Whether to include an Objective Statement in a resume is still widely debated and there’s no universal answer to resolve the dispute. As a professional resume writer, when asked this question my answer lies not in “whether to include one” rather “for whom, how and when” an Objective Statement can be used – if at all.
So here are some random thoughts on the topic to mull over, learn from, and determine if they apply to you.
First some background. The Objective Statement began in a totally different day and age when resumes were written in a uniform style for almost all jobs and when job titles were more generic. Also at that time resumes were submitted by hand, mail, and later by fax when there was no such thing as job boards, resume databases and tracking software. Likewise, it was commonplace for decision makers to read a resume not just spend 6-30 seconds, according to many, scanning one or inputting some key words and having a computer select the resumes to read.
For the most part, early resumes weren’t written to tell the story of what makes a person special and better than someone else. Instead they were Fact Sheets that followed the convention of the day telling the reader what job is being applied for, how many years of overall experience the candidate has and what this/her prior duties and responsibilities entailed, and what is the level of their education.
Moreover most of these resumes were created on a typewriter (and then a word processor) with additional copies run off on 24lb to 32lb cotton rag bond paper. This process made customizing a resume time consuming and costly. That is why resumes back then were static generic productions that employers and recruiters considered as being professional.
For some of you this may sound like a tale out of the Stone Age, but for many job seekers 40 and older this describes the resume they used maybe 2 or 3 jobs ago; and unfortunately many are updating this same outdated version in 2013.
In my opinion, technology has advanced and business models have changed so dramatically thus making old-fashioned resumes and the aforementioned Objective Statement obsolete in most 21st century resumes.
Today resume writing, resume screening and resume submittals are light years advanced and the content and format in a resume is vastly different as are the mindset of the people and machines reading them. People who screen resumes now take less time to do so, look for specific information, and want to be sold on a candidate not educated.
When (and why) using an Objective Statement (OS) is Objectionable
1: The Objective Statement is positioned at the top of Page One, the prime real estate on a resume; therefore it is the first thing people’s eyes will gravitate to. Unless the Objective’s information is crucial, or it is the first thing you want people to know about you, placing an Objective Statement in your resume is objectionable. It is a waste of premium story telling space and if it fails to have an impact on people they will read no further.
In most cases you are better off using a Title Tagline and Brand Statement to let people know what job you want to be considered for and what makes you special and worth further consideration.
2: Most Objective Statements I read focus entirely or in part on what the employer can do for the job seeker. If this is the case using an Objective Statement is objectionable.
3. Many Objective Statements are written to be too specific. When this happens the first impression the reader gets is of a “know-what-he wants” candidate who’s over or under qualified for the job at hand and is therefore summarily dismissed from consideration before the reader ever gets to the meat and potatoes of the resume.
When (and why) using an Objective Statement (OS) is Acceptable or even preferable.
I can think of only three circumstances when an Objective Statement should be included in a resume: if you are making a total career transition; if you are a specialist and are seeking a very specific specialized position; if you’re a new grad who is looking for your first or second full-time professional job. A fourth may be on the rare occasions an Objective Statement is requested by the employer.
When writing an objective statement, it’s important to focus on how you can benefit an employer, rather than on how the employer can benefit you. In all these instances the statement must focus on what type of work you want, your main skills and qualifications, and it must include how and/or why you will you be an asset to the company you are trying to impress.
As always I am available to critique U.S. resumes and offer suggestions on how to improve them at no cost. You can send me an email with your current resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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