What is an executive summary and who needs one?
An executive summary is a short but useful section that goes at the top of a resume. It allows you to highlight the most important aspects of your experience, and it gives a hiring manager a quick overview of your qualifications. A hiring manager who’s reading through a detailed list of your previous positions and credentials might miss the parts that are most important to you; the executive summary ensures that those key points are right at the top of your resume and impossible to overlook.
When to include an executive summary
First, if the application instructions say to include an executive summary or if it’s a required field in a job application form, you should of course include it. What about when it’s not mandatory? It’s a good idea to write an executive summary if you’ve had a long or varied career, or if you want to tie together several diverse qualifications. For example, people who have worked in fields other than hospitality or who have worked in multiple departments within hotels can use the executive summary to highlight the central themes of their career and to point out what their previous roles had in common. Candidates who are seeking mid-to-upper-level management positions can often benefit from including an executive summary for this reason.
When you can leave the executive summary out
It’s never wrong to add an executive summary to your resume, but there are some situations in which it probably isn’t necessary. First, if you don’t have much work experience, you can do without an executive summary because your resume is already brief. If you try to summarize your employment history, you’ll likely end up restating everything in the body of the resume. Including an executive summary makes more sense when you have several previous jobs and you want to draw attention to a few key points from your career.
Also, if your previous experience is easy to understand at a glance, you don’t really need to summarize it. If all of your previous jobs were at the same employer, or if you’ve had the same job title in each of your prior roles, your career path is probably very clear to anyone who reads your resume. An executive summary wouldn’t tell a hiring manager anything that isn’t already obvious from the rest of your application.
You’re always free to add an executive summary if you’d like. But in these cases, it’s a good idea to check if the summary makes your resume easier to understand. If it doesn’t add any value, consider leaving it out.
Tips for writing the executive summary
- Be brief. Limit your executive summary to four or five bullet points.
- Target your most relevant qualifications. Focus on the skills or experiences that are most applicable to the position you want.
- Emphasize common themes. Point out where you previous roles overlap—for example, if most of them required financial forecasting or if they all centered on guest services.
- Use concrete words. Mention specific responsibilities or areas of knowledge, and avoid empty descriptors like “passionate” and “ambitious.”