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An executive summary typically accompanies a business proposal, grant application or other official document. It previews what’s to come, showcasing the most compelling points. Many career experts also recommend adding an executive summary to your resume, substituting it for the objective statement. You can also add a version of this summary to your cover letter to draw an employer’s attention to your most impressive accomplishments and achievements.
Keep It Short
Your cover letter should complement your resume, not repeat it. When incorporating an executive summary into your letter, use a scaled-down version that highlights the main points. Limit your summary to between four and six sentences, aiming for a concise paragraph that focuses on a few key qualifications. If you throw in too much, you risk overwhelming the employer with information. You could also confuse readers and leave them unclear about what kind of position you’re seeking and what you can offer as an employee.
Customize your summary for each position and include keywords specific to the industry and the role. If you’re applying for a job in education, mention teaching methods you’ve used and classroom results you’ve achieved. For example, lead your summary with a statement such as, “I’m a veteran English teacher with 20 years of classroom experience, and am skilled in using interactive teaching methods to engage students at all levels and from diverse backgrounds. At my last school, members of my class scored an average of five points higher than other students on standardized tests for reading comprehension and language skills.”
Build your summary around proven results you’ve achieved at your previous jobs. If you worked as a counselor at a social services agency and want to apply for a senior management position at a nonprofit organization, describe yourself as a, “Diplomatic but effective leader with advanced training in psychology and experience counseling patients coping with Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions.” Note that at your last job, you oversaw a team of counselors and launched a case management program that helped many of the clinic’s clients find employment, housing or much-needed financial resources to help them live more independently.
Set Yourself Apart
An executive summary should emphasize your uniqueness. Avoid vague statements such as, “seeking a challenging position” or “looking for a job that will utilize my expertise and experience.” When describing yourself, avoid cliches such as detail-oriented, hardworking or enthusiastic. In theory, these apply to any job seeker. Instead, emphasize what makes you different. If you’re known for resolving workplace conflict, offer an example or two demonstrating this skill. If you have the ability to produce results even with limited time or resources, highlight this talent in your letter.