When to Use Resume Summary vs. a Job Objective
Most resume experts now say that the job objective is a thing of the past. A few will push back and say it has a useful purpose. Personally I’m not a fan of resume objectives, especially those cliched, say-nothing ones like “Dynamic go-getter seeks challenging job.”
While I’m not going to tell you to never use them, I do think there’s a much more effective way for job seekers to use that same space.
Resumes have limited “real estate” (area you use to present the story of why you match THIS job). So when I help someone with their resume, I want them to maximize the impact of those parts that most resume screeners initially look at — and the top of your resume is prime “eyeball” territory.
That’s why I prefer Resume Summary Statements. (More on that below.) But first, a little more about job objectives so you can decide for yourself…
Pros and cons of using job objectives
While this is a hot topic in the resume expert world, truth is if the rest of your resume is great and fits the employer’s hiring criteria, whether or not you have a resume objective shouldn’t really matter too much.
- If done well, it can help frame the rest of your resume.
- It can quickly direct the screener toward a specific skill they need.
- Arguably more useful early in your career than later on.
- May be especially helpful to clarify focus when changing careers. [In this one case, a Job Objective or perhaps Career Objective might be exactly what’s needed, along with a Summary Statement right below, using transferable skills where appropriate.]
- Usually not very original or creative. Often boring or just plain hokey.
- Can limit your chances for different jobs within the same company (resumes get passed around, especially in an automated system)
- Often tries to fit too much into a single sentence, with less not being more in this case.
- Seems obligatory at times, like you feel you have to do it and therefore the screener has to read it.
- Missing the greater range and impact of a Summary Statement.
So do job objectives help or hurt your resume?
As a longtime resume screener / interviewer, I don’t really care all that much if you’re actually thinking “I just want a job.” We know that’s true for many of the resumes we get. In fact, after some bad hiring experiences, I’m wary of folks who gush too freely about this being their dream company and/or job — dreams are great, but we also want to feel that you have a grasp on reality.
Employers appreciate it when job seekers take the time to really think about this particular job — not only how it fits you, but even more so how you fit the company. And a targeted resume (including resume objective / summary) and cover letter are the best way to show us that you get what we’re looking for.
So if some generalized or vague objective right at the top of your resume makes it clear to me that we’re just part of a massive, unfocused (perhaps a bit lazy) job search — the message you send if you haven’t even taken the time to target what you send to THIS job — then maybe I won’t be as eager to read more about you.
“Help me see what you can do for US in a way I’ll remember
long after reading dozens of resumes.”
Now let’s meet the Resume Summary Statement!
Since you want every inch of your resume to market you as best as it can in the eyes of a potential employer, why wold you want to do anything to under-utilize precious resume space or possibly water down your visual brand? You want to make sure you stand out in every way you can.
So rather than a boring old job objective (ok … even a relatively good one), a Summary Statement offers a targeted summary of the ways your skills / experience fit especially well with THIS job. And a well-written summary provides a powerful visual kick, making it far easier for an employer to see the great match all at once.
Remember that the goal is to aim yourself toward the employer’s needs — not your job needs. So even though you’ve done a lot of interesting things in your life, your Summary Statement, along with resume and cover letter, are about matching (as best as possible) what their job description, and anything else you know about them, tells you they are looking for.
Formats for the Summary Statement
Summary statements, placed at the top just under your resume heading, can be a single all-text paragraph, a combination of text (a sentence or two) plus bullets, and a bullets-only version. Here’s an example of a bulleted-format type summary statement from a Targeted Business Analyst Resume Sample.
I actually prefer this version because it’s concise, hits on key points from the job description, and is easy for the eye to grasp. But for some jobs (especially at higher career levels), the combination format may provide more flexibility.
- Senior Business Process Analyst for enterprise financial systems
- Solid understanding of web-based financial management processes
- 10 years working with SAP Financial Management & Accounting
- Improved consolidated closing and budgeting processes
- Usability-focused functional design and testing
Some other headings you can use for your Resume Summary section:
- Summary of Qualifications
- Qualifications Summary
- Summary of Skills
- Executive Summary
- Professional Summary
- Skills Summary
NOTE: You can also use your desired job title as the section heading if you prefer. In the example above, it would be: Senior Business Analyst.
A few more thoughts
I mentioned earlier that people with less experience (or even fresh out of school) can probably go ahead and safely use the good ole Job Objective without worrying about it seeming like a blast from the past.
But then again … why not do something with a little more punch? Use the job description and some snooping about the company’s culture and philosophy to come up with your own Qualifications Summary. Let that help present you in a way that speaks to who they are and what they’re really looking for!