Objectives have really gotten a bad reputation.
Some believe they can help clarify your career goals and impress future employers, while others think they are outdated and a waste of space on your resumé.
Sometimes objectives can be a great selling feature, or they can end up being redundant.
Identifying your career goals can show self-knowledge, but it can also limit you in terms of job prospects if others see very specific career goals on your resume.
What’s a job seeker to do with all of this conflicting information? Several career experts defend the objective and give their tips for creating the best one you can.
Objectives can be incredibly effective when written properly
Objectives get attention
“The current school of thought from the career resumé experts is kind of mixed on this,” says Deborah Shane of trainwithshane.com. “The world of getting employed and what grabs the attention of someone actually reading resumés has radically changed due to the sheer massive amounts of resumés being submitted these days.”
However, she believes that an effective objective can do just that.
She suggests that career seekers ask themselves what would catch a job recruiter’s eye if they only had five seconds to make an impression. “If you think putting up a lofty, vast objective is going to get someone’s attention, I suggest you rethink that.”
Shane says objectives should be very specific about how you could use your skills and intangible qualities to immediately impact the job you’re applying for. While it’s still essential to research and prepare your resumé carefully to impress a recruiter, “the objective can be just the bait they need to want to know more about you.”
Objectives set a tone
Rob Taub of Job Searching with Rob says objectives are necessary to set the tone for your entire resumé. “People will see the top of your resumé before they look at the body and thus see your opening sentence – your objective. This is your first and best opportunity to create the “tone” you want and, consequently, the “mood” for the reader. The writer sets the tone for the reader. The objective is like a title on a book cover.”
Objectives set a direction for the resumé and allow the writer to take control of how the prospective employer will view their experience and whether or not they will read on.
You may think that an objective isn’t important for all the jobs you’re applying to, but Taub suggests that “even in response to a simple job description or part time opportunity, such as a waiter or bartender, an applicant can, too, benefit by setting the tone. Keep in mind, there are dozens or hundreds or thousands with whom you can be competing.
Setting a tone appropriate for the company you’re applying with and lead the recruiter to where you want them to go.
Taub suggests avoiding being too self-serving. “People want to know what you can do for THEM, not what you want out of them!”
A recruiter may skip your cover letter
Some may argue that the objective is redundant because it restates information found in the cover letter. However, as Stacey Campbell, a career consultant at the Laurier Career Development Centre, points out “many screeners report that they skip reading the cover letter entirely, and head straight to the resumé first. Logistically if a screener is hiring for multiple roles simultaneously, reading an effective and targeted objective statement will put that reader in the right headspace for screening the rest of the resume right up front.”
Campbell also says that there are certain situations where an objective can come in handy. “Sometimes when we are applying to a job that we are over-qualified for, or do not have any direct experience in, an effective objective statement can help to dispel any concerns on the part of the reader right up front.”
How to write an effective objective
Campbell suggests the following formula for your objective:
Identify yourself (political science student, HR professional, accounting graduate), seeking role you are applying for (entry-level junior accountant, international grassroots placements, etc.) in order to select relevant experience/skills/knowledge and provide results to the company or how you will contribute to the goals of the position.
Resourceful and collaborative psychology graduate seeking to secure a position as the Women’s Health Promotion Coordinator in order to leverage skills in marketing to strengthen community awareness of health programming.
Campbell suggests you keep your objective statements short so that they do not clash with the profile section of your resumé.
She also warns of making objective statements too focused on your future goals. “Objectives that are too future oriented may say, ‘I don’t want to be in this job too long’ to a reader. Staff retention is a big issue.”
If you really don’t want to write an objective
Campbell says that an effective objective, which is articulate, concise, and targeted, cannot possibly hinder your chances of being hired. However, if you have a well-researched resumé, it isn’t a “definite” need.
If you feel like an objective just isn’t sitting right on your resumé, stay tuned for Part 2 in our To Write an Objective or Not series and consider the alternatives.