Throughout my 20-year career in this business, I have reviewed more than my share of student and alumni resumes. At the beginning of my career, an objective statement was a fairly common element on resumes and one suggested by many career counselors. Over the past two decades, I have heard great debate over this brief introductory statement. And today, it is viewed by some as the appendix (non-vital organ reference) of the resume. Some counselors and employers opine that it should never be included. Others say it can still be helpful to the job seeker to kick off their application document. And of course, the more astute professionals (or fellow alumni of my Psych 101 course at Cornell), will put forth, “It depends.”
Here at Yeshiva University, my team has volleyed this bouncing ball of confusion back and forth many times. We decided to take it to the street, so to speak, and survey some of our partner employers to solve this elusive mystery once and for all. What did we learn from this quickie survey of a small sampling of employers?
- 43 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is a one-line statement of the targeted goal of the resume
- 11 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is a longer statement including specific candidate qualifications
- 18 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is more of a detailed summary of the resume
- 27 percent responded that they did not want to see an objective on a resume at all
Basically, we noted a diversity of opinions in our survey results, which mirror the myriad views on the subject I have encountered over time. Where do I stand at this point in my career? No more stalling, Goldman. Fess up and proclaim to the World Wide Web your thoughts on the objective. Here goes nothing…
The objective is – wait for it – OPTIONAL. I have always believed that and still do to this day. There are situations when it can be helpful and effective for an applicant, and there are times when it is useless and pure fluff. Here are a few points related to my philosophy on this “important” topic:
1) An objective can provide a resume with direction when it might not otherwise have a clear one.
2) An objective can note the target of a career transition when the resume content only details transferable skills from indirectly related experience.
3) An objective can help the student with extremely limited experience demonstrate a goal in mind to prospective employers.
4) An objective can provide the introduction you need when a contact is passing along your resume as a referral to another contact and so on and so on. Did I just date myself with this obscure shampoo commercial reference?
5) An objective is unnecessary when there is a strong clear theme to one’s resume.
6) An objective is unnecessary when you are sending a cover letter in which you discuss your intentions as an applicant. (Alas, the devil’s advocate in me voices the opinion that many employers don’t read the cover letter, so maybe an objective is still needed. Ah, the cover letter. A tale for another blog entry!)
7) IF an objective is used on the resume, please be specific. I actually saw one recently that I shall paraphrase as the following, “Looking for a position in the working field.” Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but you get my meaning.
What does all of this signify in the greater job search scheme of things? Will the objective or absence of one make or break one’s shot at that dream opportunity? All I can tell you is that the objective is something quite subjective.