take that objective off your resume

Last week, when writing about things to leave off of your resume, I mentioned objective statements, which I believe don’t belong on a resume. Some commenters wanted to know why.

I’ve never seen an objective that made me more interested in hiring a candidate, and I’ve seen plenty that actually hurt a candidate’s chances. At best they’re neutral, so why risk it?

Objectives usually fall in one of three categories:

1. Objectives that are all about what you want. For example: “A position that allows me to develop my interest in international relations.” At some point I’m going to care about what the candidate wants, but at this initial screening stage, the process is about what the company wants.

2. Objectives that aren’t sufficiently tailored to the position, or even have nothing to do with it. For example: Writing “a job in finance,” when you’re applying for a job in health care. This objective makes it look like you’re simply blasting your resume around without enough focus–and that you have no attention to detail.

3. Objectives that just don’t add anything compelling (and therefore just waste space). For example: “A job where I can apply my skill set, at a company with potential for growth.” It’s pretty much assumed that you’re looking for that.

Here’s what most hiring managers want from a resume: A concise, easily scanned list of what you’ve accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills. That’s it. Don’t use the resume to talk about what you’re looking for, or for your own assessment of your strengths. Present factual information about what you’ve done.

There will be time to talk about what you’re looking for, eventually–but first the hiring manager needs to figure out if she’s interested or not.

I believe objectives at best add nothing and take up space, and at worst harm your chances. But I know some people are firmly convinced they should use them–so if you think you’ve got an objective worth including, tell us why in the comments.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. George A Guajardo*

    That was an interesting piece. I have always wondered about objectives on my resume. For the past few years I have left them out for lack of a clever idea (that would not make me seem goofy).

    This question brings up an even more problematic issue. So far as I can tell there is no consensus about what should be on your resume, or how this should be done. I have spoken to a few HR people and I often get different answers. I once heard a hiring manager (a colleague of mine) discard a resume because she did not like the Times New Roman font.

    Is there any chance at all that HR practitioners will adopt a standard “best practices” for resumes to reduce the subjectivity in resume evaluation?

  2. Ask a Manager*

    Hey George,

    I don’t think it’s likely that people will form one overarching consensus about the one best way to do a resume, but I think that if you hear a hiring manager say that she’s discarding a resume because someone doesn’t like Times New Roman, that person isn’t a good hiring manager.

    I think that, aside from insane determinations like that one, most people are looking for the basics: what you accomplished, where, and when, arranged chronologically, in a clear, easily scanned, bulleted format. Pretty simple, really!

  3. Charles*

    AAM;

    I so wish that I had your column last week when I went to a resume writing workshop. The trainer stated that everyone absolutely had to have an objective on their resume or else they wouldn’t get hired because without that objective their resume would be put into the “No” pile in less than 15 seconds.

    I so wanted to voice a different opinion but didn’t since the class was free and the trainer was a state worker (free class offered through unemployment). Now, after reading your column I feel that I did a real disservice to others attending the class by not speaking up.

    I would add these two things to what you have already stated:

    1. Even if you match the objective to the job posting you still might get it wrong because the person posting the job description could be different from the person actually reviewing the resumes and that they might have a difference of opinion as to what the job is.

    2. The only time I would include a job objective is if the job was through an internal contact who told me that it was necessary and, most importantly, what the job objective should be.

    What I include on mine instead is a “professional summary.” Something that tells them who I am (or should I say what I am) in less than 15 seconds.

    Something like: Experienced Chief of Staff for a medium-sized nonprofit responsible for day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. This way they get a quick, yet concise, idea of what you do without reading your whole resume and trying to figure it out.

    George;

    As a trainer I have often worked with HR to filter through resumes – you would not believe some of the lazy ways that some recruiters narrow down that pile. Aside from those that don’t actually read the resumes and just randomly pull a few out, the worst that I have seen was when I was told to get rid of anything not on white paper. While I agreed that those resumes printed on bright green and hot pink should not even be considered (its a professional job, not a used-car sale!) I felt that those printed on a soft ivory or even a light grey would okay and should be considered. But I was told no – white paper only! It was the last time that I offered my help to that recruiter!

    One never knows what the recruiter on the other end is thnking or doing!

  4. Kelly O*

    Oh Charles, don’t even get me started on those resume-writing seminars offered through agencies and unemployment offices. Some of the HR bloggers I read would absolutely stroke out if they could hear what “HR and Hiring Professionals” were telling people.

    It’s like information overload on resumes – everyone has their opinion of what is Set In Stone and it seems like every time you think your resume is looking pretty good, you get that constructive criticism from someone who thinks you should “always” use this font or this format or this number of pages and rips you to shreds.

  5. Anonymous*

    Well, I, for one, am glad for that piece of information. I have always wondered about those objectives and I have kept them off since I couldn’t come up with something that wasn’t complete tosh. I’m really glad to hear that they aren’t necessary.

    I don’t care for dishonesty, and the truth is that I don’t really have any objectives – at least not any that would look good on a resume. I would describe them as “to do a job that I can do well together with people I can stand to be around” – not very impressive, but the truth. That doesn’t tell an employer anything about what I can bring. The whole “objectives” thing makes me feel like employers think that you will only strive to do a good job if you’re gagging for promotion.

    Why couldn’t some people just be driven by finding satisfaction at a job well done and enjoying the company of their colleagues, and still be assets?
    //Jessica

  6. Zia*

    Yes! Thank you. I'd been wondering why we were required to use that in the first place. If I don't want a job at your company, why did I send you my resume?

  7. Pingback: Marketing agency resume advice: 14 tips to get more interviews | Frontline Results Marketing by Karl Sakas

  8. Maria*

    I recently heard of a way to use objective statements in a more beneficial way: Not what you are going to benefit from the job, but how your job experience outlined below is going to make you better at the specific job. You always say to tailor your resume, so why not tailor your objective statement? I feel like it’s a summary of my cover letter, and actually helps me to focus my cover letter when I write it like a thesis statement.

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