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The Debate Over Objective Statements

In general, I recommend not using an objective statement on a resume. This is for a variety of reasons... for one, if you are going to write a cover letter, which I do recommend, you can say everything that an objective is supposed to say in an entire page rather than one or two line. Also, in general, objective statements are badly written, and because you rarely know your audience, its hard to tailor an objective to their exact preferences. I also believe that those precious two or three lines can be better used to sell yourself through your experiences and education, etc.

The only time I do recommend an objective is when you are going to an event or a conference where there is a chance that you may be handing out your resume to strangers in an impromptu fashion. Because of this, you need to give the recipient some sort of idea of what it is that you are seeking, because when they get back to their office and finally go through that stack of papers that they collected at the conference week later, they just might not remember the details of your conversation. The other situation in which an objective statement may be useful is when your resume is rather general or your experiences are scattered and you need to give definition to what it is that you are seeking (because your experiences don't explain it themselves.)

However, if you do choose to include an objective statement, make it short, concise and about what you can do for the organization -- not what the position will do for you.

Pretty Good example: Inquisitive, data-oriented Master of Science in Information candidate seeking User Experience Research position at Google

Bad example: Seeking a position as User Experience Research Intern in order to gain experience and knowledge and lets me utilize my background in statistical analysis.

On LinkedIn (in one of my groups), there's a discussion going on about Objective Statements. I've included the questions and responses that have been included for you to read. Note that this is from a group of Career Services professionals (and some other certified resume consultants) who work at a wide range of universities. Note that people are all over the board on this one -- so you may need to make up your mind on your own. I've bolded the ones that I think are most useful -- however, you decide for yourself!

Question: Objective Statements--are people still suggesting them for entry level resumes? If not, what do you recommend? Does it vary any by discipline?

Responses:

I still recommend them, but I stress to the students the fact that objectives hold only two purposes---to proclaim what position you're seeking and how you're going to use your assets to benefit the company, not yourself. The employer needs to know what you plan to do for them and/or why they should hire you over someone else.

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I tell my students that it is optional and that depends on each situation/resume. For example, if a student is sending a resume into an employer with a cover letter, no objective is really needed. Meanwhile, it may useful at a career fair since the cover letter is not provided to the employer.

If a student does include it, I tell them that it should state the actual position title PLUS 2-3 strong skills they have which are relevant to the position. So, the student now has made the objective part of their selling point.

For me, the objective, like the reference category, is a filler on a resume. It doesn't kill a resume from being considered yet, if worked right, can be a reason why the employer keeps reading your resume.

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My philosophy has always been that anyone who has more than a handful of resumes to go through is going to 'yadda yadda yadda' objective statements and so even the how you're going to benefit the employer doesn't get read until they've already decided they like the candidate at which point it might help a little but you've probably already gotten to the interview pile at that point and the interview is what will make or break you. For on campus/career fair/etc. use I still advocate using them but only to communicate the most bare bones information: i.e., full-time vs. internship + field/industry/whatever.

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I strongly recommend objective statements to all undergraduate and graduate students and alumni. An objective should contain the job title and job ID (if any) of the position they are applying for. In this economy with recruiters stretched to the limit, candidates have an extremely short amount of time to get an employer’s attention. If a candidate doesn’t have objective statement in the resume but has their intentions in a cover letter, they mustn’t assume the employer takes the time to read cover letters during the initial recruitment process.

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I still advise students to compose an objective that identifies the position they seek and two to three skills they will bring to the employer. If they've done their research, those skills will be consistent with the keywords the employer scans for in an ATS. Just this past week I encountered employers who validated the value of a well-written objective. In some situations, it may be the only place those all important keywords are included.

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I believe that an objective varies on the degree and position a graduate holds. For instance, if they are applying for a position as a medical assistant, and that is the degree they hold, then I say no, an objective is not needed because the office manager, DON, etc already knows that is why a medical assistant is applying for the position.

For graduates where have a broader range in their field, such as Criminal Justice or Computer Networking, then I do suggest an objective because with these degrees, there are so many different positions you can apply for. Example of what I suggest for an objective for these situations:

Recent Criminal Justice graduate seeking a position as a parole officer to bring to your organization enthusiasm, dedication, responsibility, and good work ethic, combined with a desire to utilize my skills obtained through experience in the following areas: (then start your resume listing your skills and experience)

When going through the exit interview process with our students, this is when I get a good feel as to where the student/graduate is in knowing (or not knowing) what direction they are leaning towards in starting their new career. This also plays a big part in having an objective or not on their resume.

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This would be a better question for employers to answer than us career services folks. We are making assumptions about what employers want.. but what do they really want to see? What is helpful to them?

We recommend objectives to our students for a couple of reasons:

1) Employers do not have a lot of time to interpret a resume and try to figure out what kind of position the candidate is seeking. Therefore, if they don't know ahead of time (i.e. through an objective), they may be unwilling to read the resume at all since they can't tell if it will be worth their time. In this case, Christian's "bare bones" approach could be helpful so employers at least know that they have the kind of position the candidate seeks.

2) An Objective is one way for a student to show that their job search is focused and that they're not just shotgun blasting a generic resume to every company. Students who know their passions can typically write a fairly effective resume.

Employers have not spoken to us directly about Objectives recently, but they have told us that generic traits (e.g. hard working) do not help them much. They prefer more tangible information, which is not always easy for students to identify.

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Employers would probably have as many varied answers as us Career Services folks have now. And because Career Services departments work so closely with employers, I think we can all speak intelligently on the matter without making assumptions. On a side note, just because a person has a degree in a certain field does not mean that what they're looking for is as broad as the degree. For example, a person with a medical assisting degree may prefer to solely focus on phlebotomy instead of the operations of the entire doctor's office or hospital. Or a paralegal may want to work within a specific area of specialization. Any way the graduate can save the employers time and guesswork would surely work to their advantage, in my opinion.

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Objective statements shouldn't be used on any resume, no matter the career level.

An objective statement is telling the hiring manager what the candidate wants. The hiring manager doesn't care what the candidate wants. They want to know if the candidate can positively impact their company's bottom line.

For the candidate to prove that they can, they need to include an opening summary that dovetails past experience/academics to the requirements of the targeted job. One - or preferably two - quantified accomplishments should be included.


I'd have to disagree with xxx on using an objective. I think that having an objective on a resume is like having the cover from the box a jigsaw puzzle came in. The puzzle solver is faced with many seemingly random pieces to assemble; the box cover depicts what the puzzle will look like when it is successfully put together. That picture gives the assembler lots of clues about how to put the pieces together...and that is exactly what one wants a resume reader to be able to do easily. Obviously, if a resume's entries lead down a clear path to an easily apparent outcome, then I would not suggest using an objective: the reader will quickly ascertain exactly what the job seeker is looking for. But for the resume of someone with a diverse background, or who is trying to change fields, having an objective can help the resume reader make sense of seemingly disparate experiences.

I have learned not to assume that all resume readers are creative problem solvers. Some are, and they will figure out how the pieces come together, objective or no. But for readers who are not good at that sort of visioning (or for those who are simply trying to move through resumes quickly), giving them a sense of how all the resume components come together helps set them up to read the resume more easily and to come to the conclusion the writer was aiming for.

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In response to xx's statement: Again, objectives tell hiring managers what you want. They don't care. They want to know what you can bring to their company. Your opening summary should tell them that.

If you're in a transitional career, within the opening summary it's perfectly all right to write something like: Transitioning from retail management to accounting, with a degree from ABC University and an internship at XYZ company. That's the objective without it being stated directly on the resume and more importantly with it telling the hiring manager about your background, not your desires, wishes, expectations. Another way to get around it is to use a tag line (a title) at the beginning of the summary to let the hiring manager know what position you're targeting (eg: Accounting Manager, Real Estate Broker, etc. etc.)

There are many ways to get an objective into the opening summary without it being obtrusive or making it sound like - this is what I want. Skilled resume writers do this all the time.

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Actually, xx, I don't think that telling hiring managers what they want to know and using an objective poses a conflict if the resume is well constructed and strategic in its language. In any marketing effort---and a resume is a marketing document---the goal is to make the reader want to find out more. That's the first step in making the sale. Resume readers are customers to whom job seekers are marketing. Of course hiring managers are looking for folks who can do what they need; it's the job of the job seeker to create a resume that addresses that need. But, as I noted before, resume readers should not have to search around to find the relevant background in the resume---and, in fact, they won't. A strategically worded objective can be the first step in convincing a hiring manager that the candidate understands the needs of the position AND that (s)he is qualified to deliver. I would never suggest an objective be framed as what the candidate wants. It is all about what the employer wants, and then connecting the dots between those needs and the candidate's capabilities and experience. For those whose job titles don't make that connection obvious, an objective can provide a valuable opportunity to grab the attention of a hiring manager by making the connections---and the ability of the candidate to deliver the goods---easy to spot.

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XX - of course a resume is a marketing document. That's the first thing any competent resume writer learns. And, of course, no resume writer would force a hiring manager to look for pertinent data, because most only afford 7 seconds or less to each resume - unless they're compelled to read further. You compel them to read further by stating what you can do for their company (including listing one or two quantified, recent, relevant accomplishments in the summary), not telling them what you want.

By its very nature, an objective is what the candidate wants. If a candidate is applying for an accounting position, why write: "Objective: An accounting position with your company." Why not put the tag: "Accountant". One word takes the place of seven. Anyone reading that title knows the individual is applying for an accounting position. It's self-explanatory.

As I stated previously, there are elegant, less obvious ways to get an objective into an opening summary. It's done everyday by professional resume writers. It's also industry standard.

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I personally allow the students to decide if they want to list an objective on their resume. To me listing an objective is tailoring your resume "old school" and not up to the modern expectations of what your resume should state. I tell them if they love the objective portion, then by all means keep it on there because they have to be confident in how they are marketing themselves. As an alternative to an objective I recommend they replace it with a Professional Profile, Summary of Qualifications, or something of the like. If they chose to list an objective I coach them that it needs to state what they offer not what they gain to seek. For example, "To become a .... with your company" or any similar objective is a waste of space and obvious since that is probably the position they just applied to - hence their objective to gain employment in that position. Instead that statement should be reworded to offer something of interest to an employer "Skilled medical professional with over 10 years experience providing quality service eager to positively impact your practice."

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Yes, I advise my college students to use an objective. It should be short and to the point and should include the position & 3-5 skills from the job description. Such as "Accountant position using my skills in Quickbooks, Data Analysis, and Tax Preparation." The dozens of employers I have spoken to like this type of objective, especially for entry level persons. Yes, an objective is what the job seeker wants so the job seeker should use the objective to show that he / she meets the needs of the employer. Marketing is stating that I have what you need.

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We've started recommending that students add an objective to their resume if they will not be including a cover letter. For instance, we provide resume books to employers, and the objective gives an insight as to what the student is interested in. From the College Recruiting and Career Services perspective, this still seems to be important to employers. Especially those who are alumni.

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Great advice, xx. An objective is a very important component of a resume. As I tell students, its primary purpose is to target the position for which you are applying. It tells the reader that you want the position they have available. Unfortunately, this can't be assumed. Objectives should not be wordy and full of fluff that mean nothing to the reader. They should be as direct and specific as possible.

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I typically suggest students add an objective statement at the top of their resume. However, as with most other aspects of resume writing, I like to lay out the pros and cons and let the applicant decide what is best for them. I'm not certain there are ever any definites in resume writing--other than we all seem to definitely have opinions. If nothing else, when working with those with little job experience or who are writing their first resume, I find the process of having them at least develop an objective they could use to be a helpful exercise in developing the rest of the resume to target a specific field of work.

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Like many others who responded, I recommend a concise objective that clearly states what position the applicant is trying to obtain. This was validated at a recent event our career services office hosted, where we informally posed the question to an audience of approximately 40 employers. Almost all responded that they did in fact like to see an objective IF it was concise and specific (and did not include what I refer to as "the fluff" such as "to contribute to a meaningful and worthwhile workplace, blah, blah, blah...")

Posted by kkowatch at March 3, 2010 09:21 AM

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