Ask one person about including an objective statement on your resume and they’ll say it’s paramount. Ask another person and they’ll say it’s outdated. Who knew a couple of sentences could be so polarizing? You’re bound to find conflicting information about this topic, making the objective statement, well, subjective.
A resume objective is a short statement that outlines your career direction. Objective statements were once the standard on every job seeker’s resume. A decade or so ago, you wouldn’t have sent out a resume without one. But times change, and what recruiters look for in a standard CV has changed, too.
Read on to learn about resume objectives, why they are important and how to distinguish your resume objective from thousands of other job seekers.
What is a Resume Objective?
A resume objective is a statement of your professional goals as they relate to the job you are applying for, and it is usually listed at the top of your resume. A resume objective is typically one or two sentences long, and can be tricky to write given the space limitations. However, when crafted well, a resume objective can make you and your skills stand out from the crowd and introduce you to recruiters in just the right way.
Ultimately, the resume objective section of a resume should answer the question, "What is this resume (or job seeker) trying to accomplish?" It should be short, to-the-point, and customized for each resume.
Should You Include a Resume Objective?
A resume objective is a great way to make your resume stand out and to convey a theme or narrative to your work. However, many career experts will insist that it's a resume feature of the past. However, it is particularly important for a few key job seekers:
- The Career Changer.
Making a big career change? Congratulations on your courageous move. This also means you’re the ideal candidate for adding an objective statement at the top of your resume. Your objective statement should clearly address the fact that you’re switching industries. Do not try to add fluff or extraneous details to seem more qualified. State the situation as it is.
- The Job Returner.
If a significant amount of time has passed since your last job, an objective statement is a good place to address this. What have you been up to? What have you learned during this period? Life experience is still valuable experience. Give a teaser of what you’ve learned.
- The Newbie.
As you’re poised to enter the work world, you might be so excited about the possibilities that lie ahead you haven’t given much thought to, well, actually landing one of those possibilities. A job search — especially your first one — can be tough work, wading through the unfamiliar waters of resume writing and job search sites, plus intuiting exactly what a potential employer wants while sidestepping interview landmines. A resume objective can help a recruiter understand how your career goals as a new grad align with the open role.
Resume Objective Dos & Don'ts
Keep these tips in mind to avoid the pitfalls of a horribly boring objective section.
Make it interesting
Objective statements have a reputation for being boring and unnecessary. If you’ve decided it’s necessary, make it interesting. Throw a dose of personality onto the page, share a relevant personal anecdote, add something you’ve wanted to say that hasn’t fit in any other part of your resume. Catch someone’s attention with a unique and genuine objective statement.
Keep it short
This is not your cover letter. This is not even a paragraph. Your objective statement should be a few sentences, that’s it! Communicating in few words can be surprisingly tricky, but when done well, it shows thoughtful skill. Take some time to think about how you’d best like to maximize these sentences. When space is at a premium, only include what’s absolutely necessary.
Make it specific
Your objective statement is different from your elevator pitch. It’s something that’s tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. For every resume you submit, your objective statement should reflect the expectations of the employer and/or hiring manager of the specific job. Ultimately, your objective statement is not about you, but about why you are the best for the job.
Don’t use weak action verbs
You didn’t “help lead” a group initiative. You “spearheaded” one. Always look to use stronger and more impressive power verbs at the beginning of your bullet points, while avoiding weaker ones like “help” or “assisted.”
Don’t forget to ask someone to proofread
It’s great that you took the time to edit and refine your resume. Now let your friends and family members help as well. If even professional writers and authors have editors to proofread and make changes to their works, then you should too.
It’s easy at times to think that what you wrote makes perfect sense because after all, you wrote it! But unfortunately, we’re all prone to making some mistakes or suboptimal writing decisions that we simply can’t catch and fix ourselves. So never skip this final step – it might just be the most important one!
Don’t mention the obvious
While it’s great to have the mindset of leaving no stone unturned, everyone already assumes you have experience with Microsoft Word and Outlook. There’s also no point in mentioning that you know English if it’s obvious that you’ve worked in an English-speaking country your entire life. Instead, save your precious resume real estate for more technical skills that are far more impressive.
If you do know a second language though, be sure to mention it, as it’s currently a very sought-after talent that companies love.
Great Examples of Resume Objectives
Here are a few various examples of well-crafted resume objectives:
For the recent graduate:
Recent college graduate with a BA in Comparative Studies and six months of international internship experience. Seeking to leverage acquired academic knowledge and work experience to effectively fill your office clerk position. A dedicated worker aiming to help achieve company goals and take on more responsibility as quickly as possible.
Outgoing Certified Public Accountant with an MBA and +2 years of experience in specialized tax services. Seeking to leverage my technical and professional expertise to grow in the new role of Accountant at your company.
For a management position:
Management responsibility with an organization where demonstrated skills in marketing, administration, and sales can be translated into improved growth and profitability.
For a career changer:
With a reputation for meeting business objectives and aiding in data-driven decisions, I’m looking to shift my skills as an IT administrator into a data scientist role.
For an experienced professional:
Accounting professional with over 10 years experience looking to transfer my skills to the finance world. My proven mathematical and money management skills make me an ideal fit for the Finance Assistant position.
With a demonstrated history in business administration, I’m looking for a position that will benefit from my business experience while promoting my interest in education. The Experienced Teaching Assistant for Business Administration position is the perfect fit.
How to Write a Summary Statement
Instead of a resume objective, many job seekers are utilizing a summary statement at the top of their resume. Think of your summary statement (sometimes called Competencies or a Summary of Qualifications) as something similar to a LinkedIn summary, but with one exception — it needs to be short.
The goal of your summary statement is to answer the hiring manager’s “What’s in it for this company” question. It needs to be brief (about fifteen words or so) and carefully written for maximum impact. You should make every word count in your summary. Avoid filler words and phrases. Use strong verbs.
Writer known as being a good content creator with fifteen years of experience in writing feature articles.
What an abysmal example! It’s redundant. (A writer with “experience in writing”? Who knew?) It uses a filler phrase (“as being”). It includes a weak, overused adjective (“good”). And, finally, other than listing years of experience, it doesn’t say what sets the candidate apart from all the other writers who may be applying for the same job.
Let’s give it another try.
Expert content creator with fifteen years’ experience writing top-performing feature articles.
Much better. Now, our candidate isn’t saying she’s a “good content creator”; she’s confident that her fifteen years on the job make her an expert. She’s demonstrated her communication chops by making sure that her statement uses powerful language, with nary a weak verb in sight. And she’s included an important insight — the content she’s written has been top-performing.
When Should You Nix the Resume Objective?
It’s important not to waste space on a resume. Since keeping your resume to one page should be your goal, everything you include needs to work for you. In many cases, an objective is nonessential, which makes it little more than filler.
Recruiters and hiring managers are more likely to focus on your education and relevant experience than anything else on your resume. If space is at a premium, it’s almost always safe to forego the objective statement and make sure your relevant work experience shines instead.
Eager to really nail your objective and the resume as a whole? Here are some additional resources to help you on your way.