The Resume Objective Statement

If you’ve ever struggled to write a resume objective statement you are not alone. Your initial reaction to this part of your resume might even be a little bit frustrated! Your objective? C’mon! Your objective, you might be thinking, is to find a job.

Fortunately, you can learn to write stress-free objective statements that help you get hired. You can also choose one of three alternatives to the resume objective statement, unless you are one of the two specific types of job seekers that absolutely must have a resume objective statement, no matter what. We’ll cover those two situations below.

How Employers Use Objective Statements

Before you sit down to write your objective statement it’s useful to know what’s actually going on with them. To find out, imagine you are the hiring manager. You’re staring down over 400 resumes which all seek to compete for a single position. You need to start interviews in just one week. You don’t have time to give in-depth attention to all of these resumes. If you’re the hiring manager, you’re going to want to save your sanity by screening them as quickly as you can so that you can narrow your job down to reading a much more manageable stack of resumes.

Most likely, the hiring manager will glance at the objective statements. The hiring manager will typically spend about 15 seconds of his or her time using the objective statement to determine whether or not the resume is relevant to the position. If a candidate’s statement grabs the hiring manager’s attention or hints at a good fit, the resume will be put aside for further reading. Everything else is going to go to the trash! It’s harsh, but it’s true: a job seeker has very little time to capture interest. If you can’t do that, you’re done, at least with that particular organization.

Since a resume objective statement is only 1-2 sentences long you also have very little space to make your point. So an objective statement is a bit like writing a billboard ad. Think about it: people see billboard ads as they speed by at 70 miles per hour, and it had better make its point quickly. The same is true for your resume.

A Resume Objective Statement Is Never One Size Fits All

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they write a resume objective statement is assuming they can just write one statement to use on every resume they send out. This results in a very vague, very generalized statement that nobody believes or cares about. Write your statement this way and you’ll get statements like:

Objective: To obtain a position that allows me to use my skills and expertise.

Not only is this statement vague, generic, and even sort of a no-brainer (you’d better be applying for positions that use your skills and expertise) but it is also all about you. A good objective statement instead expresses what you’ll do for the company. Make your resume objective statement too general and you’ll give the impression that you haven’t put any thought into your job hunt. This sort of objective statement can even make you sound desperate, as if you’re one of those people who wants a job, any job, and who is applying to companies en masse in the hopes of getting lucky. You need a better way.
Your “better way” is to write a new objective statement for each and every position, tailoring each statement to the company and position in question. Even though this will slow down a “mass job search” strategy you’ll win out in the end because you will increase your chances of landing a job that you really want. It also allows you to use the specific position name on your resume, which usually inspires hiring managers to pull the resume aside for a closer read later. This also allows you to target specific skills or qualifications that relate to your position, as in the objective statement example below:

Objective: To obtain a position as an Internet Content Specialist requiring extensive SEO copywriting skills.

This new objective statement tells the hiring manager the exact position that you’re applying for. Be sure to use the specific job title that was listed in the ad that you’ve seen. Job titles differ from organization to organization and you don’t want to lose valuable time forcing the hiring manager to guess which position you actually mean.
This type of objective statement is also stronger because it tells the hiring manager that you’ve read the job description thoroughly, since you will pick out a specific skill set (hopefully your strongest skill set) from the skill sets mentioned in the ad. The hiring manager is now much more likely to pay attention to your resume as a result.

Making Your Resume Objective Statement “Pop”

Remember, you’ve got 15 seconds to work with here, so you need to apply some copywriting principles to your objective statement. Copywriting isn’t hard: it’s just the art of telling people what’s in it for them. Your job is to figure out how you will benefit the employer, and then to communicate that benefit to him. Note that a “benefit” is an actual result, as opposed to a “feature.” Your skills are your features. Your benefit is what those skills actually do. So make your statement even more specific. In the example above, the company wants SEO copywriting skills. Why? Because they want their website to generate more leads. You can even use the name of the specific company you are applying for in your objective statement to bring it home all the more.

Objective: To serve Quicken Loans as an Internet Content Specialist by creating a powerful lead generation strategy through the use of extensive SEO copywriting skills.

Can you see the difference? Do you notice how this resume has now become an answer to a problem? Do you see how this now sets the resume apart as a marketing tool rather than a checklist of related positions and experiences?

Resume Objective Statement Alternatives

There are several alternatives to resume objective statements. The first, and the easiest, is to leave the objective statement off altogether. This can be dangerous, however, as you are leaving everything to your cover letter, which may not survive a 15 second screening skim.

Another alternative would be to use a “Qualifications Summary.” In our Internet Content Specialist example you might choose to add: “Three years of experience with SEO copywriting, keyword metrics studies and social media engagement strategies.” This works because it keeps the focus on the employer. However it is harder to work in the specific job title. The Qualifications Summary can often be added directly beneath a focused objective statement to strengthen it instead of using it as a substitution, which often proves to be the better strategy.
A “Personal Branding Statement” provides another alternative. A personal branding statement focuses on the specific expertise that you bring to the table, on your specialty. You might use: “Internet Content Specialist specializing in SEO-based lead generation,” for example. It’s a little like an “objective,” without all of the baggage that has become attached to that particular resume section.

When you MUST Include an Objective

Some resumes absolutely require a resume objective statement, no matter what. If you are seeking an entry-level career or if you are changing careers you will need the resume objective statement to clarify and strengthen your position because your work history will typically be unrelated to the position you are seeking.

Final Thoughts

Writing your resume objective statement the right way is a great way to get to the head of the pack. Just remember to turn your objective into a marketing tool and you can enjoy the power that comes from being a much stronger job candidate!