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Should You Write a Resume Objective?

Jun 13, 2016 Kate Lopaze

Should You Write a Resume Objective?

Unofficially, when you're applying for jobs, your resume objective is pretty much always the same: “I would like to get a job.” There may be more specifics than that, but let’s be honest—that’s the main goal here. So if you know your objective is to get this job, and the recruiter or hiring manager knows you are also interested in said job (because otherwise, why would they even have your resume?), why do you need to make this explicit in your resume?

1. What IS a Resume Objective?

2. Do You Need a Resume Objective?

3. What If You Decide to Skip It?

4. What Does a Good Objective Have?

5. Where to Begin

What IS a Resume Objective?

An objective is a short statement at the top of your resume (right after your essential contact details) that sums up for the reader where you are in your career, and what you’re seeking as the next step. So as you see, it’s a little different than “hire me.” Think of it as part of your elevator pitch for hiring you, instead of a literal statement of your job search. Again, you know why you’re there, and the reader knows why you’re there, but the objective is the kickoff to your campaign to convince them why they need to hire you. Basically, it’s your first chance to start breaking away from the pack. For example, if you’re applying for a nursing assistant position, and everyone has the same objective that says something like, “Seeking employment as a nursing assistant,” the reader will start glazing over by the third resume. You want your resume to stand out from the crowd, and the objective is another tool you can use to do that. But be careful: the resume objective is not necessarily the same thing as the resume summary statement. The resume summary statement, also known as a qualification summary or a competency summary, is a short statement or list of bullets that summarize skills and experience. It ties those skills and experience to the theme (or brand) you’re trying to establish for your resume. How is it different from an objective? A summary statement is a good way to take a long or complicated job/skills history and put your best self (your brand) into a few concise sentences. It’s not as good for newbie job seekers or career changers, because you might still be establishing that brand.

Do You Need a Resume Objective?

Well, that part’s a little controversial. Not everyone agrees that an objective is a good use of resume space these days. U.S. News & World Report argues that the risks of a poorly written objective statement outweigh the benefits of including one at all, and that an objective is a waste of super-precious resume space. This is also the view taken by the folks at The Muse. The bottom line: there’s no unanimous voice fighting for the resume objective. But above all, regardless of what everyone else says, you need to decide what’s right for your resume and your job search. An objective can be a very effective way to present yourself—you just need to make sure that you’re writing a good one that deserves to take that space. You should consider keeping an objective on your resume if:
  • You’re just out of school, or don’t have tons of experience in your field.
  • You’re changing careers, or applying for a job where your previous experience doesn’t apply 1:1.
  • You’re focusing on a very specific position in your field (e.g. you’re not just sending your resume to a company you like, or passing it along to a recruiter, and hoping for an opening that fits).
The objective is a way to start establishing that branding, or reframe your narrative. Cover letters are far from a given these days, in the age of faceless job application engines. The objective can be a handle, a narrative statement that could pack some of that same “I am perfect for this job” punch that would normally be covered in a cover letter. It’s a way to neatly outline your current goals, and align that with the job description at hand. The objective tells the reader what you’re seeking and starts the narrative of how you fit this job.

What If You Decide to Skip It?

I mean, the sky isn’t going to fall on your job search if you decide against including a resume objective. It’s unlikely that someone will get to the end of an otherwise fantastic resume and think, if only this person had included an objective. But that’s not necessarily the way to look at it—there are plenty of things you can leave off a resume that wouldn’t be missed. Instead, think of it as a proactive element you can use to your advantage. If you skip it, you likely won’t be actively damaging your chances at the position, but you are consciously skipping an opportunity to position yourself even better.

What Does a Good Objective Have?

If you decide to go ahead with a resume objective, you need to do it well. As mentioned earlier, resume space is precious. If you’re going to devote several lines to it, that’s several lines you can’t devote to something else. So you need to make sure your resume objective has these elements:
  • It’s customized. Like the rest of your resume, it should be tailored to the job for which you’re applying—or at least the company. Generic objectives are visible from a mile away.
  • It should be backed up. Anything you bring up in the resume objective, you should be prepared to flesh out in bullet points later in the resume.
  • It’s not just about you. You’re great, you’re awesome. But lots of great, awesome people are going to end up in the “meh” or “no” pile of resumes. The goal is to start showing the reader that your awesomeness is the one that should get an interview for this Use it to emphasize your potential value to the company.
  • It’s not a bragfest. Don’t just insert all the flattering adjectives you can find. Use relevant action words that, again, will be backed up and enhanced by the rest of your resume.
  • It’s short. This isn’t your memoir, it’s a brief statement that sets the tone for your resume.
  • It adds value to the resume. If you’re just restating points or skills verbatim from later in the resume, don’t bother. The objective should be more of a “greatest hits” overview that is condensed into its most powerful form.
So what does that “good” objective look like? Think of it as a formula.

Strong traits + The role you want to fill + Good fit for the company = Objective

Don’t overcomplicate the objective: a sentence or two is great. You don’t need a bulleted list, or a long narrative paragraph. And in fact, a long paragraph could be a total visual momentum-killer, which is the last thing you want right at the start of the resume. You can label it as its own “Objective” section on your resume, but that’s not essential—it could just be a standalone sentence at the top of your resume, and the reader will understand what the purpose of it is.

Where to Begin

To get you started, here are some examples of resume objectives—the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can also find templates and samples online, like with ResumeGenius and The Interview Guys (who also have a resume objective “cheat sheet” you can get via email). Let’s take a look at what to do and what not to do.
The Good
Experienced customer service representative with more than 7 years of experience, seeking to leverage strong technical and customer-facing skills into an entry-level information technology position for TechSolutions Corp. Detail-oriented researcher with strong communication skills looking to transition into a blogging and social media coordinator position. Objective: To leverage 10 years of continuing education teaching experience and fluency in English, Spanish, and French into a part-time ESL teaching position.
The Bad
Fabulous customer service rep seeks to leverage legendary skills into IT. (Let the reader make the judgment about whether your skills are “legendary.”) Bringing my brand to your blog and social media platforms. (What brand? Why you?) I would like a job teaching English to non-native speakers. (What skills and experience would you bring?) Seeking a full-time position in my chosen industry where I can apply my experience and skills to that position. (Waaay too vague.)
The Ugly
I would like a job that pays at least $30,000 per year, with strong benefits and flexible hours to accommodate my child’s care schedule. I’ve always loved reading, so I’d like to secure a position with a large publishing company. Remember, the objective really sets the tone for the resume—it’s right under your name, and hits the reader before they get down to your qualifications and skills. If you’re going to include one, make sure it’s the most specific, appealing one you can write. This is your chance to start moving ahead of the pack, so make sure you’re taking full advantage!b

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