You might be familiar with resume keywords, colors, or some of the nitpicky things some headhunters might use to weed your resume out of a pile of dozens. But many people may not know that a resume is supposed to have an objective at the top, describing the intention of the applicant – who you are, and what you seek to accomplish. And that a resume objective could either make or break your entire resume.
Whether you’re newly entering the job market without a tremendous amount of prior experience or looking to extend your career after a lifetime of various mentors telling you all the dos and don’ts of resume writing, don’t underestimate the importance of these innocuous little sentences. They’re not just a series of impersonal boxes to check on the road of resume-building.
A good resume objective asks bigger questions about future plans and ultimate career goals and challenges the reader to think of the applicant as a whole person.
What’s a resume objective?
Whether experts call it a “branding statement” or a resume objective, this one or two-sentence blurb serves to transform you into a person with goals rather than a list of impersonal accolades on a Word document. And much like one uses different resumes for different purposes, the objective of a resume can be adapted depending upon what job one is applying to.
The most basic version of a resume objective is this: “I am a _ looking for , where I can apply my to __.” The blanks are filled in with your personal experience, and aspirations, all to inform a recruiter who you are, and why you should be hired.
There are plenty of other things to add, such as a small summary of your key attributes as a person, or a larger elaboration on what you’re looking for in a company, but resume objectives don’t usually run longer than two or three sentences.
“I am a __”
This one’s probably the easier on the surface – what are you? A lawyer? An accountant? A teacher? While for some, it’s easy to define your profession in one word, there are hundreds of thousands of other people who are in your same profession, and it can be hard to distinguish yourself from the many, many others applying for this position.
To stand out, think of a specialty you have within your field that might give you an edge. Are you an estate planning lawyer with experience mostly with geriatric clients? What about a full-stack developer with a passion for web architecture? You’re more than just the broad strokes of your career, and this part of the resume is where to show it.
“looking for _”
Your first inclination might be to say that you’re looking for exactly the job you’re applying for, or the particular thing the headhunter you’re contacting is seeking. But the reality that you’ve spent your career pining after a mid-level talent management position, just like the one you happen to be applying to, is slim, and that kind of inauthenticity can be easily picked out in a resume.
To solve this problem, think exactly about what you’re looking for, and be honest about it, while maintaining a measure of professionalism. Glassdoor has a creative list of resume objectives for those who might be looking for a job for a particular reason – perhaps an entry-level job, one where they’re looking to relocate, or even a career change.
“where I can apply my __”
This part of the objective can seem like a tempting place to put in all your keywords – your “leadership qualities,” “entrepreneurial spirit,” or “10+ years of Microsoft Office experience.” If you’re submitting a resume knowing it’ll go through a scanning software before it hits a pair of human eyes, you’ll want to make sure all your keywords are in a row.
But if you know you’re just passing this along to a recruiter, connection or friend, keywords are useless, especially in a resume objective. Instead, this is a place for you to tell the recruiter who you are. Indeed recommends this portion is “catered to your strongest attributes” that, particularly, you’re “proud to share.”
This might be the hardest fill-in-the-blank – what are you looking to do for this company? What service do you offer that they’ve just got to have? The Interview Guys state that a resume objective is a place for you to metaphorically say, “Hey, why waste your time with all these other resumes when what you’re looking for is right here in front of you?” And the exact place for you to do that is here, where you’re explicitly mentioning the value you’ll be adding to the organization you hope to join.
It requires a bit of confidence and a little originality to think about what you bring to the table. Are you looking to branch out and learn new skills, or build your previous ones? Do you think there’s something the place you’re applying for is lacking, and that you have ideas that would complement the gaps in their knowledge?