Should I include a Summary Section on my Resume?


Should I include a Summary Section on my Resume?

You've spent the morning reading blog posts - going back-and-forth on whether to include a Summary Section on your resume as you read one opinion after another that contradict each other. You've looked up example templates - some have a Summary, others don't. You're not sure what's the best approach for you to take, and how - if at all - Data Science is different from other resumes in this regard. You're anxious to make the right decision (is it "in" our "out"?), but you're not sure what's best for your particular case…

The two competing schools of thought

We often get asked about whether to include a Summary Section on a resume, and it is likely driven by all the conflicting advice out there. In fact you'll typically find 2 polarized points of view on this topic

  1. Include a Summary: It is a way to make life easy for the Hiring Manager - to communicate your story in a couple of very punchy sentences, which can then also guide the reader as they try to quickly skim the resume content below and form an opinion on whether to invite you for an interview (or not)
  2. Don't include a Summary: It takes up valuable real-estate on the resume page, and if you can't communicate the key messages in the resume content itself, then you have a bigger problem! The gist here is that the resume should stand on its own to express your interests and qualifications - it shouldn't need to be amplified by a summary statement.

So, what should you do?

In our opinion, you should definitely spend the time thinking very carefully about your summary statement (or, what some refer to as your "branding statement"). You should tailor it to each specific job application, as how you'll want to position yourself will vary from role to role - BUT you should use it in your cover letter; NOT in your resume.

We believe very much in the second school of thought (no Summary section on the resume), and specifically

  • Use space on your resume to detail your education, skills, experiences etc. You likely have way more to say here than you can get on one page anyway (especially if you really think broadly about what the Hiring Manager is looking for and what you've accomplished that matches up), so you'll need the room!
  • Pay attention to proof-points and keywords; and focus on succinct, punchy bullet points - making sure the right things jump off the page to the Hiring Manager. If you do this, then a summary that just re-iterates these is unnecessary
  • Craft a thoughtful summary statement (more on this in a later post) but include it as part of the Cover Letter

How to take action now!

An easy one today! If you have a Summary statement on your resume, take it off - save it (and likely refine it - more to come on this!) for your cover letter. Take advantage of the freed up space to beef up a different section with further relevant information. If you don't have a Summary statement on there, don't rest too easy as you'll still need to think about this for the cover letter (and it can be hard to make it compelling and concise), but for now your resume can be left untouched :)


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