Professional resume writers have abandoned the objective statement for an executive summary, but young professionals still rely on them and many amateur resume writers still insist.
Time was, you would use the prime real estate atop your resume to declare your objective, to tell prospective employers how you wanted “to obtain a position at a well-established organization with a stable environment where you could maximize your management skills and effectively utilize your experience to… blah, blah, blah.”
Resume objective statements were all about what you wanted, not about what you could do for a prospective employer.
And that is precisely why your old-fashioned, objective-topped resume will make many professional resume writers shudder. Professional resume writers have replaced these messages with “Executive Summary” sections that sum up what skills the applicant brings the employer.
Amanda Collins, chief of staff at The Grammar Doctors, explains the attitude adjustment: “Objectives disappeared years ago when resumes switched from applicant-oriented to employer-oriented. They need to instead share the WIIFM Factor – What’s in it for me? – from the employer’s prospective.”
But the objective statement has not entirely disappeared. Young professionals, with little to include in an executive summary, still rely on them and many amateur resume writers still insist on them. If you’re in the latter group, the best advice is to make the transition to an executive summary, say professional resume writers and human resources (HR) executives. But if you are still a young professional, and still rely on the objective statement to introduce yourself to employers, there are best practices to follow. Ladders spoke to hiring managers and certified professional resume writers to determine the best way to structure this pithy alternative to an executive summary. Here’s what they had to say.
Be clear, and be what they need
In a nutshell, a worthwhile objective statement must:
- Be crystal-clear about your career direction
- Position yourself as someone who wants to do exactly what the employer is offering
- Be tailored to fit the job for which you’re applying.
Jillian Zavitz is the programs manager for TalktoCanada.com, an online English language-training course based in Canada, where she is responsible for hiring. She said that she does in fact see objective statements that catch her eye because they point to a candidate who’s “exactly what I am looking for,” which, in her case, is somebody with experience “related to teaching and specific to the job offer.”
Here are some examples of objective statements that have crossed her desk, some of which are spot-on and some of which are from the school of me-me-me resume writing:
Bad objective statements:
- “Career employment or contract (twelve months).”
- “My Goal is to find employment that will help me begin paying off my student loans.”
- “ESL Teaching position with Talk to Canada.”
- “To obtain a challenging position where my education, skills and experiences can be highly utilized and later be applicable for growth and possible advancement.”
Good objective statements:
- “Position of ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHER with MarcMedia’s TalktoCanada, where I can apply my education, teaching experience and native linguistic skills to the delivery of quality language instruction.”
- “English-Language Trainer/Tutor of ESL or standard English. To assist, encourage and motivate students of every age to demonstrate and improve their verbal and written skills.”
Christine Richardson, director of the career-services office at Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, N.Y., said that employment objectives can serve as “the glue that pulls together the content of the resume and gives the document finesse.” However, they’re a waste of space unless they highlight relevant information that ‘speaks directly to employers’ needs,” she said.
Richardson provided objective examples from new college graduates with limited experience that are too general to make an impact.
- “To obtain a position that will enable me to use my educational background and transferable skills to manage and create new opportunities in international trade and networking.”
- “A full time position in the Human Resources Training Department.”
- “A position in the Business and Marketing Administration field.”
- “To obtain a position which will enable me to utilize my education and experience in the fashion industry.”
- “Fall Internship.”
More specific, but still needs work:
Richardson cited this next objective as being appropriately specific. It’s from a sports-management graduate whose goal was to manage an athletic facility.
“Service Manager, interest in ensuring facility is well equipped and advocating for best guest and member experience.”
However, as written, it is “unclear about the industry this job seeker is pursuing. And “in the job seeker’s mind this was a very clear position title to list, but this title would probably have multiple meanings in multiple industries.”
She rewrote the objective this way:
“Athletic Facility Management Team Member Position”
That version might work, but Richardson said she still believes that “other headings can be more useful on a resume,” since objectives seldom highlight skills and experience and generally serve the job seeker more than the employer.
The upshot: If you really want to use an objective statement, make sure it’s about the employer, not just about you. Mention your skills and experiences. If you’re not getting interviews, consider graduating to an executive summary and a summary of qualifications and/or career highlights, the standard for a modern resume.