Are you “looking to obtain a challenging position that will facilitate your work ethic”? “Seeking to obtain this challenging position in,” oh, let’s say the music industry? Perhaps you want to win “this challenging position that will utilize your expertise and education.” In other words, your objective is to get a job.
The recruiters and hiring managers who received your resume already knew that. That’s why you sent them your resume. Professional resume writers call this the “Duh! Factor.”
Unfortunately, it’s also the core of an old-fashioned objective statement.
Besides being self evident, an objective statement focuses on the farthest thing from hiring managers’ minds: your personal satisfaction. Instead of telling employers what’s in it for them, you’re telling them what you’ll get out of the deal (a job). That’s just bad marketing. Good salespeople don’t sell cars by telling customers how much fun they’ll have spending the commission; they sell cars by figuring out what will satisfy those customers’ needs and desires.
“The days of including an objective stating what you, as the job seeker, want in a career are long gone,” said Adriana Llames, a career coach and the author of Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win The Job Search Game. “Instead, a summary statement or executive summary serves as an introduction. It’s almost as if there’s a colleague introducing you to the reader and talking about who you inherently are as an employee, what you’re really skilled at, and what you do better than your peers.”
Employers reject most of the resumes they receive, and most of the recruiters and hiring managers who do the rejecting read only the first few lines of a resume, Llames said. Don’t waste that precious real estate on a self-serving objective statement; instead, take the initiative with an executive summary section that focuses on the quantifiable results of your past projects and positions, your accomplishments, and what you can offer your potential employer.
A good executive summary will comprise four to six sentences that define your unique talents and demonstrate you’re superior to the competition. When it works, your executive summary will grab a reader's attention and carry that attention throughout the entire resume.
Lauren Milligan of ResuMAYDAY received this resume from music industry professional who came to her for help.
Milligan said a resume that leads with an objective like that gives her zero sense of excitement to talk to the person.
“It’s like going to a party and meeting someone and they barely shake your hand and barely answer your questions,” she said.
After meeting this job seeker, however, Milligan said she quickly appreciated him and his talents. “He just loves the business behind the music and has done some quite amazing things,” she said. “He told me story after story after story about putting out fires caused by rock stars. Because he was there, keeping the lid on these big egos, he got invited on tours because he handled things so well. He had real talent behind him, but he wasn’t putting it out initially in the objective statements he handled.” Milligan was able to capture that sense of accomplishment in a new executive summary.
The new statement builds excitement with specifics about the music industry niches and venues where this job seeker applied his talents. Milligan added a passage about the client’s Final Cut Pro editing skills to build on a strong keyword that will make the resume attractive to applicant tracking system (ATS) software that automatically parses resumes before human staffers ever view them.
Assume that the first eyes on your resume will be electronic, in that your resume will very possibly be scanned by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) application; the right keywords in the executive summary will raise your ratings with the computer.
Keywords are also a good way to shift the focus onto what an applicant can bring to the job in question, as opposed to what they’ve brought to jobs in the past, said Mary Alice Franklin, founder of YouCanDoWhatYouLove.com.
(For an in-depth look at keywords and how to find them, check out “Tuning Your Resume to the Right Keywords.”)
Specifics count when crafting an executive summary. Consider this example from a first responder at a crisis center and former 911 operator who wanted to become a victims’ advocate. She brought Milligan a vague executive summary:
With the exception of including “law enforcement field,” this job seeker could have been applying for any job, at any level, at any company in the United States, Milligan said. The summary included nothing that told the employer who she is, what she’s interested in doing, what exactly she’s skilled at doing, and what she’s better at doing than any other candidates.
The revamped executive summary describes this person before she walks into the interview room, Milligan said. “I’m not only confident that this is someone who will handle emergency situations but that she’ll do it not only with a level head but also with a solid background in procedure.”
Steer clear of boilerplate phrases such as “results-oriented,” “hardworking,” “on-time and under-budget,” “innovative” and “motivated.”
“Any of these terms can be used by any job seeker at any career level, which is why they don't impress employers,” Milligan said. “They've lost their meaning. My cute little mutt is ‘results-oriented’ because he knows he'll get a treat when he does a trick. Candidates have to take the time to identify how they are better and different than their peers.”
An executive summary is just that: a summary. A “major mistake” many professionals make is that they “throw everything into the summary,” said Bettina Seidman, career management coach for SEIDBET Associates Career Coaching.
A good summary must be concise but give HR a reason to read further, said executive recruiter and resume writer Edward McGoldrick. “I'm not saying you need to give them a novel they cannot put down, but give them something they can sink their teeth into,” he said.
McGoldrick cited an executive summary he recently put together for a project coordinator with core strengths in lease administration for the real-estate industry. McGoldrick needed to fill the temporary position quickly; his client had no time for phone screenings or face-to-face meetings, so the resume would make or break the candidate’s bid. Here’s the executive summary McGoldrick created:
After McGoldrick presented his top three candidates, his client picked this professional and cited the executive summary as “the key determining factor.”
Candidates who lack experience in a particular industry are particularly prone to sell themselves short by leading with objective statements that summarize their backgrounds but omit the transferable skills that would make them a worthy candidate for the position at hand, Franklin said. She cited a past client, a teacher applying for a position as a training supervisor.
The professional focused on his work with children instead of using an executive summary to show his transferable skills as a trainer, Franklin said.