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A resume objective can make or break your chances of getting the job.
You’ve probably heard this before, but first impressions matter. A lot.
The first thing you say (and how you say it) to your new acquaintances can determine whether they think of you as a walking, talking confidence machine or a shy introvert.
Think of your resume objective as your first impression to the employer. Imagine you’re talking to the new guy or girl at the bar. The way you say “Hi, my name is X and I am a Y” determines whether or not they’ll ever talk to you again.
The same applies to the HR - unless you show who you are, what you do, and how you’re relevant in the very beginning of your resume, the chances of them wanting to get to know you are slim.
If you don't have a resume to work with yet, check out these successful resume templates.
So, go grab your resume (we’ll wait), and let’s find out how to create a killer resume objective that’ll have recruiters literally chasing after you.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you…
- What’s a resume objective, and how is it different from a summary
- When to use a resume objective, and when a summary
- What a good resume objective looks like
- How to write a killer objective & land that job you’re aiming for
A resume objective is, as the name suggests, the “objective” you’re trying to achieve with your resume.
- You’re planning on using what you’ve learned about marketing in college to help contribute to the company marketing efforts
- You want to take your experience in customer support & use it to transition into a job in sales
- You’re experienced in working with early-stage startups, and would like to offer your expertise in growth marketing to the company.
Essentially, it’s a small blurb which tells the recruiter why you’re applying to the job, and how you’re relevant.
Take the following as an example...
- Results-oriented phone-sales manager with a track record of success within the industry. Having closed deals worth over $450,000, as well as training interns and entry-level salesmen. Looking to leverage the experience in phone sales to help StartupInc. Set up their initial sales operations and get some real traction.
In this case, the candidate mentions his exact experience, achievements, and how they can help. Reading this would literally turn the recruiter's eyes into dollar signs.
- I would like to exchange my services for items of monetary value, with which I can afford to cover my sustenance and leisure
This example, on the other hand, is horrible - and you can probably guess why.
So, here’s a takeaway - If the HR thinks your objective is relevant for the job, they’ll continue reading the rest of the resume. If they don’t, well..
Needless to say, it’s important to get your resume objective right - and we’ll explain how, exactly, a bit down the line.
A resume objective isn’t something you’ll use in every single resume.
In fact, it usually has 3 very specific uses…
- Student Resume - If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you need to mention at least something in your resume, right? That’s where an objective comes in - you can talk about how you can apply the knowledge gained in college to your future job.
- Career Transition - Let’s say you’ve worked in customer support for most of your career. Moving into a different field might seem out of reach - unless, of course, you can show the recruiter that your previous experience is relevant for whatever job you’re applying for. A resume objective can help show how your old experience is relevant to your new job.
- Specific Position - If you’re going for something extremely niche and specific to your field, a resume objective can show how, exactly, you can contribute. For example, you’re applying to a restaurant with a very exotic menu, you’ll main straight off that you have experience with that in the resume objective.
If your case doesn’t fit either of the situations we mentioned, then it might mean that what you really need is a resume summary.
So, what’s the difference you might ask?
An objective, for the most part, deals with your aspirations within the company. While you do mention your experience, it’s usually in the context of how you’re going use it for your employer.
- Digital marketer turned-PR-specialist looking to leverage the knowledge of the cyberspace to help YourCompanyInc establish relations with journalists worldwide. With over 4 years of experience in link-building, confident in being able to transfer the skills to the field of Online PR.
A summary, on the other hand, is, well, what the name suggests - a summary of your career. You would mention any relevant positions that you’ve held, the type of work you’ve done, achievements, etc.
- Established digital marketer with over 4 years of experience working for small to medium sized companies, helping them establish their online presence. Managed AdWords campaigns of over $2,000+ monthly budget, bringing in an average ROI of 120%. Digital Marketing BA from Boston University
Both of the examples above could, in fact, be of the same person. The difference here would be the focus - if the individual is applying for a job in AdWords marketing, they’d use the summary.
If, however, they wanted to transition into online PR, they would go for the resume objective.
If you just realized that what you actually need is a resume summary, we've got you covered there too! Learn 5 Steps To A Killer Resume Summary + Real Examples
Before we even get into the specifics, the most important thing to remember is that your resume objective should show that you are relevant.
As we’ve mentioned before, if your objective doesn’t catch the recruiter's attention, your resume gets a date with the paper shredder.
Your resume objective has to be just the right size. Meaning, long enough to capture and hold the recruiter’s attention, but not long enough for them to doze off. So, try aiming for around 4-5 sentences, that should be just about right.
By relevant, we mean that your resume should show the recruiter…
- How you can help achieve company goals (If you’re applying for a specific position)
- Why your skills are relevant for the job (If you are a student, in the middle of a career transition, or applying for a specific position)
- How you gained the said skills
So, let’s put that into a real example…
- Enthusiastic customer service manager looking to leverage 5+ years of experience in client-satisfaction for an entry-level position in sales. Work experience ranging from delivering a 5-star experience as a server in a restaurant, to working as a on-call technical support for MadeUpCompanyInc.
Now let’s analyze that step-by-step. In this case, the job-seeker is looking for a career change. So, point 2 and 3 should apply to their case (i.e, relevant skills and how they got them)
- The candidate mentions the relevant skills: customer support means that they’ve worked to ensure complete customer satisfaction, something that helps with a job in sales.
- They also mention how they got the skills - over 5 years of experience in serving & customer support. Everyone can say they have excellent customer support skills, but not everyone can prove it with experience.
Now, let’s see how that can go completely wrong...
- Incredibly smart and gifted recent business-school graduate (whose mom is very proud. See, letter of recommendation attached) looking to leverage their university degree to finally get the job they’ve been promised. Took all the relevant classes, so please don’t ignore this Email, I really need this.
In this case, the resume objective doesn’t do anything right…
- There’s no real mention of skills. “Smart and gifted” is extremely generic - the recruiter wants to know the EXACT skills that make you relevant.
- There’s no mention where the “skills” come from. Sure, the candidate did take the relevant classes, but so did everyone else. They should have mentioned the exact skills they got from the classes or extracurricular activities
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s get into all the juicy details.
While reading examples might make it all seem super easy, sitting down and actually writing out yours can be a lot harder.
So, we “standardized” the process of writing a resume objective.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are 3 uses for an objective:
- Student Resume - You’re a recent-graduate with no real work experience
- Career Transition - If you’re transitioning to a different career and want to show that your skill-set is relevant
- Specific Position - You’re going for a very specific job
For each separate case, there’s going to be a minor difference in the formula, but the gist of it is…
A Killer Resume Objective = [Degree] + [Years of Experience] + [Specialization] + [Personality Trait(s) or Skills] + [Achivement(s)] + [Application]
Now, let’s look at each one by one:
[Degree] - Your highest degree (not mentioned unless you have a BA at least), honors mentioned if applicable.
- BA in Advertising from Sheffield University
- MBA graduate from Harvard
[Years of Experience] - How long you’ve worked in your field (excluded in a student objective)
- With over 6 years of experience in the field of brand management.
- Having worked as a server for over 3 years now.
[Specialization] - Your expertise. This can either be a small mention (Full-stack developer) or a detailed achievements ($10,000+ in sales in an average month) or responsibilities (Building up the SaaS back-end ground-up)
- Full-stack developer specialized in building up SaaS software ground-up
- Suave salesman, hitting and beating the monthly KPI of $10,000
[Personality Trait(s) or Skills] - Depending on how relevant your experience is, you either mention your personality traits that’ll help you with the job (I’m a people-person, so I want to work in Sales) or skills you gained from experience (Communication skills from working as a server and interacting with 30+ people on a daily basis)
- People person with a passion for customer-success
- Having developed communication skills working as a server, interacting with 30+ people on a daily basis.
[Application] - How you’re going to use the [Skills] and [Years of Experience] in your new job.
- Use the communication skills picked up working as a server to excel at an entry-level job in sales
- Use 10+ years of marketing automation experience to help MadeUpCompanyInc. Save $10,000+ yearly
As a rule of thumb, you don’t have to use every single piece of the formula for your resume objective.
The only must-have is [Application], since you need to explain how, exactly, you’re going to contribute to the company with your skills.
In the case of a student resume, you can replace [Years of Experience] with [Extracurricular Activities] - think, mentioning your responsibilities or achievements in a university club.
So, let’s take a look at an example for each specific case: Student Resume, Career Transition, Specific Position.
- Recent-graduate with a BA in Literature [Degree] looking for an opportunity to apply wordsmith skills [Specialization] as a copywriter for MadeUpCompanyInc. Unequivocal writing skills [Application], having analyzed countless ancient literary texts over the 4 years spent in school. [Years of Experience (technically)]
In this case, while the student doesn’t have any experience working as a copywriter, he or she mentions how they’ve majored in Literature, which helped them gain Wordsmith skills.
They also mention their writing skills, as well as backing it up by saying how they’ve developed them (4 years analyzing texts). As a given, writing skills are essential for a career in copywriting, and relevant for the company.
- Technical support expert looking to leverage 3+ years [Years of Experience] of communications experience [Skills & Application] at a position in account management. BA in Social Sciences [Degree], and a passion for customer success, having maintained a performance indicator above 3.5 / 4 for 2 years straight [Specialization & Application].
As we’ve mentioned before, when switching careers, you need to emphasize how your skills & experience will transfer.
Here, the applicant talks about switching from technical support to account management. They straight-off say how they’re relevant by talking about 3 years of communication experience [Years of Experience, Skills and Application].
Then, the job-seeker gets more specific on how they’re good at their job: 3.5 / 4 performance indicator for 2 years straight [Specialization and Application]
- SEO consultant [Skills] with over 10+ years of excellence [Years of Experience] looking to help MadeUpCompanyInc. jump-start their content strategy [Application]. Specialized in working for SMBs [Specialization], typically bringing results within 6-8 months. Driven over $10,000+ monthly revenue for the average client. [Specialization]
Here, the applicant is very experienced and is looking for something extremely specific. Think, trying to acquire a new client, for example, or a high-level role in a new company.
It mentions the consultant’s expertise with [Years of Experience] and [Skill]. It also proves [Specialization]: working with SMBs, results in 6-8 months, revenue driven $10,000+.
Now that you’ve got the formula down, there are a couple more best practices you’ll need to remember...
When it comes to writing your resume contents, you should always try to quantify everything as much as possible.
Numbers can show how good, exactly, you can are at your job.
Drove $20,000+ of sales within the first month through cold-calling
See the difference between the two examples?
The first doesn’t really tell you anything. Increased sales is nice and all, but how much? By doing what?
For all you know, “increased sales” might mean that the job-seeker sold a snickers bar to a coworker for $2.
So whenever you have the chance, quantify your achievements in your resume objective.
Accomplishments can be used in most sections of your resume, not limited to the resume objective. Learn How to Mention Accomplishments on Your Resume (10+ Examples) here!
As we’ve already mentioned, your objective is all about the recruiter.
You have to show them how you’re relevant and why they should care about your application.
So, your resume objective has to be as personally-tailored to the job & company as possible.
Tailoring isn’t limited specifically to your objective. If the objective catches the recruiter's interest, your resume has to maintain it. So, when creating your resume, always keep the recruiter’s needs in mind.
I.e, the resume should mention all the required skills, personality traits, etc.
What that means is - yep, you guessed it - you’ll have to have a different resume objective for each company you apply to.
This, however, doesn’t have to be hard. Whatever the case is, you’ll have to have a different resume for each field you’re applying for.
You can’t apply for an IT job with the same resume you applied for a marketing gig.
So for each field you’re going for, you should have a completely separate resume.
If you’re going for one specific field, however, your objective doesn’t have to be much different. Create 3-4 separate iterations with different company names, and you’re gold!
Tailoring isn't specifically limited to the resume objective - it applies to every section. Learn How and Why To Tailor Your Resume to the Job (10+ Examples) you're applying for here.
Today, it’s very common for companies to use Applicant Tracking Systems in order to skim through the resumes.
On their part, this makes sense. Google, for example, received about 20,000 resumes per week.
So, to avoid chronic depression in their HR talent, they use an ATS: software that scans the resume for the relevant keywords.
The way ATS works is by matching your resume to a job description. If the job description mentions knowing “Python” as required, the ATS will filter out all the irrelevant resumes - that is, anyone who doesn’t have Python mentioned.
While a resume objective is not the only place to optimize your resume for keywords (you can also do that in the skills section, or work experience), you might want to mention anything that seems extremely important.
So, let’s say the the JD mentions looking for a CFO with 5 years of experience.
Expert CFO with over 5 years of experience in managing company finances…
Finance guy with finance experience
The general “standard” with your resume objective is to have it written in 3rd person. Why?
No real reason, actually - there’s a very common assumption that by writing it in 3rd person, the recruiter mentally “transfers” your experience into their position, seeing how you’d fare (or something like that).
Does that make sense?
Probably not. Should you stick to it? In most cases. It's a more familiar sight for the recruiter, after all.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t experiment. If you want to do something more creative with your resume, It’s your call!
As long as you follow all the instructions we’ve mentioned above, you’re going to do just fine.
A lot of people, however, tend to mess up with their resume objective.
So, just-in-case, we’re going to mention a couple of things you shouldn’t do.
PackING it With Buzzwords
“Team Player. Leadership! Diversity. Critical thinking.”
Most people tend to make their resume objective a bit too generic, mentioning only some soft skills and nothing else.
Whenever you make a claim on your resume, not just your objective, you’ll need to back it up with facts. Resume hell is littered with “Critical Thinkers” and “Leadership Skills.”
So, to avoid that, whenever you finish with the objective, re-read it from the perspective of a recruiter.
- Team-playing, critical-thinking individual with amazing leadership skills. Looking to use the aforementioned skills to rock the job.
Anything that’s overly generic and buzzwords-y will just get ignored by the recruiter.
Lack of Customization
An objective has to be personally-tailored to the employer.
That’s the main idea of an objective statement to begin with - to show the employer how you’re going to be a valuable asset for THEM.
If your objective statement says that you’re an excellent C++ programmer, for example, and the job means dealing with web development in Ruby on Rails.
The recruiter really doesn’t care if you’re good at C++. Hell, you could have an IQ up in the stratosphere, and they’re not gonna care unless you’re a good web dev.
Even if the other parts of the resume mention that you’re good at web dev too, your resume will get discarded long before the recruiter reaches any other section.
So, what you can do is create an objective template - something that can apply to all the jobs you’re going for, and have one sentence specifically meant for whichever position it is.
Adding Zero Value
You should always keep in mind the purpose behind your resume objective: as an introduction to the rest of your resume.
A lot of times, job-seekers use their objective as a re-hash of their resume. I.e, mention something or another about the work experience and call it a day.
Unless your objective adds some sort of values to your resume, you might want to cut it out completely.
By value, we mean something like:
- If you’re a recent graduate: A thing or two you learned from college, and how that helps with the job
- If you’re transitioning to a different career: Information on how your skill-set transfers to the field.
- If you’re applying to a specific position: How your skill-set will add value to the company in some way
And we’re finally here!
Now that you’ve learned all there is to know about resume objectives, you’re ready to start the job-search and go places. High-up, career-related places.
If you want to learn more about creating a resume, you might want to give our super-guide on How to Make a Resume [The Visual Guide] a try.