Unlike the mandatory headings on your resume (such as Education and Experience), an objective statement is optional – to a degree. But when it is included, it’s usually the first heading after your name and contact information; thus, the topic of objective statements comprises the first chapter of this book.
You have probably heard that many hiring managers and human-resources types don’t like objective statements on resumes.
That’s because most objective statements are badly written, self-serving, too vague, and not designed to do what they’re supposed to do, which is to lend a sharp focus to a resume right off the bat.
A sharp focus is an extremely important resume element. Given that employers screen resumes for between 2.5 and 20 seconds, a resume should show the employer at a glance what you want to do and what you’re good at. In a study by Career Masters Institute, employers wanted resumes to show a clear match between the applicant and a particular job’s requirements. A “general” resume that is not focused on a specific job’s requirements was seen as not competitive. In another study by CareerBuilder.com, 71 percent of hiring managers preferred a resume customized for the open position. Therefore, every resume should have at least some mechanism – whether it is an objective statement or another resume element – that tells the employer right away what you want to do for the employer’s company.
A well-crafted objective statement is one way to precisely sharpen your resume’s focus. Resume-writing guru Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of Resume Magic, even uses “Focus Statement” as an alternate title for the objective statement. Your objective can be a thematic statement that sets the scene and provides context for what is to come. Ideally, your objective should enable the reader to envision you performing the job that the employer wants to fill.
An emerging technique for sharpening your resume’s focus and grabbing the employer’s attention is a “headline,” a “branding statement,” or a combination of the two. See more about these techniques later in this chapter.
Using your objective to sharpen the focus of your resume can be especially important if your experience is diverse, or you are switching into a career not supported by the experience listed on your resume. The statement enables the career-changer to redefine his or her past and frame it in terms of the desired new career path.