How to Write a Career Objective on Your Resume
Whether to write a career objective on your resume or not is arguably the most debated part of the whole resume-application universe.
There are equally strong voices supporting one solution or the other. However, they mostly agree that good objectives are getting treated positively, albeit there are not so many good ones out there. Taken all these opinions into account, our approach will be to develop a great career objective, along with real-life examples and tips to get it right.
In this article, we will give you a short introduction on what a career objective is and what makes it different from other similar sections of the resume. We help you decide whether you need one at all or not and show lots of bad and best practices for a better understanding of the best method of writing one.
WHAT’S A CAREER OBJECTIVE?
A career objective is a short and concise summary of your values and professional aims, considering your skills, experience, and training. It’s a clear statement of what type of job you are looking for with the given application, supported by how your above-mentioned values can benefit the business.
This is important: don’t let the title mislead you. While it has the words career and objective in it, your career is just as important as the way it serves the employer’s interest. And the ultimate objective is that this interest would be served.
Ideally, the career objective is written in a way that the hiring managers would feel that it’s addressed directly to them and nobody else. A specific, targeted message that calls the attention of the hiring person and makes him or her want to learn about you more.
That means your resume does not end up in the trash bin but is put in the next pile, to be considered for the job. Keeping it short saves time, and nothing makes a better first impression than saving time for a busy hiring manager.
Yet a career objective does not just help the hiring manager in shortlisting applications, but while you are writing it, it helps you focus on your goals, too.
Objective or Summary?
Both the career objective and the summary is intended as a kick-off for your resume by giving an insight into your qualifications and ambitions. Furthermore, they both serve as a bypass from your contact information to the experiences section of your resume: a hook to encourage the employer to want to learn more about you.
Important: they are not interchangeable – you either need one or the other.
If you have a straight career path, with your experiences consistently showing it, a summary is a good way to call the attention on your strongest skills and the highlights of your career and education. You can also make it personally tailored to every employer you send an application to, with relatively little effort.
A summary is also a perfect way to highlight accomplishments of a longer work history. Mid-career professionals often have a hard time deciding whether to risk sending a complete resume of many pages or risk leaving out important details that could support their application. With a summary, they can avoid both risks. With a strong statement of who you are could also function as a career objective included.
A good summary looks like this:
“Ambitious and precise project manager with 13 years of experience in the construction and maintenance industry. Has lead teams of 10-20 and acclaimed for quick decision-making. Has a vast knowledge of special equipment and technology tools. Skilled in coordination, time management, and budgeting. Brings an all-around project management expertise to the table.”
Note that the summary doesn’t contain information about what role the candidate looks for or how he or she plans to use the skills because the aim is to take one step further in the same, straight career.
Objective or Cover Letter?
A career objective has definitely more in common with a cover letter than with a professional summary. Essentially, a cover letter is a broader explanation of a career objective, so there could be overlaps in their contents.
Yet a cover letter, as a separate document, might be ignored, or not accepted at all. Then the career objective can still give a chance to the applicant to get noticed. If a cover letter is not required for the application, then an objective is almost obligatory, as it becomes a unique platform to sell yourself.
While some experts say that writing both is redundant, others think writing both increases the chances of success– providing it does not contain any word-by-word similarities.
Placement of Objective
A career objective is always located in a prestigious space, near the top of the resume, right under the contacts. It is the second most important information to include, but basically, the first one that recruiters spend time with (they will only need your contact after being done with reading through the application).
Such a placement draws special attention to your values and makes it easy to recognize them. Remember that the objective serves as a hook for getting the attention of the hiring manager, and, at the same time, stating it explicitly what you are qualified for.
It is also something that sets the tone of the whole resume. Just like with a movie trailer, the whole film, or in this case, your career objective, everything else (experiences, education, etc.) should be arranged to support your initial statement about your career goals.
DO YOU NEED A CAREER OBJECTIVE IN YOUR RESUME?
The career professionals are indeed divided over whether to advise job seekers to include a career objective on their resumes. Its supporters say that it really helps a hiring manager save time and show at a glance if you are the person they might be looking for. But even they agree that a badly written objective does more harm than good, for they can also see at a glance that you don’t have the skills, not only for the job but for the application altogether.
And this leads us to the objectors who get shivers of the realms of vague and clueless objectives and therefore consider it an unnecessary practice. It is commonly accepted that if you don’t have a very specific job in mind, then don’t include an objective.
Also, if you are not sure what the company’s goals are or what is included in the job description, or any other details, then you cannot support them in your objective, so it’s better to skip this part. And you definitely don’t need an objective if your work history shows a clear career path (see the Objective or Summary section above).
When a career objective is of high quality, though, it might give you an advantage. Think about what kind of jobs you are really interested in and make the objective an integral part of the resume. And identify with it, in order to give a satisfactory support during an interview. If you say something else there, you played your cards wrong.
In the end, there are three cases in which you do need an objective, mostly if your goals or objectives are not clearly defined by your previous jobs. With a non-existing or not-so-steady career line (as many of the candidates today do not have one), an objective might be a necessary element to support your application.
1. When starting your career
At the beginning of your career, you can’t rely on your work history to tell the story of the professional you. At this stage in your life, you can’t rely on anything else than your (rather short) resume, and maybe a cover letter, but you already know you have to be cautious in relying on that either.
So, you go for example to a job fair, and you just manage to slide your resume, this one piece of paper in the hand of the recruiter. In a hand, that is already full of resumes… Then you want the recruiter to read something like this as an objective:
“Design major with strong presentation skills and experience with various technologies seeking for a junior UX/UI designer role to create web applications that disrupt the logistics industry.”
This objective has professional skills (obtained through studies) and work ethic in focus, with an emphasis on committing to corporate objectives. By mentioning the industry and an aim to disrupt, it shows the applicant knows what the company is about and what their objectives are.
Even if he or she has never worked in that industry, it will sound like hands-on expertise. To give the same impression, you can take a quick look at the website of the employer and search for a mission statement or press releases, so you will know what to mention in your objective.
Generally, a hiring manager will not have the time to find out which of your extracurricular activities supported your career goals or helped you develop professional skills. A good objective, on the other hand, can show what you think are your important qualities are from an employment perspective:
“Engaged member of the student government seeking an entry-level position in public communication to leverage extensive leadership and organizational skills gained during three years of being a representative.”
It is also quite possible that you want to pursue a career that has nothing to do with your studies. Don’t leave room for second guesses from the part of the recruiter, the objective is your chance to explain your real ambitions:
“Enthusiastic organizer of student festivals with an ability to work under extreme pressure looking for an internship in event planning to utilize organizational skills and attention to detail.”
Also, if you’re studies were about a very broad subject, such as performing arts or information technology, you can now narrow it down to the sub-field that interests you the most.
The claims you make will have to be supported by your resume: if you say you are hardworking, think about how you can prove that: an after-school job while getting high grades is a good description for a hard worker. If you say you are ambitious or a great team player, your achievements in sports can say a lot about that.
2. When you’re changing a career
Another typical reason for recommending a career objective is to sell yourself when your experience doesn’t sell you for a certain job. It is when you need to change paths and your desired new profession might have nothing to do with your previous one.
Now imagine a hiring manager looking at your resume. Would he or she be confused? Will they recognize the transferable skills you can bring to their table from your work history? If in the slightest doubt, you can be sure they will not even spend a half minute trying to figure it out, but “archive” your application instead.
Now let’s see a good example:
“Competent and proficient retail manager with over 15 years of experience seeking to utilize problem-solving and communication skills, as well as flexibility in an entry-level quality assurance position with GetItRight Ltd.”
This is an objective that helps the employer to see where your strengths lie and which of your skills have the potential to add value for them. It states clearly that, although you come from another industry and held a different position, you know what you will need to succeed in your new career.
3. When you need to explain a gap or connect the dots in your resume
Many people have various experiences in different industries or positions. Even if these don’t seem consistent at first, there might be an underlying motive, such as a certain skill or working style. An objective is a good way to highlight the connection
“To work as a coach with Mindful TrainingInc., to benefit the clients of my extensive experience as a teacher, my education in psychology, and my people skills.”
Even if your skill set is not so impressive or is outdated, you can still prove the ability to benefit the organization:
“Experienced office manager returning from maternity leave, seeking for an administrative position in the travel industry to leverage people skills and office management expertise together with accounting skills recently acquired in a night school.”
In the case of a gap, your experience might be a little old, but with an objective, you can still show the employer how you can use them for the benefit of their organization today. Recent learning experience shows not only the ambition to constantly educate yourself, but also some up-to-date knowledge that you can offer.
BEST AND WORST PRACTICES WHEN WRITING CAREER OBJECTIVES
To show why many recruiters and hiring managers would rather erase the whole category of career objectives from the job seekers’ arsenal, we present you with some exemplary fails first.
It might surprise you, but getting the career objective wrong also makes the hiring manager’s job easier, but not in a way you would like. If they don’t like your objective, that is a perfect reason to put it in the ‘no’ pile. So what are the typical mistakes with a career objective?
Copy & paste or too general objectives
“A dedicated sales agent with a proven track record of hundreds of closed deals and a clear potential for growth, looking for a challenging role in a competitive industry to increase the company’s profitability.”
“Looking for a senior position in a challenging field that would allow for an ambitious worker to quickly prove his worth and advance.”
Adjectives such as results-oriented, dedicated, or someone with a potential for growth to describe yourself, or challenging to describe the work environment makes the objective dull and vague, and you instantly risk your resume not being considered.
Hiring managers are experienced in spotting this one-size-fits-all kind of resumes. Words like a challenging role and a competitive industry tell them you didn’t bother to tailor your application to their specifics, and quickly move on to the next candidate. Just as you want to feel you are special to the company, they want to feel the same: and that means the one thing you must do is to be specific.
“I am looking for a position where I could work in an inspiring environment and utilize my program development, process improvement, and training skills to advance to a managerial position.”
It is great if you know what kind of working environment or other specifics allow you to thrive in your job. However, many get side-driven by the expression career objective and think it should be focused on the person and his or her career.
But, at this point, it is not what the employer is interested in, and so such an objective statement gets easily dumped. Your individual interestsare just as important as the value you bring to the organization.
“My biggest career dream is a job at your company, where I could earn a good salary for doing interesting work, have nice colleagues, and get considerable other benefits, too. This is where I could use my full potential.”
Besides the fact that this objective only talks about the candidate, making excessive use of the personal pronoun, it is also too generic and has absolutely no hint on how the company is benefitting from such a hire.
As for how long is too long, the opinions are almost as divided as for the necessity of the objective. If we try to get to a synthesis, we can say a career objective should be somewhere between 1-3 sentences, a maximum of 50 words, but definitely no longer than 4-5 lines.
So, a long objective like this would not make it:
“To have a position in which communication and motivating skills are needed to get stakeholders on the same page. An outstanding senior consultant with a well-rounded, global professional knowledge of the financial services industry, impressive track record of successful technology implementation projects, proven ability to increase an international team’s productivity. Former member of the Nordic Walking club speaks for endurance. Management and leadership skills to be used in the marketing, finance, or administrative departments.”
There are a lot ofunnecessary words in this objective, mostly adjectives: they had to be weeded out first. Some of the information, like global professional knowledge
The listing of skills and achievements makes the scope unclear: is this person trying to get a position as a communicator, a consultant, or a senior manager? Is the industry he or she is targeting the financial or the technology one? Does he or she want to work in the marketing, finance, or the administrative department? Irrelevant experience such as Nordic walking adds another confusing element to the picture.
“To obtain a position at a forward looking company in the customer service sector where there is enough motivationto overcome the usual hurdles and the performance is appreciated. Especially looking for an environementwhere advancement is ain’t for just a few.”
Although the example above serves the purpose of showing grammar and spelling mistakesright, these kind of mistakes are absolutely not allowed, as neither are colloquialisms.
Guidelines for Success
If you know what you’re worth and what you want to use it for, it should be no problem to write a good career objective.
Nevertheless, you might still need a hand: by following our guidelines, you can put together a winner career objective and catch the eye of the person responsible for shortlisting you.
Tailoring your career objective to the employer with every application is of foremost importance:
“To obtain a sales position at a family business in the food delivery industry to leverage customer skills and special expertise in catering and secure more deals using innovative approaches.”
This objective leaves no doubt about the applicant’s dedicated efforts to customize his or her resume for exactly one company. It speaks clearly about the personality traits and professional skills the applicant thinks are important for the job, as well as the way they would be utilized for the improvement of the business.
Don’t aim for just having a position somewhere: you want to be a project manager, a programmer,designer, a researcher, or product manager. Similarly, you don’t just want to work in an innovative industry, but in logistics or in a shared services center.
Make a statement in the third person or impersonally
“(Experienced software engineer) seeking to bring competencies in a senior IT role in the database management industry to transform the handling of patient data by focusing on the individuals.”
Contrary to the egoistic objective, using the third person or impersonal statement immediately takes the focus off the individual interests and makes it easier to recognize the values the applicant can add to the business operation.
“Online marketing specialist seeksto obtain a junior position for putting my social media management and SEO skills to good use to increase site traffic at Tea-commerce.com.”
This objective is only one sentence, but one with a clear structure, explaining all about the candidate, the career goals, and the values, from an employer’s perspective.
“Customer service expert is lookingto leverage proven sales and communication skills gained during 5+ years of experience in the hospitality industry in the tourist information office manager position at the Far East Company.”
Hiring managers are usually interested in a resume that concisely describes skills relevant to the job they need to fill. The fact that the applicant claims these skills as proven makes them want to look further in the resume for supporting facts such as achievements and accomplishments.
Mentioning the number of years of experience shows that the candidate has the necessary background to fill a managerial role.