The Résumé Rx

How to Write a Professional Summary: A Fill-In-The-Blank Solution

Amanda Guarniere

I’m going to let you in on the best kept secret that is guaranteed to launch your résumé to the top of the stack.

Get rid of that darned “objective” section.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, GREAT (no bad habits to fix)!

If you’re a repeat offender of using the objective section, bear with me a bit.

We are going to ditch the objective section and craft a “professional summary” instead.

This guide will show you:

  • What not to do when writing your professional summary
  • How to write a professional summary that opens the interview floodgates
  • What to include in your summary that will leave all hiring managers nodding their heads (and dialing your number)
  • A stash of fill-in-the-blank summary examples that will add an instant wow-factor to your résumé–just add your personal info! (If you’re a member of my Résumé Makeover PRO course – these are included in the course material!)


Objective Statement vs. Professional Summary

What’s the difference between the two, you ask?

Let me explain.

An objective section typically includes a few sections about what you are hoping to gain from a new position.

It could read a little something like this: “New graduate RN seeking a clinical position in the ICU in order to further develop my nursing skills and care for critically ill patients.”

Okay. Great. If I’m a hiring manager, I now know what you’re looking for in the next stage of your career.

But if I’m being honest (as the hiring manager)…I don’t really care.

Don’t get me wrong, hiring managers are absolutely interested in you as an applicant. But you must consider their perspective. Rather than talking about your goals, your professional summary section should really appeal towards the employer’s objective(s).


What is a Professional Summary?

In order to write an effective professional summary, the challenge is to change your perspective and write the profile in a way that highlights what you will do for your employer.

Spoiler alert: chances are, your future employer has two main objectives.

Can you guess them? If you guessed money, you are absolutely correct. Making money and saving money are huge objectives for employers.

This is done in many ways, of course. Some basic examples are:

  • Actually making revenue from billing of services and increasing number of customers (patients)
  • Saving money through efficient business practices (think: not having to constantly replace staff and spend money orienting them; finding ways to do things that use fewer resources, finding a less expensive supplier of products, etc)

The other main objective is customer experience. This includes quality of care, as well as the customer service approach to the actual delivery of care.

This objective, of course, is closely related to the money objective. If more people are satisfied, they will be repeat customers (leading to more money) and also attract more customers (more money).

Not to mention, insurance companies are now incentivizing quality care and patient satisfaction by paying more money when things are done well and withholding money when they’re not.

This is all a story for a different day, but the takeaway point here is that the future employer will always be looking at potential applications through the money lens.

If you know that in advance, it will make it much easier to craft your professional summary in a way that speaks their language.

If someone reads between the lines of your professional summary, it should say: “here are the ways I will make your life easier and make your business dollar dollar bills.”

Here’s an example of a great professional summary and the specific elements that make it powerful in the eye of the hiring manager.



How to Write Your Professional Summary


Write the rest of your résumé first

Even though the professional summary is likely the first thing a potential hiring manager will read, it should be the last thing that you write.

If you sit down to write your professional summary without having first written the résumé itself, you will struggle.

Remember that your professional summary is the “highlight reel” of your career. Therefore, it should feature your best and most impressive achievements.

Yes, there will be some redundancy.

Things that you feature in your professional summary will also likely be iterated elsewhere in your résumé. That’s the beauty of saving the summary section for last!

Consider printing out your résumé and literally highlighting your most impressive achievements (or the ones that give you the most pride). Those are the points that you will work with while writing your professional summary.



Dissect the job description

A professional summary differs from an “objective” statement because the perspective is completely different.

While an objective statement tells the reader how a new job will benefit you, a professional profile should convey how the employee (you!) will benefit the employer.

What matters most to an employer? We’ve already discussed how money and customer satisfaction are often on the forefront of employers minds.

There will certainly be other things that matter to your potential employer. Rather than wondering, you can learn exactly what these are. Just read the job description!

Now, you don’t want to simply copy and paste information from the job description. However, it will give you the important points that you will want to keep in mind while you are combing your résumé for the best highlights.

Ideally, your résumé (including your professional summary) should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for.

For example, if you are applying for a manager position you should be showcasing your committee involvement, leadership training, and unit-based metrics. If you’re applying for a more clinical position, you should feature your advanced skills trainings and productivity metrics instead.



Outline your professional summary

Now that your résumé is written and you know the priorities of your potential employer or hiring manager, you’re ready to outline!

You want your professional summary or summary to be powerful, concise, and leave the hiring manager enthusiastically nodding their head and dialing your phone number for an interview.

There are some key aspects of your summary that will set you apart from the competition. Let’s get right to my preferred outline formula for a summary that wows.

  • A descriptive adjective or two
  • Your role or professional title
  • Experience
  • What you’re most passionate about
  • Achievements and skills (relevant to the job you’re applying for, if appropriate)

Side note: I love outlines so much. I outlined this document before I wrote it for you! Outlines help you focus on the big picture before working on details. They also help you get everything out of your head and down on paper before you start organizing your thoughts!



Write a few different summaries

Using points from your outline, it’s time to write some summary options. You can use the included examples as sample layouts and insert your own qualifications and achievements.

You might consider writing three or four different summaries, depending on your experience and accomplishments.

If you are earlier in your career, you probably can write two different summaries. After writing your first drafts of each summary option, you’ll want to re-read them for word choice, grammar, and spelling.



Decide on the best!

There are a few different ways to decide on your best professional summary option.   I recommend any or all of the following:

  • Read the summaries out loud.
    • Do they sound like you? Does it feel natural to you?
    • You could even record yourself and listen back.
  • Hand them over to a friend or mentor.
    • Sometimes we have a tough time being objective with our own work.
    • Having another set of eyes can help provide clarity and ensure that you are representing yourself accurately
  • Sleep on it.
    • You’ve done a lot of brain work up until this point.
    • Consider re-reading your choices the next day and your decision may be clear!

I hope by now you are feeling exciting and not overwhelmed. If you want to take things to the next level, and seriously follow a fool-proof system to writing a professional profile, I’ve done the work for you!

Click below for more information about my FREE professional summary formula download! (Just a reminder: if you’re a member of my Résumé Makeover PRO course – these are included in the course material!)