One of the most frequent questions I get is, “How do I write an objective for a resume?” My answer is always, “Don’t.” Write a Professional Summary instead.
WHAT WAS A RESUME OBJECTIVE?
In the distant past, an “objective” was THE thing to write. It was placed at the top of a resume, appeared to be a helpful marketing tool, and told the company what YOU were looking for and what YOU wanted from them. Employers expected to see it and they tolerated it. Like this one:
Seeking a position in a company that will allow me to increase my customer service skills and build on my data entry speed and accuracy.
This objective statement appears to send the message that you are excited about customer service and have, at least, an entry level data entry skill set.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH AN OBJECTIVE?
Let’s turn it around and see what else the above objective could be saying.
- I don’t know customer service that well. I’m hoping to learn on the job.
- After I improve my customer service skills on your dime, I’ll move on to a higher paying job.
- I’m not that fast when it comes to data entry, or very accurate, but I’m willing to get faster at the expense of your customers…and on your training dime.
- Then, when I am faster, I’ll move on to a higher paying job.
I know this might seem like a serious exaggeration. But, it’s not. As a past hiring leader, that is exactly what I was thinking might be the case when I read these kind of objective statements, especially if the work history supported my assumptions. Thankfully for most, I understood it was the common resume practice and I would investigate further by telephone screening the candidate. But, a lot of hiring managers don’t have the time. They will put that kind of resume aside and see if they kind find resumes that address their needs.
WHAT ARE HIRING MANAGERS LOOKING FOR?
- A candidate with the skills and experience that will fulfill their job needs.
- A resume that gets straight to the point and makes it easy for them to identify the candidate’s skills and experience.
- Bonus: A candidate that has the skills and experience, AND additional qualities and competencies, that will not only fulfill the job needs but will make their team even stronger.
So, what then do you put at the top of your resume?
WRITE A PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY INSTEAD
Enter the “Professional Summary”. Just like the old objective statement it is placed at the top of the resume – just beneath the header (your name, address, email, and phone number).
If I was applying for a Human Resources or Training position, requiring significant experience, I might write something like this:
PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY: More than 25 years of successful Human Resources Management, Consulting & Training with the ability to assess, advise, supervise, and deliver effective support to clients, staff and leadership.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A SUMMARY
This summary says so many things. I am a professional with the Human Resources and Training experience they are looking for; How long I have been doing the relevant work; My relevant specialties; and that I can get to the point.
Simply, it encourages the reader to continue down the page and read more about me, where they will (and should) discover the matching experience to support my bold Professional Summary. (More about this in different blogs.)
The Professional Summary focuses the hiring manager or recruiter on how you, your experience, and your skills can directly benefit and contribute to their team. It helps them better to “see you” in the job before they even meet you. And, if written well, can help them visualize your additional skill sets that they didn’t even think of.
KEYWORDS & APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEMS
I’m going to take this opportunity to briefly mention keywords. Keywords concisely describe a skill set or experience – and are extremely important for passing through the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
When I am writing a resume, I look for opportunities to include various relevant keywords in the Professional Summary, the Areas of Experience, the Education section and the Employment History. Below, I have broken out the keywords related to my sample Professional Summary above:
KEYWORDS BROKEN DOWN
- Human Resources Management
- Performance Management
- Training & Development
- Team Supervision
These keywords were carefully chosen to match the job posting I would apply for. Some of the words are identical to skill sets in the posting. Some of them are synonyms of the desired skills. But, all are relevant to the overall scope of the job posting role.
The hiring leader/resume readers will see these matching skill sets immediately. And, if the company uses an automated Applicant Tracking System, the applicable keywords will be identified immediately, increasing the chances of my resume being reviewed and considered.
IT’S YOUR TURN TO WRITE A PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY
How about picking a job posting right now and writing a professional summary that matches the employer’s needs and your experience, and identifying relevant keywords?
– Heather McBride, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
NOTE: Consider taking my online resume writing course. You will learn everything you need to write Professional Summary and a fantastic targeted resume.)