The average recruiter spends about six seconds looking at your résumé, and you’ve got to make every one of them count. Do résumé objectives help or hurt you?
A résumé objective is a short statement that outlines your career direction. Objective statements were once the standard on every job-seeker’s résumé. A decade or so ago, you wouldn’t have sent out a résumé without one. But times change, and what recruiters look for in a standard CV has changed, too.
Are résumé objectives old-fashioned?
It’s important not to waste space on a résumé. Since keeping your résumé 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.
Many career experts argue that résumé objectives are outdated, and some suggest that they should never be used. Think of it this way—besides you, who really cares about your career goals? Busy recruiters and hiring managers want to know what you can do for the company, not what you’re looking to get out of your next job.
A hiring manager is looking at your résumé and thinking What’s in it for this company?. Objective statements are at odds with that, because they’re essentially saying “Here’s what I hope is in it for me.”
What should you use instead of a résumé objective?
Although you’ll get different answers from different résumé experts, the consensus seems to be that résumé objectives are out of style. What should you use instead?
A Summary Statement
Rather than using valuable space on your résumé to declare what sort of work you’re looking for, try summarizing yourself. 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.
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.
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.
Nothing At All
Even though summary statements are almost always better than résumé objectives, both types of statements take up valuable space. And much of the time, the work experience you outline will do the talking. If you’re an experienced professional who needs to tie years of experiences together with a common thread, then a summary statement may be helpful. Otherwise, save the space and add some extra bullet points under the key roles you outline in the experience section of your résumé.
Are there times when you should you use a résumé objective?
There is one case to be made for objective statements—they’re useful when you’re making a major career change. According to the experts at The Muse:
If you have, say, five years of experience in business development and you’re now interested in marketing, your résumé probably isn’t selling you as the best candidate for the gigs you’re applying to.
In this case, you could definitely benefit from having an objective statement to clearly explain that you’re making the switch and show how your skill set aligns with this new career path.
According to Monster.com, objective statements are also helpful for those seeking targeted entry-level positions. Keep in mind, though, that often your objectives are laid out in a cover letter.
Recruiters and hiring managers are more likely to focus on your education and relevant experience than anything else on your résumé. 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.