How to Write a Resume Summary if You're Changing Careers

A resume summary is especially useful if you’re changing careers, and it helps hiring managers and recruiters understand why you’re a good fit. Here’s how to write one with a few examples for inspiration.

3 years ago   •   5 min read

By Rohan Mahtani
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A resume summary is especially useful if you’re changing careers, and it helps hiring managers and recruiters understand why you’re a good fit. Here’s how to write one with a few examples for inspiration.

A resume summary is a short, optional section at the beginning of your resume highlighting something that might not otherwise be obvious. It can be used to direct a recruiter’s attention to a specific role you’re interested in or to highlight specific skills or achievements that don’t have a place elsewhere in your resume. It’s also commonly used as a space for career changers to explain the context of their application and why they’re a good fit for the role, even if their experience is in a completely different field.

Do I need a resume summary?

Not necessarily. If your skills and job history are relatively straightforward and in line with the type of jobs you’re applying for, you probably don’t need one. Despite the name, a resume summary isn’t just a place to rehash the information already in your resume, which should already be a concise summary of your achievements. A resume summary should only be used to add extra information or context, like drawing attention to the fact that you’re changing careers or illustrating how seemingly-unrelated experience is relevant to the role you’re seeking.

Related: How To Write an Executive Summary

Example resume summary templates for career changers

Writing anything from scratch without a guide can be daunting, so we’ve put together a handy template you can use to structure your resume summary. This template has everything your summary needs to include — it quickly explains that you’re changing careers, emphasizes the transferrable skills you’ll be bringing with you to the new role, and draws attention to a specific accomplishment to help you stand out. What it doesn’t do is exhaustively list your past experience or explain in detail why you’re changing careers — those things are better suited to the body of your resume and cover letter.

Here's the first template:

Ex-[Current Job Title] transitioning into an [Future Job Title] role after [completing X relevant certification] and [relevant accomplishment]. Diverse experience [doing X transferrable skill in new job], [Y transferrable skill in new job] and [Z transferrable skill in new job]. Over 5 years of experience managing global teams of 5-20 people and working with C-Suite executives. [Describe one significant accomplishment in the format of Action Verb + Accomplishment + Metric].

This template quickly summarizes the achievements you most want to highlight while remaining concise. Here are a couple of examples of what that template can look like in action.

Example #1 (Sales Manager moving to an HR Manager role)

Ex-Sales Manager transitioning into an HR Manager role after completing HR CIPD Level 5 certificate. Diverse experience creating hiring plans, setting performance objectives and OKRs, conducting interviews and delivering 7-figure projects that create lasting organizational change. Over 5 years of experience managing global teams of 5-20 people and working with C-Suite executives. Promoted three times in 24 months due to strong performance and organizational impact.

Example #2 (Product Marketer moving to a Project Manager role)

Ex-Product Marketer transitioning into a Project Manager role after completing PMP certification. Diverse experience managing advertising campaigns, partnering with sales and development teams to ensure on-time project delivery and maintaining successful customer relationships. Over 5 years of experience managing global teams of 5-20 people and working with C-Suite Executives. Successfully organized a marketing fair which resulted in a 45% increase in company clientele over the next quarter.

If you are not changing careers and want examples of other resume summaries, use our resume summary generator.

What makes a good resume summary?

A good resume summary provides a recruiter with at-a-glance information about why you’re applying for a specific role. To do that, it needs to be concise — generally, no more than 2-6 lines or 100 words, and shorter is better. Anything longer than that means that you’re probably including way more details than is necessary and will prompt a recruiter to skim over what you’ve written, which you don’t want. If you find yourself having to leave out information you consider essential — like why you’re changing careers or what draws you to the new role — consider featuring it in a cover letter instead.

Your resume summary should draw particular attention to any transferrable skills that you’ve acquired. These can include technical skills — for example, proficiency in specific programming languages, graphic design skills or experience with software programs or social media platforms — as well as soft skills. Make sure these skills are relevant to the role you’re applying for — for example, a data analyst is better off highlighting their experience with machine learning than their video editing skills. This also depends on what industry you’re in — a creative director for an advertising campaign likely has no need for C++, but it might come in handy for the creative director of a video game.

When including skills and achievements in your resume summary, remember to be specific. This can be a great place to include any skills or keywords from the job description that don’t have a place elsewhere on your resume, which in particular can help you get past any resume screeners or applicant tracking systems. Limit yourself to your single biggest accomplishment, using specific metrics if you can (similar to how you should be listing accomplishments in the body of your resume).

An easy way to find out if you’ve added the right skills and keywords to your resume, is to use the tool below to search for skills for the job you’re applying to - it’ll provide you with a list of skills relevant to the job. It also gives you the option to scan your resume and tells you which skills are missing.

Find out if your resume summary is effective enough

A good resume summary needs to be clear, concise, and for a career changer, it also needs to highlight any transferable skills you’ve acquired. A good way to find out if your resume summary properly explains the context of your application and shows hiring managers why you’re a good fit for the role, is to upload your resume to the tool below. You’ll get an instant, confidential review of your resume, powered by Artificial Intelligence and backed by insights from hiring managers and recruiters.

Quick Tips: Here’s what does not belong in your resume summary.

  • Personal pronouns. This is a formal document, which means no ‘I,’ ‘my,’ or ‘we.’ Save the personal touch for your cover letter, where it belongs.
  • Details that are already included in the body of your resume. The resume summary is a place to highlight information that doesn’t have a place elsewhere, not to repeat information the recruiter already has access to.
  • Buzzwords. Phrases like ‘team player,’ ‘flexible,’ and ‘hardworking’ might sound like what a recruiter wants to hear, but the reality is that they’re vague, overused, and ultimately meaningless. There’s no quicker way to make a recruiter’s eyes glaze over than by filling your resume with endless fluff. Instead, demonstrate these qualities through well-chosen examples of your experience and achievements.

I'd recommend uploading your resume to Score My Resume. It takes a minute to scan your resume for common errors that cause your resume to get instantly rejected.

Remember: Not everybody needs a resume summary. If you’re including it just because you think you need one, consider what purpose it’s serving.

If you’re applying for jobs in line with your industry experience and background and can highlight relevant achievements in the body of your resume, leave it out. On the other hand, if you’re looking to change careers and want to draw attention to transferrable skills and achievements that might not otherwise be readily apparent, a concise, well-written summary might be exactly what you need to make the leap.

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