Draw your reader in and leave them wanting more!

Every CV needs a great professional summary – also known as a professional profile, summary statement or personal statement. But what exactly is a professional summary and how do you write one? This guide will explain:

  •  What a professional summary is

  •  Where you should position it on your CV

  • What it should look like

  • How to write a professional summary

  • What you should and shouldn't include

  • How to write a professional summary if you have no experience or want a career change

There are also examples of good and bad professional summaries, so that you can avoid common pitfalls and learn from winning examples.

Read on to get the lowdown…

What is a professional summary?

A professional summary is your very first introduction to the hiring manager or recruiter, so it needs to hook them and give them a compelling reason to read the rest of your CV – and hopefully invite you to an interview! It's an overview of your experience, qualifications, achievements, and skills that - hopefully - proves you're the right fit for the job.

On average, a hiring manager will spend around 6 seconds on the first scan of your CV, so your summary needs to make an impact from the get-go. Therefore, it should contain your most compelling selling points, presented in alignment with the requirements of the role you're applying for.

Where should I place the professional summary?

The summary should be placed right at the very top of your CV, directly under your name and contact details, so that it's the very first thing the hiring manager reads. Remember, you need to grab attention from the very start, so the most important information about you should be in the top third of the first page – there's no use burying vital details half-way down page 2!

What should my professional summary look like?

Don't be tempted to write a very long, detailed professional summary – it's called a summary for a reason! A solid wall of text, or several paragraphs, can be off-putting to read - especially when you're trying to skim through quickly to get a flavour of the applicant before moving on to the next CV.

As a very general guide, around 4 – 6 sentences is plenty. A professional summary is usually no more than 100 words or 5-6 lines. Use a standard, sans-serif font - they're easiest to read on a screen and look clean and modern - and make sure the font size isn't uncomfortably small. You can bullet-point the summary if you prefer, but a short paragraph is more conventional.  

Normally, a professional summary for a corporate role would be written in the silent third person (e.g. “specialises in payroll administration”. If you find this style too awkward or impersonal, first-person summaries are increasingly accepted (e.g. “I specialise in payroll administration”) but they're still not standard practice yet.

Add a header – either “Professional Summary” or “Professional Profile” – in the same style as the other headers on your CV. Clear headers are important as they allow the ATS to categorise the information it receives.

How do I start writing a professional summary?

It helps if the rest of the CV is written before you start the summary. It may sound counter-intuitive, as the summary goes at the beginning, but by writing the bulk of the CV first you should have already spent time analysing your relevant skills, responsibilities, and achievements and have a good idea of where your strengths lie and what you want to emphasise.

Next, highlight the key requirements from the job advert that apply to you. These are the points you want to use in your professional summary. It's a good idea to identify keywords from the job description and reflect these back in your summary. This makes it obvious that you meet the company's requirements and makes your CV more findable in searches.

Now, imagine you're recruiting for this role. What do you want to see in the summary? Aside from someone who ticks the boxes for performing the role, as outlined in the advert, you'll be hoping for a well-presented summary that is to-the-point, easy to read and gives that little bit extra beyond the basics.

By the end of this stage, you should have some coherent notes on the key points you want to include.

What should I include in my professional summary?

The job description should give you a good idea of what the company is looking for in an ideal candidate. Now, you just need to write a professional summary that shows how YOU are the ideal candidate! Easier said than done, right? Here are a few ideas of what you might like to include:

  •  Your job title (if it aligns with the role you're applying for)

  • The sector you work in

  • What you specialise in

  • Your unique selling point, or USP

  • Examples of key successes and achievements from your recent career

  • Skills you have that they need

  • The value you can offer to the company

What should I NOT include in my professional summary?

Firstly, don't keyword-cram. Yes, we said that keywords are important, but just blindly repeating them back at the recruiter without context makes you look a bit clueless and desperate.

Secondly, avoid CV cliches. Enthusiastic, hardworking, reliable – these are all overused and unproven. You'll stand out by showing how you're different, not by showing you've swallowed the dictionary of CV jargon and produced the same as everyone else.

Thirdly, don't include anything in your professional summary that's not relevant to the role in hand. A laser-focused CV is going to make more of an impact than one filled with irrelevant waffle.

Finally, don't focus on what you want from the role or the type of role you're looking for – clearly, you wouldn't be applying if you didn't want the job. Focus instead on what you can give, rather than what you hope to get.

How do I pull my professional summary together?

With a good idea of what to include, what not to include and how your expertise fits into the role, you're ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!).

Start bringing your notes together into positive, concise sentences. Use the highlighted keywords from the advert to pick out relevant, justifiable points from your career and combine them into compelling sentences that will impress a hiring manager. Play around with the wording, the examples and the order until you're happy that you've got your elevator pitch perfected. Then, show it to a trusted friend or colleague, alongside the job advert, and ask for constructive criticism.

You don't need to get it right first time – you may find that you come up with some knock-out phrases or sentences that you ultimately decide not to use. Store them away safely, as they may come in handy for a later application. Remember, every summary should be tailored to the role you're applying for.  

How do you write a professional summary with no experience?

If you're just entering the job market for the first time, or have very limited experience, you may feel that this is an impossible task and that none of this relates to your situation. But don't panic, you can still present a compelling professional summary that wins over recruiters.

Your CV doesn't need to focus solely on paid work experience. You almost certainly have experience from other parts of your life that you can draw on. Extra-curricular clubs and activities, the Duke of Edinburgh award, voluntary work, pocket money jobs, school or college responsibilities – they all count, because they'll have given you valuable employability skills. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are hundreds of ways of developing skills. You just need to think about what you've done! There's an example of a professional summary for someone with no experience below – use this for inspiration, but make sure you create an original that's as unique as you are.

How do you write a professional summary for a career change?

When you want to change direction in your career, it can be difficult to match your previous experience to your desired position. In this case, it's best to focus on your transferable skills in your summary and explain how these will benefit the new company. You can also highlight your ability to consistently deliver results for a business and ensure that your summary doesn't include any industry-specific terminology that could alienate your reader. There's an example of a professional summary for a career changer below.

Bad CV summary examples

Summary 1

A hardworking and enthusiastic Sales Assistant who works well in a team and independently. I can use Microsoft 365. I will stop what I'm doing to help the customer out if there needing anything. I'm looking for a role as a Sales Manager in Surrey or London.

Why this is a bad CV summary:

  • It uses cliches which aren't backed up with facts and make for a really boring read

  • Most people can use Microsoft 365 – it isn't relevant to a sales role and doesn't set the reader apart from any other applicant

  • There's a spelling mistake

  • The final sentence focuses on what the applicant wants – presumably the role he's applying to fits his criteria, so this is a useless statement that does nothing to convince the reader of his suitability

  • There's no compelling reason given to hire this person or any indication that he'll have a positive impact on the business

Summary 2

My career has spanned over 30 years and the challenges and changes of the business world gave me an opportunity to learn and develop solutions that had a great impact on the business, customers and people I work with. I have a network of trusted people spanning various industries across UK, EU, USA, Canada, Australia, China and India. My current role includes contacting shareholders, conducting research, reporting, coordinating with specialists, assisting my clients and helping them navigate red tape. I currently live in Telford with my wife and 3 young children but am willing to travel for work. I'd be a great asset to any business.

Why this is a bad CV summary:

  • Did you even manage to read it? It's way too waffly and long

  • There's no clue as to what this candidate does or where his experience lies

  • This is not the place to go into detail about his current role

  • There's no evidence of success or achievements - he mentions solutions, but with no context of what they might be or how they relate to the vacancy

  • It contains irrelevant personal details

  • He doesn't explain how he'd be an asset to a business – an unsupported claim like this makes it sound like he's taking a scattergun approach to sending his CV out indiscriminately

Good CV summary examples

So now you know what NOT to do, here are some great professional summaries for various situations that show how you can do it right.

Summary for someone with no experience

I'm a mature GCSE student, with excellent communication and problem-solving skills developed as a Student Mentor. My customer service skills have been invaluable when pet-sitting for neighbours - I've received great feedback and repeat business! I always aim to surpass expectations, making me an ideal representative for your business. I'm ready to take on a new challenge and would love the chance to further enhance my skills.

Why this is a good CV summary:

  • She's made clear exactly what she currently does – studying, mentoring and pet sitting

  • She's given examples of her skills, with evidence of when she's used them

  • She's proved that customers were happy with her work

  • She's explained how she can add value to a business

  • She's shown she's keen to develop her skills further 

Summary for a mid-career professional

An ambitious Bodywork Technician, with a strong background in the motorsports sector. Possesses expertise ranging from severe crash repair through to custom projects and fabrication of bespoke body parts. A respected and professional leader, able to manage and train teams to achieve improvements in performance and productivity. Confident streamlining processes and developing systems that enable business growth, having overseen a 54% increase in repair volume over 8 months.

Why this is a good CV summary:

  • He's stated exactly what he does and the sector he specialises in

  • He's differentiated himself from others by showing the range of his expertise

  • He's highlighted his leadership skills, ready for an upwards step

  • He's shown how he's added value to a business

Summary for a manager

An accomplished Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Manager, able to develop innovative strategies and business plans. Enables businesses to achieve greater inclusion and diversity by influencing, engaging and training stakeholders at all levels. Possesses proven success in facilitating long-term culture change across global businesses. Specialises in disability inclusion, gender equality, neurodiversity, mental health and LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Why this is a good CV summary:

  • She's stated exactly what she does

  • She's aligned the statement with requirements from the job description – strategy development, business planning and culture change

  • She's explained the value and benefit she can bring to a business

  • She's highlighted previous achievements

  • She's clear about her specialities 

Summary for a career changer

A commercially astute leader, keen to transition from warehouse management into project management. Combines a natural aptitude for building relationships with a proven ability to control costs. Recently delivered a warehouse reconfiguration project within very demanding deadlines, with no negative impact on customer service. Currently working towards PMP certification.

Why this is a good CV summary:

  • He's specified that he's looking for a career change

  • He's focused on his transferable skills of leadership, relationship building and cost control

  • He's given an example of a recent, relevant success

  • He's shown he's serious about the career change and willing to learn, by highlighting a relevant qualification

Summary of key points

Your CV's professional summary should:

  • Sit at the top of your CV

  • Have a clear heading

  • Be concise and to the point

  • Align with the job advert

  • Highlight your achievements and value

  • Avoid cliches

  • Include relevant keywords

Done well, your professional summary will grab the hiring manager's attention and persuade them to progress your application. If you want some constructive feedback on your professional summary – and the rest of your CV! – why not submit it for a free CV review?

Recommended reading:

Related Articles: