Objective Overruled!

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

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Image credit: Gavel zimmytws / 123RF Stock Photo



  1. TB, there aren’t ANY unique books on resumes and resume writing – none, nada, rien, zippo, zilch. All contain the same regurgitated pablum, differentiated only by the interspersed images and candidate recommendations as to why this or that approach helped me get a job (kind of like if you’ve never taken a shower and then take one – people aren’t afraid to go near you anymore).

    To far too many the word “objective” is like the name of a Presidential candidate leading up to an election; Say “Obama” and some people get crazed and agitated. Say “Romney” and some people get crazed and agitated. And both sides miss the point…

    The word isn’t the issue Tom but the content is; if you tell me that you’re seeking “a progressive company who will value my contributions to their organization and provide me with a nurturing environment where I will grow into management” you’ve wasted this recruiter’s time by saying nothing about how you match the job for which I’m recruiting. I could care less what word you use to describe the section of your resume where you’ve wasted ink on 24 words that say NOTHING!

    Here’s what this recruiter wants from the top of your resume:

    1. No billboard-size name – makes no darn difference to me; I can read your name in a 10 point font as easily as I can read it in a 36 pt one

    2. Links to your LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc – but not Facebook (I could care less what you do in your own time unless it relates to the job)

    3. A phone number where you can be reached that is answered only by you.

    4. Succinctly summarize for me and my hiring manager how you can solve our problems; call it a “mini performance statement” if it helps you while writing it – do not write something that causes us to say “so what?”

    That’s it. Pretty simple.

    Don’t like Objective nor Summary? Leave them off and don’t title the section – I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t need you to tell me the name of the section.

    And BTW – please don;t write “email” before your email…

    • steve watkins on October 23, 2012 at 9:21 am

    The sad truth is that since everyone is trying to be unique, there is now a crowd of uniques that make us the same because of our uniqueness. As example I would ask you to recall the last group of “Goths” you saw…see my point?

    Chester Lohman has the right idea. From him I have learned to see my resume as if I were the person trying to fill the position. This insight has helped me,
    I hope it will help others as well.

      • Tom Bolt on October 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Yes, Steve. The old conformist v. non-conformist syndrome is alive and well… probably proof of evolution of thought as well.

      Chester is spot on in his advice to walk the mile in the recruiter or hiring manager’s shoes. After all, that is the agenda that will ultimately set the groundwork for engagement. If we aren’t playing by those rules we aren’t playing.

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