you to describe yourself or your goals.  Reply out loud, taking notes as needed, and use that as a basis for your statement.
  4. Get to It – If you’ve never prepared an executive summary before, the prospect can be more than a little daunting.  Instead of procrastinating or questioning the exact perfect words to write, start jotting down thoughts and sentences.  Once you’ve put together your ramblings, start paring them down until you have a clear and concise summary in just a few sentences.
  5. Ask Around – If you’re having a problem describing yourself on paper, it often helps to ask friends, family or colleagues for inspiration.  Find a trusted confidant or two and ask them how they would describe you both personally and professionally. Use this feedback to craft your way to summary success.
  6. Short and Sweet – While you may be tempted to pour your entire work-oriented heart and soul out onto the page, remember that an executive summary is just that; a summary.  Limit your opening to four to six sentences tops and save the rest for your interview.

Executive Summary Samples

When finished, your executive summary should contain basic information regarding your prior work history, specific experience, and work-related goals.  Your introduction should invite the reader to learn more and, initially, convince the hiring manager or another decision maker that you are qualified for the position.  Still feeling a bit lost? Never fear! We’ve put together a sample executive summary below to help give you a feel for what tone and format you should be going for.

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.

Final Thoughts

As we mentioned above, an executive summary isn’t a complete narrative of your previous work.  Rather, this opening section should provide a helpful guide to anyone looking for a big picture overview of your candidacy.  If you’re applying for more than one position, consider customizing your summary or having several pre-drafted versions ready to go to fit the individual needs of any given position.  

Article Updated from the Original on February 8, 2018