You've read all the advice about how to write a great resume. But there's one question left if you're seeking a job. Regardless of your work experience, do you need to show a great resume objective for your potential employer?
The Argument Against Resume Objectives
It depends on who you ask about what a great resume entails, as well as your professional career objective.
• They may be outdated.
There are some who say it is an outdated practice that takes up precious room on your resume. After all, most of the time, you’re applying for a specific job and your job objective is, well, pretty obvious.
• They take up space.
Moreover, there's an argument to made that any space on a job seeker's resume is actually pretty precious so a good resume objective (particularly a long one), by definition, means less space for you to sell your career summary, job skills, or work experience to your future hiring manager or prospective employer.
• They aren't presented well.
Most importantly, the resume objective is often executed so poorly that this advice seems very tempting to believe.
Four Times You Should Have a Resume Objective
However, there are at least four professional situations when, as a hiring manager, I have found it reasonable for people to list their resume objective. In these four cases, I've provided some strong sample resume objective examples to include:
1. When you are applying for your first job out of school
If I think about the times when I’ve seen the resume objective appear at the top of the resumes I’ve reviewed, it’s most often for entry-level type positions where someone doesn’t have a lot of previous job experience. Perhaps you're a job applicant that is still in school and applying for your first job with your first professional resume. In many cases, this person turned to their college career services center and found some resume templates that included an “Objective” statement at the top.
Resume objectives can make a lot of sense if they are brief and used to describe a passion area that’s not immediately obvious from reading the rest of their resume. Think of it as a personal brand statement about your personal interests that isn't obvious from the rest of your resume template.
For example, perhaps you're a student who has only worked part-time customer service jobs during school or had brief internships. Or maybe your undergraduate degree may not be clearly related to the role you're interested in and your resume objective serves to be more of a summary of relevant qualifications. Don't use the resume objective to explain why you want the job, however. That is something you should save for your cover letter or initial outreach email.
That said, sometimes resumes can get printed out or separated from cover letter material, so it’s extra assurance that an explanation of why you want the job gets to the hiring manager. As a resume objective statement example:
Objective: To leverage my English degree and attention-to-detail while exploring my pre-law school interest. I’m focused on a position as a paralegal or legal assistant at a mid-sized, full-service law firm
2. When you’ve been out of the workforce for an extended period of time
If you’ve taken a professional career break due to family caretaking, a disability or some other reason, you may want to explain this right up front on the resume itself. One of the easiest places to do that is in a resume objective statement. This is no place for an essay, but in case your resume and cover letter or initial email are separated, you can use a resume objective to explain to a hiring manager why the dates on your resume seem to be from several years ago.
For a resume object example to use in this situation:
Objective: To re-enter the workforce in the nursing profession after developing this interest while care-taking care for elderly parents with Alzheimer’s disease.
3. When you’re changing careers in a major way
If you’re changing your career dramatically, e.g. going from data science into computer programming after a transformational coding bootcamp, you’ll need to explain this change in your career goals. Again, the ideal place may be your introductory email or cover letter, but you never know if that material is actually going to be appended -- or even if it is -- reviewed, by a recruiter or hiring manager. Resumes to hiring managers, for example, often drop the initial cover letter or accompanying information.
In this situation, the best resume objective statement will explain your recent practical experience and why you want to make such a big, professional career change.
For instance, you could use this sample resume objective:
Objective: To complete my coding bootcamp with a full-time software development role at a technology company in the marketing analytics industry (where I’ve developed extensive industry domain knowledge as a data scientist).
4. When you’re applying for an internship
Sometimes you’re applying to be an intern where you know there’s a lot of competition and decisions may be made without a lot of reasoned analysis. In these situations, you know that GPA and college coursework and your part-time job at the library isn’t going to really matter to the hiring manager. You are trying to explain quickly why you want the job and why you’re the best person for it.
For more experienced candidates, usually your potential employer will expect that a quick glance at your overall resume should answer both questions. However, if you only have a few part-time fast-food jobs under your belt and a good GPA, that may not be enough to take your resume across the finish line. Adding a compelling resume objective is another way of making sure your non-obvious attributes and assets are front and center (literally).
Here is a resume objective sample that may make sense for a student whose career skills may not otherwise be apparent on their resume for a particular job:
Objective: To obtain an editorial internship in a digital media company where my social media savvy and ambassador marketing techniques will be a valuable fit
The Bottom Line
As you can see in the resume objectives samples above, it’s best to consider the resume objective a place where you can explain what’s otherwise not obvious from just glancing at your resume profile. Don't just stuff a resume objective with action verbs or make it a redundant resume summary statement.
You don't need to be a professional resume writer or resume builder to make sure you've got a great resume objective. Take time to thoughtfully consider what you want you want to say in your resume objective, make sure it's well-written and does more than simply explaining what you want. As counter-intuitive as that sounds, an effective resume objective should also be a selling statement that is a summary statement of your strengths as a job seeker.
In other words, don’t just describe your actual objective -- but use this opportunity to explain why you’re actually well suited to achieve it. In today's job market, these four examples of resume objectives show that there are exceptions to every rule about how to write a resume.
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