Does my resume need an Objective statement?

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Jennifer from the University of Houston – Downtown asked:

I often see articles on the web that offer employment tips. The majority of these tips make sense and are often repeated in other articles. One tip, however, has me confused: Should my resume have an Objective statement?

Some of the articles from career experts say that putting the “Objective'” on your resume is useless and a cliche and that most employers don’t even read them.

A lot of resume sites, however,  still suggest or even require an objective on resumes.

So what’s up with “Objectives”?

Hi Jennifer –

This is one of my favorite questions.  Why?  Because there are so many different opinions on the topic of Objectives.

First – please know that there is not one absolute and always correct answer to your question.  The right answer for you depends on your circumstances.  Don’t worry – I’ll explain  what I mean.

Now for the full disclosure: I have to admit that, for the most part, I am NOT a fan of Objective statements on resumes, so please know that my advice is influenced by that personal bias.

Okay – on to my answer: Historical convention say you should have an Objective on your resume.  Unfortunately, that “it’s the way we have always done it!” argument is not valid.

These days  . . . .

Objectives are optional on resumes

Your resume only has so much real estate – typically you should limit yourself to a one-page resume, and when you have to limit yourself to one page, you have to make editorial decisions about what to include and what not to include.  I recommend that you only include information that adds value to your resume; information that helps present your qualifications effectively.  Most objectives do not meet that standard.

Objectives must serve a purpose on you resume

Following are examples of bad objective statements:

Objective: An opportunity to use my skills and education to contribute to a  progressive corporation
Objective:  A position with a company that will allow me to grow professionally and develop my communication and language skills

These statements convey no value.  They say nothing about your qualifications.  They don’t market you or position your resume. In short, they are a waste of real estate on your resume! They don’t serve a meaningful purpose.

Following are examples of good objective statements:

Objective: A sales management position with a consumer products company
Objective: An entry-level position in accounting
Objective: A software development position using ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC, Javascript, CSS, Sql

These statements place the resume into a specific context.  They say: This is what I want to do and the rest of my resume will prove to you that I am qualified for the job.  They place the content of your resume into a specific context. They serve a meaningful purpose.

Changing the Objective on each resume you submit is a waste of your time

But it feels really productive, so it is tempting to do!  I’ve already said that I am not a fan of Objectives on resumes.  I am also not a fan of hyper-customizing resumes.  Seriously – if you are applying for a lot of very similar jobs, how different is the story you are trying to tell each employer in your resume?  The answer – Not Very Different.

Your best opportunity to differentiate yourself as a candidate is through your cover letter.  In your cover letter you can position what you offer specifically in terms consistent with what the employer is looking for in candidates.  If you are not doing that in your cover letters, you are wasting THAT valuable opportunity.

“Exception that Proves The Rule” Alert! Now, if you are marketing yourself to distinctly different audiences, you may need more than one resume. You might need two or three, Your resume is, after all, a marketing document, and not everyone responds to the same marketing messages.  If we did, all advertisements would look the same.

Here is a good rule of thumb . . .

If you are sending a cover letter, you probably don’t need an Objective on your resume

I think cover letters are important, particularly if you are competing for a job that requires you to be able to communicate persuasively. A lot of people believe they are good writers – most are not!  If you want to prove you are a strong and persuasive writer, start by presenting a persuasive, well-written cover letter.  If you send a persuasive and well-written cover letter positioning yourself as a strong candidate for the job, your resume will not need an Objective statement.

If you are not sending a cover letter, you may want to put an Objective on your resume

Not all jobs require good writing skills.  Some don’t require the writing skills at all. For some jobs (many of them technical in nature), employers are not interested in reading cover letters when considering candidates – they jump straight to the resume.  In these cases, it may be a good idea to put an Objective on your resume.

What the key take-away message here?

Research your audience, study your market, and make your decisions based upon what you learn

Do this and you will be able to answer the “Objective” question correctly for YOU!

Good luck,

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3 responses to “Does my resume need an Objective statement?”

  1. […] Does my resume need an Objective statement? […]

  2. While I do agree that the Objective portion of a resume is optional, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the key points here.
    1) In Hawaii, some of the employers DO expect to see an Objective statement, so we at Job Prep Services teach our students how to craft an effective Objective similar to the one above.
    To avoid redundancy, we suggest that the students use the Objective to highlight their knowledge and skills, as you mention, and also take it a step further to also show that they would be a good fit in the specific environment they are applying for.
    For example, a Culinary Arts student applying at the Disney Aulani may write this objective:
    “To share my values of aloha and excellent food preparation as a Cook I at the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa.”
    2) We therefore have our students write a new objective for each position that they REALLY want, again, to capture the mission, vision or values of the organization they are applying for. They can also reword their skills & qualifications to better match the job description, also hitting on the keywords that employers are looking for.
    If a student is going to mass-submit a resume, say for part-time retail jobs in a mall, we recommend that they use the same formula, but use a more generic statement:
    “To pursue a sales associate position where I can anticipate customer needs and provide excellent service.”
    3) Our rule of thumb is, always submit a cover letter, unless you are mass applying, such as the example above.
    If an online application does not ask for a cover letter, we suggest that the student either upload it as the first page of their resume, or mail in a separate cover letter and resume.
    It will take extra effort to teach a student how to “customize” their resume and cover letter in this way; however, I have found that the students who do so are at least getting their foot in the door to the next step… the interview.
    All in all, I agree with your take away:
    “Research your audience, study your market, and make your decisions based upon what you learn.”
    Angela Coloretti
    Leeward Community College
    Job Prep Services