Objectives on a Resume - Good Idea?

It’s a debate that just won’t die. Some career advisors and hiring managers prefer to see objectives on resumes, while others consider them a waste of space. For a jobseeker, it can be incredibly frustrating to get two conflicting pieces of advice. So what should you do? Leave it on or take it off?

Well, the answer is that it depends (sorry).

To help you make the right decision for you and resume, we asked four experts to share their advice. Each expert has a unique perspective, and we hope that their combined points of view will give you some direction.

Here are their recommendations:

 

Yes, Use an Objective

I advise people to include a customized objective statement that expresses their intention for the type of position or role, function and industry they are inquiring about. So if someone is considering going into sales in either retail or consumer packaged goods, have two resumes; one for each industry even though the function is the same.

This does two things. It signals to the reader that you are deliberate and committed to the industry and function. More importantly, it encourages you – the jobseeker – to make these important determinations for yourself and limit the number of opportunities they seek.

This isn’t a lottery, so more applications and sent resumes are not necessarily better. You will also be more compelling if you are more focused on only a few industries, functions and roles.

Mind you, this objective statement is rarely read carefully, so it is important to keep it brief and insert the most important words early – namely the position, function and industry of interest. It is not enough just to change the objective statement; the body of the resume needs to speak directly to your competencies for that role. No shortcuts to a good resume.

– Ginny Clarke, President & CEO, Talent Optimization Partners

 

No, Don’t Use an Objective

You only have so much real estate to use on a resume. Why waste it on an objective?

Use the space you have available to address the skills you bring to the table by sharing outcomes of using those skills.

In most cases candidates are writing statements that are vague, unfocused, and self-serving. The classic, “A challenging position with a dynamic, team-based organization that will use my skills and provide a rewarding experience.” Blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t help the employer and only makes the candidate look unfocused.

When you apply for the job it is obvious what position you are seeking. And, for most job seekers, what the position is you are seeking.

If you must use an objective, keep it focused on the employer and make sure to address skills and outcomes that are good for that employer.

However, a more effective solution is to title the first experience section with language that reflects exactly where you wish to be and skills you wish to use.

– Steve Langerud, Director of Professional Opportunities at DePauw University and Workplace Consultant. SteveLangerud.com

 

Use an Objective Sometimes

I am often asked this question and always tell people that I am not a fan of objectives on resumes unless you are looking for a complete career change or only for a very niche type of position. Otherwise, objectives usually end up with one of two problems:

1) They are so vague as to be useless, e.g. “Seeking a challenging position in a dynamic company with room for growth.” This does not really say anything about your goals or sell you in any way.

2) They are so specific that they rule you out of opportunities before you are ruled in, e.g. “Seeking a management position in a mid-size public biotech firm in the Boston area.” What if you would consider other industries? What if you would consider an individual contributor role in the right firm? What if you would consider relocating? You may actually stop someone from reading the rest of your resume if their company or opening doesn’t fall into all of those categories!

When considering your resume as a whole, it’s important to remember that most people read about halfway down the first page and then decide if it’s worth continuing or just discounting. It’s imperative that what is most marketable about you is contained in the top half of the page, so that you get someone interested enough to keep reading. That is why an objective is not advisable for most people – it doesn’t sell their skills or accomplishments. Depending on your field and experience, that top section is better served by having an overview of your key accomplishments, a technology summary, your education, or even a 1- or 2-sentence experience statement.

For some jobs/fields, cover letters are still accepted or even expected so that can also address your objective (in line with the position you are applying for of course). However, your resume itself should speak to your objective by including as much supporting documentation about your relevant experience as possible.

– Tracy Cashman, Partner and General Manager, WinterWyman

 

Write a Summary Instead

Objectives are now considered passe by many hiring managers and career industry professionals. However, it’s still very important for a resume to convey what sort of position you’re targeting. This can be done effectively with a targeted summary.

For the most part, the resume writing industry has made a transition in the last several years from objectives to summaries.. The main argument is that an objective focuses on what you’re looking for rather than how you can help the employer.

Another concern is that most objectives are poorly written, using vague cliches like “Seeking a rewarding position with a growing company.” Isn’t everyone looking for that?

The summary can incorporate what you are (“marketing coordinator,” for example) if you are targeting similar positions. If you are making a career change, the summary can incorporate wording to reflect that. For example, you could say, “award-winning journalist transitioning to corporate media relations.”

A headline can also convey the job target, although for online applications, job seekers should be careful to title their summary sections “summary” so that employers’ applicant tracking software can identify the summary.

Now, many recruiters and hiring managers say that they skip summary sections. They usually go straight for the job titles and descriptions under your last two jobs. As a result, the experience section and other sections need to stand their own and be effective even if nobody reads the summary. Make sure all important points are included in the descriptions under each job.

Even though the summary often isn’t read, it doesn’t hurt to include it. Some readers will look for it, and some might be swayed by it. In particular, the hiring manager might read it if you end up being a finalist.

– Kelly Donovan, Career Communications Strategist, KellyDonovan.com