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Objective Statements On Your Resume: How To Make It Work

Objective statements have been a part of resume structure for many years – 50 or more. They served their purpose of telling the reader “This Is What I Want” reasonably well, when resumes were still delivered on paper.

An objective statement is a common part of most resumes today. It’s a shame because objective statements don’t work very well for candidates.

Today’s article will explain why objective statements don’t work well to differentiate job seekers and alternatives to use in their place to create a stronger first impression.

Objective statements have been a part of resume structure for many years – 50 or more. They served their purpose of telling the reader “This Is What I Want” reasonably well, when resumes were still delivered on paper.

But then things changed, making objective statements far less effective, even damaging on a modern job seeker’s resume.

What Changed?

Like so many other things, the internet changed job search and employer hiring processes.

Internet job boards and digital resumes removed application costs (time) and barriers to job application (information). Once time and information barriers had been removed, applying for a job took practically zero time and a candidate could see infinite job ads. Many candidates started applying to 100+ jobs per day and employers were soon flooded with applications (many of them unqualified – because it cost nothing to apply, just click submit).

With so many applicants, employers had to find a way to efficiently screen applicants to find qualified candidates. So now, most employers pre-screen resumes through a database via keyword search, have a recruiter or HR rep visually screen resumes (average 15 seconds per resume) to select about a dozen or so resumes for the hiring manager. About 97% don’t use a cover letter in this screening process, and 66% don’t forward cover letters to hiring managers.

Objective statements made sense when resumes were printed on paper, accompanied by a paper based cover letter. When resumes were produced by printers, candidates were forced into a single version. – one size had to fit all. In a static unchangeable resume, it made sense for a candidate to describe what they were seeking in an objective statement.

Also, in the days of paper resumes, employers took more time to evaluate resumes than the 15 second scan they get today.

When employers received a much lower volume of paper resumes that took more candidate commitment to send, employers received about 1/10th of the applicants, and most of the applicants were reasonably qualified.

Those are some big changes on the employer side – Changes that call for different resume strategies from candidates.

Why Are Objective Statements Damaging?

Objective statements have been the first impression made with your resume, since they are traditionally included at the top of the document. To today’s readers, objective statements seldom help the job seeker create a positive first impression.

The traditional objective statement does 3 basic things that are damaging to your initial impression:

Objective statements are WIFM:

Today’s employers don’t really care What’s In it For Me, since there is a wide supply of active and passive candidates for most positions. Today’s employers care about WIFT – What’s In it For Them. For more discussion, see Job Seekers – Tell your readers WIFT (What’s In it For Them)

Objective Statements are broad and general:

Today’s hiring managers hire candidates who demonstrate that they have solved similar problems, met similar goals to what the manager faces today – even for positions that are defined as generalists. For generalist positions, hiring managers first look for specific subject matter expertise in resumes to determine candidates to interview, and determine general skills in the interview – candidates who define themselves as generalists on their resume miss out on many opportunities. Broad and general first impressions don’t help job seekers, and especially hurt candidates dealing with ageism. See “Subject Matter Experts Rule!”.

Objective statements often waste Resume Real Estate:

Objective statements are often lengthy. When the average time spent reading a resume is 15 seconds and resumes are first read on screens displaying the top half of your first page, every line counts.

It’s critical to get your resume’s top “sizzle points” in the top half of your first page, rather than waste your most valuable space on information that’s more important to the writer than to the reader. To learn more about Resume Real Estate see ”10 Ways To Manage Your Resume Real Estate”.

About the Author

This article was contributed by Phil Rosenberg.  Phil is President of ReCareered, helping great people break through the challenges of modern job searches. Phil managed the Chicago suburban Financial and Technology consulting practices for recruiting industry leader, Robert Half International.