I get this question a lot and the answer is always, “It depends.” There’s great debate with strong feelings about whether or not to include an Objective on your resume. Remember, there are no absolutes. If one recruiter says that you should never ever have an Objective, I can find you another professional that will say the exact opposite. Second, be sure you know the difference between the Objective and the Summary.
The Objective is a resume heading followed by a concise statement of what type of job you want. The Summary, on the other hand, is a heading that consists of a few bullets that highlight what background you have to offer. There are other names for the Objective including, Career Objective, Professional Objective or Career Goal – I tend prefer the simple, Objective. The Summary is also referred to as a Profile, Career Profile, Professional Profile, Qualifications Profile, Career Summary, Professional Summary, Summary of Qualifications or Career Highlights. Again, I prefer the plain, Summary. Let’s spell out the various arguments.
The key argument in favor of the Objective is that it focuses the reader’s attention on what you want regardless of your background. A common resume mistake is that candidates are not specific as to the type of job they want. A clear Objective demonstrates to an employer that you have given careful thought to your future career goals and sets the “tone” of your resume. Without an Objective at the top of your resume, you send the message that you have no direction. If the reader cannot figure out what you want within 10 to 15 seconds, then you need an Objective.
If it is hard to come up with an Objective in the first place, it usually means the candidate has not done the proper self-assessment to get focused on two to three job targets. Remember, if you are not clear in your mind of what you want, it will be even more difficult for a recruiter to figure out where you belong in the organization. Don’t create more work for the employer by making them guess.
A one line Objective can help make sense of your diverse background and pull it together for an employer. One way to craft the Objective statement is to first use a job title or functional area (i.e., counseling, administration, management, financial analysis, etc.), followed by the type of institution or career field (i.e., non-profit, school district, medical setting, government, business, etc.). Avoid writing several sentences or creating sentences that are too long. Strike a balance between being specific enough to convey the message that you are focused without being too narrow and cutting off some options. From an exhaustive “Master Resume,” additional resumes can be created so you can change and tailor your objective statement to better target specific jobs.
• “A part-time position in higher education; special interest in student services.”
• “An internship in public relations in the government sector using writing and social media skills.”
• “A counseling or advocacy position in a non-profit organization using strong interpersonal skills.”
• “A full-time research position in the environmental field; special interest in soil and water quality.”
The key argument against using an Objective is that it limits you. You run the risk of being eliminated from other options that you might be suited for. If your experience is linear, focused or progressive, you don’t need an Objective. If an employer could figure out what you are looking for pretty quickly, then bag the Objective. It just takes up unnecessary space that could be used to better sell your skills, accomplishments, education, experience and credentials. Often Objectives are written with vague words that do nothing for you. Most Objective statements are too general, have little meaning or worse may indicate the candidate has no idea what they want.
• “An exciting and challenging position in a growing company with room for advancement.”
• “An entry-level position in teaching, retail, engineering or government where hard work is recognized.”
• “A responsible position working with people with a progressive organization utilizing my skills and experience.”
There are several ways you can design this heading. One way is to set up a few columns or a table containing two or three words outlining your core skill sets and competencies (i.e., Training & Development, Finance & Budgeting, Sales & Marketing, Operations Management, etc.) I prefer starting off with a bullet followed by an overview of your qualifications and transferrable skills:
• Over 10 years IT sales experience in a company with current revenue of $75 million.
• 15 years of higher education experience in teaching as well as student and career services.
• Proficient with current technology including social media, MS Office, database programs and industry software.
Ultimately, you will have to make the final choice and determine what works best for your unique situation. Having an Objective is optional. You may want to consider having an Objective on your resume if you meet these criteria, but you certainly are not required to have one.