How To Write A Professional Summary For A Resume

A professional summary for your resume is an essential element of a modern resume.

If you have a professional summary section on your resume (aka qualifications summary or resume profile), pat yourself on the back. You are definitely on the right track.

But how effective is it?

If you are unhappy with the results of your resume, make sure you aren’t making one of these three common mistakes with your summary:

  1. It’s not well focused and leaves the reader confused about what the target is.
  2. It’s too generic and full of cliches and jargon that aren’t backed by facts.
  3. It’s so jam-packed with information that it is almost unreadable.

It is the third problem that this first set of before and after resume examples illustrates.

It doesn’t matter how impressive your content is if the recipient doesn’t take the time to read it.

For it to be effective, you need to write and design your resume summary (and entire resume)  in a way that the reader comes away with a clear understanding of your primary value messages with no more than a glance.

You literally have just seconds to accomplish this goal.

This job seeker had written a resume summary that was full of strong information, but it was so crowded that it was very hard to read. The key points are lost in all the detail. We knew we had to rewrite and redesign to make the resume summary easier to read and to make this job seeker’s value messages “pop” for the reader.

Resume summary example before rewriting

Example resume summary section BEFORE professional rewriting

After rewriting by the resume writing team at Distinctive Career Services, this client’s professional summary section is powerful and compelling. We used short paragraphs for key qualifications. Bullets set off some of the most impressive achievements and results that illustrate the key qualifications promoted in the paragraphs.

Below, rather than detailing them in dense sentences, we called out all the most important keywords and keyword phrases.

Professional Summary for a Resume - professionally written

Example resume summary section after professional rewriting

This second “before” example illustrates the first two problems.

Immediately upon picking up your resume, the recipient should be clear about the focus. The strategy of writing a “broad” or “general” resume will almost always fail. Don’t be afraid to be specific.

There should be absolutely no ambiguity in regards to your focus. It isn’t enough to simply toss out all your qualifications and hope that one will “stick”. Readers tend to be lazy and give your resume only a few seconds at most before making the decision to screen it out or screen it in (for a more thorough review). In those few seconds, they need to come away with a clear understanding of your focus (level and type of position you are seeking) and how you would fit and add value within their organization.

The focus should be crystal clear and every word and element in the body of the resume should support this emphasis.

Before resume profile example

Example resume profile BEFORE professional rewriting

After professional rewriting, the reader immediately understands that this is a senior-level general management candidate with expertise in start-up and turnaround situations.

Perhaps even more significantly, our version of the professional summary is differentiating, benefits-focused, and specific. In the original version,  the job seeker had made the common mistake of writing a professional summary that was so generic that it could apply to anyone that did the same type of management work.

Our version emphasizes differentiators and distinguishing qualifications rather than just the baseline qualifications that are common and expected.  Additionally, the “before” version simply stated that the job seeker had certain abilities and traits. Our “after” version illustrates those traits through examples of past achievements. We’ve proved impact and as a result, the executive profile is far more powerful and effective!

Example resume profile

Example resume profile after professional rewriting

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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