A book written about resume writing won’t sell if it is like every other book that has ever been written about resume writing. I’m convinced that is the reason for the existence of so many different types of resumes in vogue today. All of them are justifiable based on some unusual perspective or special circumstances and some are different just to be different. Recruiters will budget their time to sift through possibly hundreds of resumes every day, but this is made more difficult since there is no such thing as a standard format. For the most part their expectation is that they will see a chronologically formatted presentation of education, experience, skills and accomplishments. The trick is for a job seeker to learn how to meet that expectation while offering something unique. Lately, it has become fashionable for the experts to chastise anyone who starts the page with an Objective statement. Is this good advice or is it wrong? There are so many conflicting opinions about looking for work that it may be difficult to ever know the right thing to do…about almost everything. Actually, the resume writing professionals are both right and wrong on the Objective issue.
Why the Professionals are Right
- History – Most traditional Objective statements in the past were badly written and added no value. If your resume has a paragraph at the top that says that you are “…looking for meaningful work in a progressive company that provides learning and growth potential… (yadda yadda)” then you have just displayed that you are not only naïve about the purpose of a resume but that you probably are more concerned about getting a job than satisfying a company’s need. If your objective is focused on the needs of you rather than the needs of the hiring manager it will be difficult to get in the door and that is the primary purpose of the resume. A generic objective that could represent any applicant serves no purpose and can be surgically removed without leaving a scar.
- Modern – Trends do change over time and the evolution of product advertising is equally applicable to people branding. Words that take on a negative connotation can be harmful to the overall image. Objective may have become such a word. The terminology that is used, the ratio of white space to typed space on the page, layout and font size all mean something to the reader’s unconscious biases. A certified resume writer knows all the subtle psychological subterfuge to give a resume the best chances to rise above those competing for the same attention. Even though content is the most important part of the resume, the presentation cannot be discounted and in fact a crisp and concise document is easier to read and therefore more understandable.
- Filtering – The mythical 6-second read by a recruiter is universally accepted to be a standard to overcome with effective resume writing. It really doesn’t really matter if this benchmark is true and more often than not it is false. In addition to the fact that some positions require a more thorough analysis to guarantee the presentation of a good fit to management, not all resumes will go through a thorough filtering process by HR or a recruiter. This does not mean that going directly to a hiring manager is better. In reality most of them do not have the experience in dealing with volumes of resumes but are more likely to read the document word-for-word. Interestingly, even with a more thorough reading they generally will usually come to the same conclusion as a recruiter so it is not a better analysis but merely a different one. Either way, it is never about Objectives but about keywords that match job requirements.
Why the Professionals are Wrong
- Irrelevancy – Recruiters basically don’t care if you open your resume with an Objective. You would be led to believe that if the word Objective appears at the top of the resume you will be automatically rejected. This concept is totally false. If you are screened out because of the single use of an unpopular word then you probably don’t want to work there anyway. The truth is that the ideal candidate is not someone to who hops from job to job and would therefore have a lot of resume writing experience. Someone who has 16 years of experience in one company and has consistently added to their accomplishments line by line is preferable as long as they have presented their work life in a coherent and concise manner. The only job that would require the competencies of expert resume writing is if the job is to write resumes.
- Semantics – Regardless of the word used, there needs to be some way of summarizing the work experience in a manner that makes it easier to see the underlying value of reading further into the resume: Objective, Summary, Executive Summary, or Synopsis. You could start with “Here Is Everything You Need to Know about Me in Twenty to Thirty Words or Less” except for the fact that it took 16 words to say that. Space is at a premium in a resume and to waste any of it is not a good idea. Experts tell you to put all of this summary information in a cover letter. That is probably a good idea, but a majority of recruiters will not ever see a cover letter unless the resume makes them go there. There is nothing wrong with starting off the resume with a headline-like short paragraph that tells the story of the career-to-date in a few words. Headlines are how newspapers and magazines lure us into reading articles.
- Focus – Just as important as the writing of the resume is the readability. Assuming that you have already decided what you want to be when you grow up, let your story logically flow from that decision. Starting with a summary called whatever word you choose, describe what you have done and formulate a consistent stream of thought rather than splashing disjointed bits of information on the page. It is not a good idea to assume that someone will take the time to figure out what you are trying to say by putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. If it is left up to the recruiter or other reader to guess at the meaning there is no guarantee that the message will be understood as you intended. Systematic presentation of ideas starting with a kernel of truth shows not only that you know who you are and what you can do, but it also gives first hand proof of your ability to organize information and of your writing skills.
The bottom line is that the word Objective is objectionable to a few people so why go there? Take it out or modify it. This does not mean to rush into panic mode and rewrite everything, but if you are revising your resume anyway you should do a little wordsmithing. A clue that something must definitely be done is if you have an objective statement that says the wrong thing or says nothing. That needs to be fixed. Pay attention to your resume from top to bottom and make the best presentation of you. It is important.
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