Writing a resume objective or a resume summary often can feel like the most difficult part of writing a resume. How do you know the difference and when should you use which one? What goes into writing one? We’re going to break down their definitions, when to use what, and how you can make the most of your situation in your decision.
What’s the Difference Between a Resume Summary and an Objective?
Summaries: tell hiring managers what you’re looking for from the company: “Experienced engineer seeking management-level position”. You’re summing-up your past experience. Usually used in the past for people not switching positions or re-entering the workforce, but more for people with decades of related experience. A quick way to “sum up” around ten pages of a resume. This is best when you have lots of experience in this field.
Objectives: tell the hiring managers what you can do and what value you can bring to the company, but maybe you’re new to the industry: “Accurate bookkeeping skills”, “Understanding of back-office accounting”. This is focused on what you can bring to the table, instead of what they can do for you. Roughly this should be three to five lines long. Think of this as your “elevator pitch”, but on paper. It’s always recommended, but particularly when you’re starting out your career.
Do I Need a Resume Objective?
Resume objectives are useful for transitioning, either because you’re changing careers, graduating from college, or maybe re-entering the workforce after doing other things for a while. Before we get started, please make sure you know what job or industry you’re looking to enter (or re-enter) into. Keep in mind that this is not the same as a cover letter. The cover letter is the more detailed story of your professional achievements, which can’t be summed up in a paragraph under each job description. Fun fact: recruiters don’t usually have time to read cover letters, but will skim your objective.
Do not use the exact same resume objective for every single position you apply to. If you’re open to widely different types of jobs, then you’re going to have to have resumes with different kinds of objectives. Unless you’re applying to a cookie-cutter position, you need to mix it up a bit and have a variety of resume objectives.
Make sure to include your Transferable Skills!
Tailor the Objective to the Job
If you know where you’re sending that resume right now, go get the job description and pull out the buzzwords. Find a way to use those buzzwords in your summary, because that’s how the internet’s algorithm is going to promote your resume to the hiring manager’s email address. Don’t have a specific position to apply to and just sending it out to everyone? No sweat! Industry buzzwords will work as well. The trick is to make sure you use them in a logical manner because ultimately a human being will be reading this, not a robot.
It’s important to include the keywords from the job description because if you don’t, your resume may never get to a person. Most companies now use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) computer software to scan resumes for those words that were used in the job description. If the resume doesn’t have those specific keywords (from computer programs to more generalized phrases like “customer service”), then the resume will be tossed out. No person will be going through the resumes in the trash, because the ATS has been implemented to save the staff time. Going through resumes can be exhausting and time-consuming, so don’t discount the use of keywords.
Concerned about getting your keywords correct? Check out: How To Get Your Resume Past The ATS
Why Are You Qualified?
No, really, why? This is a crucial part, particularly if you’re changing careers. Mention your past achievements, experiences, goals, any volunteer work you’ve done in that industry, and make it easy for them to see that you’re the go-getter who’s going to get there. Get that elevator pitch out there! Make sure that it’s succinct and really sells your skills to the hiring manager. Keep in mind that they’re looking to hire someone to solve a problem and you’re the one to do it! Are they looking for particular skills, experience, or a specific attitude? Do you have experience in that line of work (and that includes volunteering or internships)? Do you have what they’re looking for?
Keep Your Resume Objective to a Few Lines
It’s important to keep your objective brief because everyone’s attention spans are short. Keep it to 2-3 lines if possible. Mention the position you’re applying for, list two to three skills that you already have that are directly relevant to this job opening, and end with what you’d hope to achieve with this position. Ending with a positive note about what you could do for the company keeps the objective from being all about you, which is always off-putting.
Resume Objective When You Have No Experience
If you’re just starting out, then how do you sum up why they should hire you? Instead of listing job experience or job skills, mention your personality traits instead. Common company preferences for entry-level jobs include people who describe themselves as motivated, dedicated, or organized. Compose a few sentences about what personality traits you possess that you know the company is looking for and would obviously benefit them. Keep it targeted, direct, and short.
Resume Objective Examples:
So what does a good objective look like? Here are a few:
“Motivated accounting graduate seeking an entry-level accounting position with XYZ Partners.”
“Highly organized recent high school graduate skilled in Excel is seeking an entry-level date entry position with ABC Company.”
You want to specify
- What you bring to them (personality or skills), especially any keywords
- Who you are (entry-level? experienced?)
- Mention the company by name to personalize your resume
- Let them know what position you’re applying for.
The order that you include all this information is up to you, but generally, the standard recipe is in the order we’ve presented them. You can rearrange as fits your situation, but be sure that reading it makes sense.
If you’re new to the work-force, reentering after a break, or changing careers, then using a resume objective is your best to introduce yourself when applying. Using this formula will get you on your way to your first day on the job!
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