reasons that resume objectives suck #271

All resume objectives are terrible, but here’s our latest don’t-do-this example (courtesy of a reader who came across it):

“With the expectation of the progressive environment that uses my skills and opportunity for growth and as a platform for learning and improvement, I would be inclined therefore to a career that reflects my interest.”

I’m not even going to comment on this, other than to ask what would have to be in your head to think this was a good idea?

{ 79 comments… read them below }

    1. Jamie

      Or Yoda has a side job writing resumes…

      “inclined therefore to a career which reflects my interests, I am.”

      1. Rana

        I think that’s it, pretty much.

        “With the expectation of the progressive environment” = “I want to work in a place that isn’t stodgy and set in its ways”

        “that uses my skills” = “where my skills are useful”

        “and opportunity for growth” = “and I have a chance to advance”

        “and as a platform for learning and improvement” = “and to learn new things”

        “I would be inclined therefore to a career that reflects my interest.” = “I would like a career in which I can have such a job.”

        Boiled down, it does indeed translate to “I want an interesting job where my skills are valued.”

        Don’t we all?–which is another reason this is a bad objective.

        1. ThomasT

          Well, that’s ONE reading. It might be:

          “With the expectation of the progressive environment” = “I want to work in a place that is ready to adapt to the impending OWS revolution ”

          “that uses my skills” = “where my skills are useful” (I got nothin’)

          “and opportunity for growth” = “whose healthcare plan covers my human growth hormone injections”

          “and as a platform for learning and improvement” = “where I get a desk to keep my textbooks and self-help books”

          “I would be inclined therefore to a career that reflects my interest.” = “I would like to be a window-washer for downtown highrise buildings”

          To answer AAM’s actual question, I’m going to go with “rocks painted with random words.”

    1. A Bug!

      Agreed! It definitely sounds like someone writing ESL getting their advice from someone who shouldn’t be giving it.

  1. Kelly O

    It’s kind of like you took random words from all those “Build your Best Resume” or “Kickass Resumes for Nincompoops”, taped the words to a wall, and threw darts to see what phrases you would use.

    (Either that, or it’s the dolphins from the Cartoon Wars episodes of South Park…)

  2. Anon.

    My favorite resume objective: We had an open recruiting position at my company which happens to be over 40 years old, relatively traditional and family-oriented. A woman who had been employed at the company years ago applied and submitted her resume which included the objective: “I desire to work for a forward-thinking company that is on the cutting edge of their industry. Ideally, this would be a start-up or a company who plans to change direction soon. I want to help them build their staff to be the best it can be.”

    Well. If you’ve worked here before then you have no excuse to know that we aren’t a start up, nor are we planning on changing directions anytime soon. I asked in the interview why she kept that objective on her resume when submitting it and she told me that she had applied in haste and hadn’t had time to update the resume to remove it. Needless to say, even though we had prior, positive opinions of her work ethic and interactions with out company she didn’t get hired.

  3. Cara Carroll

    One of the local colleges sent me this Employer Survey to fill out. A lot of the questions they asked made me wonder what kind of advice they are giving to their students. I get students who say they have been to the Career Services at their school more than once and I just can’t believe it. Sorry I digress, anyway one of the questions on this survey was, “Do you find an objective helpful?” The answer to that question is of course No. On what planet do people think telling me they want, “a challenging opportunity to utilize my skills” is going to impress me in any way. Objective statements are useless, boring, many times generic, or don’t make any sense!

  4. Rana

    Try reading papers in which every sentence is like that! I tried to stomp on as many as possible, but some still got through.

    I shouldn’t complain; writing like that is part of what pays my bills, when I am hired to correct it.

      1. Rana

        Many of them don’t. Others did well enough to get through my classes (I taught history, not writing primarily, so they could squeak by on content rather than skills), or did poorly but were in programs where it wasn’t a significant part of their course work (like the students in the nursing program).

        A lot of people learn in high school that the way to get good grades is to be verbose and use “big words” and it’s hard convincing them that behaviors that got them As there will result in lesser grades in college.

        Plus, honestly, some professors write horribly themselves, and they perpetuate such overblown, bloated writing. It’s one of my pet peeves (which is why, in part, I decided to take up editing for a living).

        1. Joey

          Ah so educators are well aware they are sending graduates to the workforce that can’t even write a decent resume let alone a professional memo.

          1. Rana

            It’s a bit of a finger-in-the-dike situation, unfortunately. My usual scenario was something like: “teach 40 people the history of the last 100 years with nuance and consideration for complexity, while teaching them how to read a complex argument, analyze primary sources, write a complex argument in response (oh, wait, some of them can’t parse one sentence in ten of the readings, and most of them can’t write a thesis statement to save their lives), and do this using only a single (inexpensive) textbook, two exams, and two papers (which can’t be research papers because there isn’t time to teach them also how to find and assess sources).”

            I tried to improve their work as much as I could, but when they come in not knowing what the Civil War was (truly, I had one student who’d never heard of it, and she was not from an immigrant family), and find it hard to follow what the textbook is saying (even though it’s the basic version), there’s only so much fixing I can do in a semester.

            It’s part of why I burnt out on teaching and am now doing something else.

            1. Kim Stiens

              I like the implication of this… that teachers get burnt out on teaching because their students are too dumb. And I totally buy it! That would be incredibly frustrating. Especially in this day and age where everyone thinks they should go to college, and colleges seem to agree ($).

              1. Rana

                It isn’t even that the students are dumb, though. They’re often ignorant, but that’s a different problem. I’d rather teach a student who is a little slow in their thinking but who works hard and improves than one with a high IQ who sits on their butt and demands a high grade merely for existing.

                But student unpreparedness is a real problem – it isn’t even a lack of content knowledge; it’s a lack of the skills needed to educate oneself. Teaching students about the Civil War isn’t a problem; it’s what I was trained to do. Teaching students how to read and write isn’t a problem either, as it’s something else I was trained to do.

                Teaching both simultaneously, to students who have been discouraged from figuring things out on their own and thus never developed that ability, is hugely frustrating, and requires far more than a semester to fix. (And seriously, their inability to work independently is the most aggravating part of the whole thing. I’ve had students miss assignments because they lost their paper copy of the syllabus but couldn’t figure out that they could read it online simply by clicking the button labeled “syllabus”; I’ve had others complain about my class being a “teach yourself” class because I expected them to read the textbook on their own outside of class time; others struggled with the material but never asked for help, even though I was available by email, chat, office hours, and after class, and there was a TA and a study center as well.)

                Mostly, I felt sorry for them, because their “education” up to that point had stunted them so badly, and there was no way to undo 10+ years of bad education in 14 weeks.

    1. Liz T

      One of the best things that happened to me in college was taking “Creative Nonfiction” first semester freshman year. A lot of the class was devoted to getting us to CUT THAT OUT and just write simply and like a human being. I would occasionally read a friend’s paper and think, “zhe should’ve taken that class.”

      1. Ry

        This is tangential, but yay for using gender-neutral pronouns! We’ll get some version of “zhe” and “hir” (possibly something that flows better) into English at some point. I’ve finally succumbed to the singular “they,” as in “they should’ve taken that class,” but it grates on my own nerves, so I can only imagine how it grates on those of other language geeks!

  5. ChristineH

    As John Turturro’s character in O’ Brother Where Are Thou says: “That don’t make no sense!” (sorry, couldn’t resist…my husband and I were just talking about that movie”)

    That definitely sounds like it was written by a non-English speaker. I have an Objective on my resume (I know, I know….) but at least it makes sense!

  6. Joey

    Alison
    Do these people know what theyre in for when they submit a resume to you? I kinda feel sorry for them. I know you don’t identify them, but it’s gotta be really embarrassing if they ever recognize themselves.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This one was sent to me by a reader and she gave me permission to use it.

      But I’ve definitely thought about that, and I try to be careful about what I do and don’t use.

    2. jmkenrick

      I’ve wondered the same thing occasionally, although this post specifies that a reader passed it along.

      I am curious though, how many of the people who’s resumes/cover letters get posted (well, snippets) are aware of Alison’s blog, especially since they’re rarely in line with what she recommends.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes — what’s interesting to me is that this blog is basically a cheat sheet to how to interview well with me, and yet candidates so rarely take advantage of that.

  7. Carrie

    All this mocking of objectives is fun, I guess. For employed people who “know better”. But the reality is that large corporations with web-based application processes actually REQUIRE objectives to be stated during the painful process of entering your info into their system.

    Canada Post does this. As do other government organizations I have applied to recently.

    And the government sponsored employment coaches and counselors teach their clients to always put an objective on their resume. Both my husband and I have been to tons of classes and workshops where this is consistently, constantly encouraged.

    Seriously. The conflicting job-seeking advice out there is enough to drive a person insane. And I think whoever wrote that objective is probably well on their way to insane land. My sympathies go to the confused, emotionally spent, desperate-for-a-job-any-job person who wrote that objective, and not so much to the folks here who find it perfectly acceptable to mock the unemployed.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh come on. This isn’t about mocking people for being unemployed — far from it. This is a blog that spends a hell of a lot of time helping people become employed. But yes, if you do something silly that you really, really should have known better than to do, you might get called on it. And this is a profoundly ridiculous objective.

      1. Carrie

        Oh, I completely agree: it most definitely IS a ridiculous objective. No arguments there!

        I never said your blog doesn’t help people. I’ve read every single post, and it has helped to clarify some problems I have had with job searching.

        What I meant is that it is very easy to see problems with a resume when you are sitting from a place of privilege, which is where a lot of the comments seem to be coming from. When you have tried everything, when you have stepped out of your comfort zone, when you are desperate for work, you say stupid things. It just makes me wonder how many of the people who comment and make fun of mistakes — well, what’s the longest they’ve been unemployed? The longer the unemployment, the less stable one’s head is.

        1. Carrie

          ….and the fact that there are people with jobs, getting paid to tell people to put objectives like this on their resume. They are out there. They are maddening.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          The thing is, good resources on job hunting are available if you want them. For free. It’s one thing not to be a really polished, skilled job hunter — which is something I don’t think anyone here has ever joked about. It’s different to make mistakes so egregious that it’s clear the person hasn’t done any homework.

  8. CKF82

    Here’s another fun one – a LinkedIn summary of a former co-worker of mine who is fairly young (when we worked together, this person was in their first out-of-college job, and at this point is about 18 months out of school)

    “I have acquired an excellent foundation in the XYZ field through my education as an XYZ major, as well as my internship and now professional experience. My assets include a great deal of analytical and organizational skills. I have developed strong team-oriented and interpersonal skills as well as leadership qualities necessary for any professional business environment. I look forward to new challenges and obtain satisfaction when pursuing my endeavors.”

    So many problems with this (I personally love the line about assets including a great deal of analytical and organizational skills) – AAM, would love to get your thoughts on LinkedIn summaries in general, and this one in particular.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ugh, it’s terrible. I don’t even know where to start, but “my assets include” is a phrase that should be banned, and I highly doubt that ANYONE has the leadership qualities “necessary for any professional business environment.” Also, it doesn’t really say anything.

      1. Jamie

        It’s definitely better than my LinkedIn profile – mine is a study in awfulness.

        It literally looks like the old html meta tags without the tags.

        I really need to do something about that before I get posted somewhere as a bad example :).

      2. fposte

        My heart does go out to young people who are, I think, often panicked by the shallowness of their resumes into writing this kind of thing. But it’s kind of a Nixon situation–the efforts to cover up look a lot worse than the actual facts.

  9. Tom

    It isn’t all the poorly written. I read it as pretty funny. Something I would do after having to fill out multiple online forms and having several versions of my resumé continually ignored. As a video editor, I know that a little well placed wit can get more attention from the right person that giving the same boring “correct” corporate answer will.

    I read it as: I want a job mother-f#$#$r and I’ll play your big words and nonsense statements games because clearly from reading the copy on most corporate websites and press releases from PR folks, this is the sort of chatter you understand and appreciate. It says everything it needs to in a charming, round about manner.

    What I don’t know is what company this person was applying for, if this is on every resumé, and most importantly, what did the advertisement for this position say. Was the initial languages just as obtuse?

    Nice to suggest not having an objective. I didn’t have one on my initial resumé. Having trouble breaking into a career in a new town, I went to one of those government sponsored job coach deals. They found little wrong with my resumé except that I didn’t have an objective listed. It is now clearly listed at the top of my resumé. It is a simple statement that I still feel is rather obvious from the education and experience outlined, but then the cover letter seems equally pointless. What your objective is also the question that you most often get asked when you go to an interview.

    It is a stupid question because obviously you are there for the job. Anything more said is a mine field of mistakes… as in “I want your job” or “I want to be comfortable” or “I want to be doing anything but this, but I need to pay rent”. Either of these statements can be taken a number of different ways as this objective statement might also be.

    1. just another hiring manager...

      If your cover letter seems “pointless” to you, it sounds like you’re not tailoring it to the position. A well written, tailored cover letter that complements your resume is never a pointless thing.

      1. Tom

        Sounds like you don’t know me at all.

        I dutifully write a cover letter whenever possible. I am disappointed to hear from several HR people I know that that letter is often ignored, not read except to look for key words from the ad itself.

        I take great pains to write well. A cover letter does become pointless, no matter how well written, if it is never read, or only briefly scanned for re-iterating the advertisement.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Just because some people involved in hiring don’t read cover letters doesn’t mean none of them do. Plenty of hiring managers will tell you that cover letters have made the difference between interviewing a candidate and not.

  10. nyxalinth

    So we all agree–well, most of us–that objectives are bad, and sometimes even awesome employers make you add one with no option to skip it when filling out online applications.

    AAM, what would you suggest as some examples of “Good” (or, lesser of two evils) objective to state, when the online app won’t allow for skipping it?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Are employers really requiring objective on online applications now? Ugh. That has got to be set up by someone who doesn’t actually do the hiring.

      Anyway… honestly, I’d probably just put in the name of the position you’re applying for, rather than coming up with some garbage just because they have the field there.

      1. LJL

        When I’ve had to include an objective, I say something like “to secure a challenging and creative position doing X…,” always tailoring it to the position. I don’t have one on my generic resume/vita; that way I can add it for the position if needed.

  11. Anonymous

    I have another funny one for you. This was labeled as “profile,” but at the top like an objective.

    Intellectually and Physically Aspirating Team Worker Loving Internationality

  12. JL

    I am looking for a position where My creativity is used always. Where I am free to make my own scheduled and have a salary of over 100,000 a year + bonuses. Where my boss listens to me and never reprimands me. Where I am given company perks so I can vacation without having to spend any of MY hard earned money. Companies I am currently looking at include Enron, Tyco and Worldcom Please get back with me soon as I do not like to wait around and I am sure a bidding war will soon break out. Thank You

  13. ARM2008

    Doesn’t it bother anybody else that the commas are missing around therefore? Don’t use those big boy words if you don’t know how.

    Yep, that’s what I think when I read something obtuse – totally takes my mind in a different direction, which I’m guessing is not what you want when someone is reviewing your resume.

    1. Nathan A.

      Wisdom is found by having maximum impact in the simplest manner possible.

      I would switch “big boy words” with “ivory tower words”. Even then, it’s pointless if nobody knows what you are talking about, even if it is correct.

  14. Kim Stiens

    AAM, I have long agreed with you about this whole objective thing and have not used one in a resume for some time. But I recently did some hiring, and I actually saw an objective that I really liked, and it’s gotten me thinking.

    You should definitely NOT use an objective if you have nothing valuable to say. BUT an objective is good if you want to make it clear that you want to be in the sector your applying for and have goals of advancement within it. But they need to be specific and true. As a hiring person, I like to know if this person is applying on a lark or if they really want to be in non-profits and work up to being a Director or something. And if it is valuable to say, I think it could be a good idea to have it on the resume, especially if you’re not sure if your cover letter will be read. Think of it as a mini-cover letter for your resume. :)

    Of course, the original objective that got me thinking about this had nothing to do with the person’s plan for advancement. They just mentioned something about how they wanted to work somewhere that had a moral imperative… I’d never seen something like that before, and it definitely earned that candidate points.

  15. Anonymous

    The thing is, a LOT of companies post job adverts that are full of meaningless clichés. Many also focus entirely too much on the profile of the candidates they are seeking and do not give job details at all, or add a few words that read almost like an afterthought. With little to no details about the job, I don’t see how they will attract the right candidates anyway. Perhaps if employers want candidates to stop submitting applications riddled with clichés, they should stop posting job “descriptions” that are full of fluff but have no practical value-it goes both ways. Why do job advertising and job seeking have to be turned into a game of “Which side can use the biggest words and spout the most overused cr*p”? Things would be a lot easier if both sides of the table were more straight forward.

    Sorry if this sounds super snarky, but I’m not feeling well right now.

  16. Alan

    Objective: A job that pays me well at a company of people that I enjoy working with and which provides interesting challenges that when met are worth the time, effort and resources spent.

  17. Chris

    It reads a lot like those Nigerian spam e-mails. I expected the objective to finish with a plea for my bank account number.

  18. Garrett Browning

    (I’m a vet in the recruiting business) — DON’T USE “OBJECTIVE”! Use a concise “Summary” tailored for the specific job and company based on your research on the job and company. It’s your “elevator pitch” that summarizes what you do and that you’re successful doing it. The objective of your SUMMARY is to motivate the reader to want to read the rest of your resume.

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