"Objective" on résumé -- really?
March 9, 2011 9:45 PM   Subscribe

"Objective" section on résumé -- necessary?

I understand that the how-to wisdom of the résumé ancients dictates that thou shalt put an "Objective" section at the top. In it, thou shalt describe thyself as an "accomplished administrator seeking to leverage extensive background in personnel management, recruitment, employee relations and benefits administration in an entry-level human resources position" or something even worse.

But -- really? This seems charade-y even by the standards of the crazy charades people put on to get jobs. That, and I've never been able to bear how dorky I feel when trying to write one, so I never actually do. If you hire people, do you expect to see a laid-out "Objective" on a résumé? Would it weird you out if you didn't see one there? If you routinely get hired for things based on your résumé, do you ever do it sans "Objective"?
posted by colinmarshall to Work & Money (34 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I've never included one. Isn't that what a cover letter is for?
posted by OLechat at 9:47 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have had just as many people (who counsel resume writing/job searchers for a living) tell me that it omg-has-to-be-on-there as I've had tell me omg-don't-put-it-on-there. So do whatever you want.
posted by phunniemee at 9:48 PM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think if it's not clear from your skillset what your "objective" is then yes, include one. For instance, if you're trying to change careers or head in a new direction then it might be necessary – "To utilize my skillset in X to become a Y."

I did a resume that had the objective included once in the past year to apply for a super random job. However, I mostly do not include it because the jobs I'm mostly applying for are clear in their position title what they are and they match my most recent job experience.

Write a really nice cover letter and tailor both the letter and your resume to the job.
posted by amanda at 9:54 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I occasionally sit in on hiring committees. I'm not a hiring manager. We have none where I work. We are not a very large organization.

If you hire people, do you expect to see a laid-out "Objective" on a résumé?


Would it weird you out if you didn't see one there?


If you routinely get hired for things based on your résumé, do you ever do it sans "Objective"?

This doesn't really apply to me, but I've never included one. I'm a young person with a diffuse set of skills and experiences. I can't convincingly describe myself as some 'X with Y years of experience in Z, with a record of increasing responsibility.' My 'objective' is to get the job I'm applying for. There is no other objective.

I find it useful to bear in mind that most resume style advice is being given by people who are not themselves looking for jobs, and who have no incentive to keep track of the effectiveness of the advice they give.
posted by Nomyte at 9:56 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unnecessary and often silly. Your objective is to get the job (duh). Half the time people shoot themselves in the foot by stating objectives that do not align with the position in question. I guess I did use them as weed-out tools, though.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:56 PM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have a very short paragraph at the top of mine (under the contact details) saying that I'm passionate about science and want to have a research career in a specific area. It's not written in the kind of language you're referring too, although that probably wouldn't be appropriate for my field anyway. Instead I tried to be genuine and straight from the heart while also using the specific key words for what I want to study. I also didn't use any kind of heading to make it a seperate section, so it's not really a formal 'objectives' thing.

The reason I did this is that a couple of different post-doc-hiring scientists I talked to suggested putting something near the start of my CV to show straight away who I am, what makes me stand out from other candidates. They didn't say what exactly that should be, just something other than the usual dry list of experience or whatever. Since my level of passion and enthusiasm is somewhat unusual, comes across immediately when I start discussion my career (so they'll see straight away in an interview that it's not empty words), and is generally considered an asset for the kind of collaborative work I do, I figured it's a good thing to emphasize.

I recently scored a great job with this CV so it clearly didn't work against me, if nothing else. But I also know people who don't have this section in their CV/resume who have also been offered good jobs, so I'm not convinced it's necessary on it's own. There is plenty of scope for personality in the resume, and something like a summary of key skills or list of previous employment can get across your unique skill set pretty effectively too if it's done right. I think the objective thing is one potential part of the overall package and if you sell yourself better without some contrived paragraph then do that instead.
posted by shelleycat at 10:02 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I actually meant plenty of scope for personality in the cover letter. And there is definitely overlap there too, I have a similar section in my base cover letter about my enthusiasm and how that relates to my other soft skills as well as a reiteration of the specific research area I want to work in (which always fit the job I was applying for). So the objectives thing can end up being redundant.
posted by shelleycat at 10:06 PM on March 9, 2011

I do think it's relevant what's standard in your field. In my field, it's not standard at all and would be really weird. And would perhaps even make the candidate look like he or she didn't know the field that well.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:16 PM on March 9, 2011

So once upon a time, somebody who knew stuff found it was a good idea to put a descriptive sentence or two at the top of their resume to sorta prime the reader into thinking how everything below fits into it. As that bit of knowledge diffused through the stultifying filters of corporate idiocy, it transmogrified into the "Objective: to get you to hire me" line.

Thus, what you really want is a sentence or two right below your name that gives the reader a sense of what you're all about and where your talents are.

Having looked at your mefi profile, i'd recommend something like

Colin Marshall
Motivated internet and media professional with proven successes in blogging and [stuff], whose [adjective] background has given him [skills] and [more stuff] to succeed in [field of job you're applying].
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:18 PM on March 9, 2011 [9 favorites]

I've sent out a ridiculous number of resumes, I've never included an "objective" section, and I wouldn't think twice about this if I had to do it all over.

Any information I would have wanted to put in an "objective" section can go in my cover letter.

Only use it if you think it actually puts you in a more flattering light, or if you think it's useful at bringing together the various points from your resume into a coherent picture of what you're all about. Don't use it just because you feel like you're supposed to.
posted by John Cohen at 10:23 PM on March 9, 2011

People have a good point about "isn't that what a cover letter is for" but I think in contexts where you wouldn't normally have a cover letter (e.g., handing a copy of your resume out at a career fair, or to a friend to pass on to a contact) an objective statement can serve as a very mini embedded cover letter.

I don't think it is an expected thing in most industries to have an objective statement. As someone who sometimes reviewed resumes I rarely saw them. If I saw an objective statement that really seemed to uniquely fit the role I was hiring for that would definitely get my attention, but it's never actually happened.
posted by phoenixy at 10:33 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've seen these used meaningfully to express reasonable and relevant but slightly immodest requirements that the applicant has for taking the job, e.g. "To work with cutting edge web technologies, spend the time to develop unparalleled user experiences, and give back to the open source community." That's code for someone who doesn't want a typical web monkey job--they'd prefer to be rejected at places where there's secretly not a good fit. But at the right place, it's on point and demonstrates several things very succinctly about the applicant.

If you don't have a specific rhetorical goal, though, then it's noise, and you should omit it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:38 PM on March 9, 2011

A "Qualifications Summary" section can be a good substitute for an "Objectives" section, if you want to highlight specific things you've done, explain that you're changing careers, or be sure any other important detail isn't overlooked. For example, when I was job-hunting overseas, I added a sentence at the end of my Qualifications Summary (which itself was only one or two sentences long) stating that I was looking to move to the country in which the employer was located. I did so because I wanted to be really sure that anyone reading it would understand that I didn't live in that country yet, a fact that could be easily overlooked.

In my previous job, I was a team leader and did a lot of interviewing, but I never once saw a cover letter—I don't know if that was the HR department's fault or my boss' fault—so keep in mind that there is a chance that you could be interviewed by someone who hasn't seen your cover letter.
posted by neushoorn at 10:45 PM on March 9, 2011

Not since the 90s. I'll accept that at places like job fairs it could be handy.
posted by rhizome at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2011

As an engineering student who's hit several career fairs, I find an Objective statement useful for a couple reasons.

1. It's a good place to say whether you're after an internship or co-op vs. a full-time position. If you're not at a college job fair, though, you probably don't have to make that distinction.

2. If you're applying to Super Mega Aerospace Corp, which builds airplanes and satellites and missiles and hires a bunch of IT people and straight-up business types as well, it helps them direct you to the right sector of the company.

Reading back over other responses, I like what shelleycat said too, about distilling out particular skills or interests. In engineering at least, it's likely that your resume is going to have to go through a hiring person who may not be well acquainted with your field. So while a technical person might be able to look at a list of past employment or particular skills and say, "Oh yeah, this person is clearly all about XYZ," the HR people might not get that unless you have the right keywords up front.

But maybe all of this is actually kind of career fair-specific, where both jobseekers and employers are casting a pretty wide net, and it's useful to have a fast filter of some kind. If you're putting in a resume directly for a particular position, I can't think it would help you all that much to put an extra sentence of fluff at the top of the page.
posted by sigmagalator at 10:52 PM on March 9, 2011

I've read a lot of resumes while conducting interviews for software engineering coworkers. Honestly, I find that the objective section rarely adds value. If you've got something great to say, put it on, but if you're struggling to say something worthwhile, leave it off. I will not put it on my next resume.

There is a small subset of people who use the objective to, I guess, show some flair. "My objective is to create automatic testing software that brings the world together in love and harmony." I find these entertaining, but honestly, I mostly ignore it.
posted by IvyMike at 11:29 PM on March 9, 2011

I agree with neushoorn that you should consider a "Qualifications Summary" instead; it really helps you pull out of the diverse jobs you've had what skills you feel are your strongest/which skills apply to the job in question. Again, it's kind of cover letter stuff, but having a concise list of your key qualities is a good indicator to the prospective employer if you have what they're looking for.

And it's only in reading this question that I realize that the several resumes I read last week didn't have any "Objective" or "Qualifications Summary" header. Leaving it off is not a big deal.
posted by solotoro at 1:49 AM on March 10, 2011

Don't put anything in that sounds robotic or makes you look like a drone, just in general. It's really hard to write a polished, interesting objective statement and if you don't have one, don't put it in.

A short qualifications summary is nice, you could also put that in a cover letter.

But try to focus delivering your content in simple, truthful detail and avoid sounding templatized or bullshitty. That's not to say get all informal and colloquial but if you're telling the truth it's usually not boring, and if the truth is, "I need a fucking paycheck. Why do you think I'm applying?" maybe leave that out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:44 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that even though an "objective" or "qualifications summary" header might be redundant in the sense that it's covered in greater depth by your cover letter and/or resume, not everyone is going to read all of that. People might not have your cover letter, and those who do might not read it. Because people like to skim stuff, which can even include your resume proper, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to pick out what's important (and what might convince them to take a closer look at the rest of it).

That said, it depends on your background and the type of job you're going for. As a college student as a career fair, sure. As an attorney applying for a position with a personal injury law firm, not so much, as no one includes one in that scenario and it would look weird.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:59 AM on March 10, 2011

Hm, last time I did this stuff, I put "Objective: (name of job title I'm applying for at what business)."


I think objective as traditionally used is stupid (it's pretty vague and fuzzy and why do they care about what you say there?), but putting down the job title at least keeps it straight for them as to who is applying where, I suppose?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:15 AM on March 10, 2011

I haven't used them on my own resumes, and so I prefer not to see them when I hire. I hire temp-to-perm funneled to me by temp agencies, so I don't get cover letters. I would maybe laugh at an especially awkward Objectives section, but I wouldn't let it stop me from bringing someone in if the work history were relevant. For what little it's worth, I would think anti-Objectives people would care less about someone including that section than pro-Objectives people would about an Objectives-less resume.
posted by troywestfield at 6:23 AM on March 10, 2011

I'm a "PhD-hiring scientist" and the objective section isn't considered when doing applicant screening.

We have very formal application procedures, with fixed criteria for screening candidates for interviews (this is what CVs or resumes are used for). I can't rank based on an "objective", so it just gets ignored. Perhaps idiotically, I can and do use cover letter statements though, but usually after the initial screening, as part of the interview preparation. To me, the cover letter is much more important, but comes later in the process, when I've already decided that you're in the top flight of the applicants.

On a resume, I want to see qualifications matching the published job description so I can produce a numerical rating based on your qualifications. I've usually got several hundred resumes to go through (last time better than 200) and we don't spend a lot of time parsing stuff that isn't on the rating rubric. Sorry. We try to make the rubrics as comprehensive as possible (experience, skills, knowledge, people skills, etc...), but still most of the non-quantifiable stuff, like objectives, gets ignored.

Talking to others who do hiring at other BigOrgs (academic, govt), this is fairly typical.
posted by bonehead at 6:24 AM on March 10, 2011

I've hired/reviewed resumes at a couple of different jobs, both small nonprofit-type places (no hr, rarely hiring for more than one position at a time), and I do not expect to see an objective or find it helpful. The only objective that ever affected my decision was one that said the applicant wanted a completely different job - e.g., their goal was woodworking when they'd applied for data entry, which was an easy resume to weed out.

And I've never had one on my resume unless it was specifically requested, although as others said, it seems useful in a situation where people are seeing your resume but you're not applying for a specific job opening.
posted by songs about trains at 6:29 AM on March 10, 2011

I've never used one on my own resume. I've had very good success getting interviews without one.
I don't look for them when I hire. Indeed, they only ever stand out when they suck so much that they singlehandedly eliminate the candidate from consideration.
posted by willpie at 7:24 AM on March 10, 2011

I used to do this on my resume, but I found I was always tweaking it depending on the job I was trying for. I suppose I could have made if more general, but I chose to either mention objectives in the cover letter or in the interview.
posted by tommasz at 8:34 AM on March 10, 2011

2nding charmcityblues. Your objective is to get the job. If that is not your objective, why are you bothering me?

FWIW, amusing anecdote - my husband was interviewing someone with a manager and the manager asked the candidate about his goals. The candidate said something like, honestly, I really want to be in a band. Considering that the job he was applying for had zero to do with being in a band, he did not get a call back.
posted by kat518 at 8:50 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing objectives as almost completely worthless. There is some tiny value though. Resumes tend to get copied and passed around and separated from the application etc. So if your resume has a note on it indicating what job you're applying for, it's harder to get lost in the shuffle.

It also shows you didn't just blast your resume to a million positions and tailored the resume to the job. But I think the best way to do that is to tailor the other parts of the resume.
posted by pwnguin at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2011

When I am reading resumes, an "objective" is at best a little bit of harmless dorkiness, and at worst makes me think of the writer as some kind of toadying idiot before I've even had a chance to see whether they might be a good fit for the job.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:58 AM on March 10, 2011

I'm completely in favor of eliminating the objective statement (and have done so on my own resume). Its clear that the objective is to get hired, and you've likely addressed that the cover letter.

I've used the objective statement to weed out candidates in the past who could not be bothered to edit "My objective is to secure an position in the state of Florida.", when I was hiring for a position in VA. I have seen this sort of error many times and it makes me think that the candidate lacks attention to detail, or that they are just applying to any job that they see without considering if they are actually qualified for the position.
posted by JennyJupiter at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2011

I should maybe point out that the science jobs I've been applying for all list soft skills in the job requirements, sometimes more of those than actual science skills even. Motivation and enthusiasm are often in that list, but are difficult things to otherwise incorporate into a list of work experience. So my two sentences at the top lets me work that into the CV to make it a full, stand alone document. I realise that many jobs aren't focussed on those skills when hiring, or at least leave that to the interview, so inserting any kind of personality in those cases would be a waste of time. You want everything in your resume to be relevant in some way, not just added because you've been told you should.

I also agree strongly with bluedaisy that you should do what's normal in your location and job field. For example, in NZ sending a thankyou note after an interview would be an utterly weird thing to do that could even make an employer uncomfortable, but in many other places is totally normal and expected. So definitely take that kind of thing into account when deciding what to put.
posted by shelleycat at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2011

God I hate objectives. Why? In my completely unscientific poll of the thousands of resumes I've had to look at, the ones that did have objectives didn't give my any information I didn't already know based on the job you are applying for ("so-and-so is looking for a position in administration" well no shit, you applied for a job as an administrative assistant) or the reasons stated in your cover letter. Also, I'm going to say about half the objectives I saw were wrong based on what they were applying for. Either they would say they are searching for FT but applying for a job that specifically says it is PT, or they say they want to be an administrative assistant but they are applying for a Sales Associate job.

God I hate them. They just take up space.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:07 PM on March 10, 2011

It puts me off when I see one. It screams "I'm the sort of person who really, really, really loves to contribute to workshops on developing vision and mission statements we can all get behind, and on explaining the difference between a vision and a mission over and over and over again."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I find them somewhat dorky, and while reviewing candidates' resumes I've never come across one that adds anything: they're either rehashing the given job description or some vague statement of long-term career goals. It's the type of useless thing a campus career counselor would tell you to do. I've never used one in my own resume and have never had any problems.
posted by pravit at 5:04 PM on March 10, 2011

Not an "objective", but a quick 1-2 sentences that sum up the 2-3 key reasons that make you perfect for the job you're applying for (from the company's point of view, not why you want the job), plus the name of the position can be super helpful. For two reasons--1) it gives the hiring manager a ready-made line if they need to convince higher ups of their choice, and 2) sometimes the cover letter gets separated from the resume and it's nice to have this info there, especially if there is more than one position available.

Not necessary, of course, and I wouldn't NOT consider someone for not having an "objective", but a well-crafted, relevant summary has definitely helped me in my process. Having no summary is better than a crap one full of fluff.

I was hired in my current job using a resume like this. Don't know if it helped, but it certainly didn't hurt!
posted by bumblebeat at 7:27 PM on March 10, 2011

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