As a career coach I give advice on resumes a lot. This should come as no surprise (I mean, it’s pretty much the one thing people know a career coach actually does). However, even though doing resume revisions is the bread and butter of what I do, many people still question a lot of the advice I give them. I welcome this because at the end of the day I tell my clients their resume is a representation of them and their work experiences. They have the final say of what is included and how they choose to include it. I make suggestions, they make decisions.
One of the highly debated features of the resume that clients like to ask about is the objective/summary at the top of the page.
I get it. If you google “resume examples” almost all of the images will show you resumes that have some type of objective or summary or profile at the top of the page. My professional opinion, however, is that typically you do not (and should not) include an objective at the top of your resume.
Well, we know the average recruiter spends about 6 seconds looking at a resume. That’s not a lot of time.
So, what are recruiters looking for?
To answer this it’s best to think like a recruiter.
Let’s say you are a recruiter and you have an open position at your organization. You need to find the best person to fill the role. You put out the job advertisement and resumes start coming in. Sources vary, but let’s say the average recruiter receives anywhere from 75-200 applications for each job posted. Somehow you’ve got to narrow these 200 applications down to 4-6 people to bring in for an interview. What are you going to look for?
You’ll probably want to weed out the folks who do not meet the minimum qualifications. Say this job requires a bachelor’s degree, so everyone without one of those is out. This job requires 3-5 years experience in sales, so everyone without at least 3 years of sales experience is out. You’ll do this for all of the minimum qualifications. (Some companies will use an Applicant Tracking System and that will do the initial weeding out for them.) Next you’ll look at who you have left and see who meets your preferred qualifications. You might start separating people into piles of “yeses”, “maybes”, and “nos”.
Eventually you will look at the pile of “yeses” and see what you’ve got. If you don’t have a lot of resumes in your “yes” pile, then you might go to the “maybe” pile. If you’ve got a lot of resumes in the “yes” pile then you’re going to have to look closer to see who has the most desirable experience. You might consult the hiring manager or others on your team during this process. You might read over their cover letters (if required), you might see if anyone was referred by anyone from the company. Once you’ve got the pool narrowed down to 4-6 candidates, you’ll contact them to ask them if they’d like to interview for the position.
This is a very simplified version of the process and all companies will approach hiring differently, but putting yourself in the recruiter’s shoes is a good way to decide what’s important enough to include on your resume.
At any point during that “role play” did you find the recruiter looking for what the applicant thought of themselves? Typically objectives say which job you are applying for. But...um, yeah. If I’m a recruiter looking to hire for a certain position and you submit your application for that position, then I know you are applying for this role and your objective is redundant. If you have a profile or summary (or whatever you decide to call it), often times it’s filled with fluffy buzz words that describe what you think of yourself. For an example, I googled “resume examples” and pulled this from the first site I found:
“Grounded and solutions oriented Computer Scientist with a wide variety of professional experiences. Adept at motivating self and others. Passionate about data security and educating the next generation of technology users and innovators.”
Personally, I think this is very fluffy and opinion heavy. This information IS important. This information would be excellent to go into detail on in a cover letter or during an interview. But in a resume? I think it will often get overlooked and will take up valuable real estate on your resume. The argument could be used that you want to stuff your resume with keywords and the summary is a good place to do that. Sure. I can see that, but are you actually adding value? You could also say that the summary can allow recruiters to learn more about you and your values. This, I don’t disagree with. I just wonder if that’s what recruiters are looking for? It would seem that typically recruiters are just trying to look at the facts (what have you done, how long have you done it and what results have you had).
To be fair and just (and to back my opinions up) I reached out to some local recruiters and asked for their thoughts on the objective/summary on the resume. See what they said below:
“Personally, as a recruiter I prefer the resume to just have the hard facts. When reviewing a candidate's background, I tend to focus on the work experience and the bullets beneath to understand their skill set. I look to the cover letter for more of the "why" - why the candidate is interested in the job and why they believe they are a perfect fit. Summaries can at times be repetitive if outlined in both the resume and cover letter.”
“I tend to think of resume objectives as outdated. When your resume comes across my computer screen it’s likely I’m only seeing the top half. Instead of having an objective, try writing a short summary about a successful project you oversaw, a change you implemented or keep it simple and showcase your Gallup Strengths. Think of your summary more as a “what I CAN do” than “what I WANT to do” snippet. This will allow a recruiter an immediate insight into the skill set you can offer their company.”
“I think objectives/summaries are good on the top of a resume if limited to 1-2 sentences that are applicable to the job, longer than that I would leave in a cover page.”
“I am not too interested in objectives/summaries on a resume. As a recruiter looking through tons of resumes, I really want to see a clear picture of your previous job experiences, growth and measurable accomplishments at each place you have been. We find it much more beneficial to ask a few specific questions on our application which dives much deeper than a objective/summary.”
“In my experience, I see objective statements do harm more often than I see them do good. If your objective statement is specific to the role, and specific to the company, and truly speaks to what you're hoping to accomplish, then I think it's OK to include it. I frequently see objective statements that aren't relevant to the role applied for, or don't align with what the company does. If you're making a broad statement about your overall career goals, I don't feel there's value in including them, especially if those goals aren't aligned with the company you're applying to.”
“From my experience profile summaries hold more weight over an objective statement. Summaries in preferably a bulleted form provide a chance to list relevant experience, and skills that aren’t stated elsewhere in your resume, without the limitations of an objective. I would often see statements (and helped tailor them myself) that would state something along the lines of “Objective: To obtain the [position name] position with [company].” This statement is short and to the point which is good to communicate with an employer (who at first glance can make a decision on your resume to move forward in about seven to ten seconds), but it can also be limiting for opportunities the company may have, and the ability to show examples of skills. My advice for deciding what kind of heading you should add to your resume, is to do research on your specific industry, contact your local career office, and ask a mentor for advice as well. Above all, the industry standards for your resume, is what is most important.”
In summary, all recruiters and organizations will have a different opinion on the objective/summary section of the resume. It’s safe to say you don’t need one, but if you feel compelled to have one then you should research your industry, the company you are applying for and tailor it specifically to the role and the values of the organization (just like you should do with the entire resume).
My own professional opinion on advising clients to typically not include an objective/summary on their resume as only been more reinforced through this exercise. (I say typically because there are always exceptions to the rule). Recruiters have limited time and your resume will not get seen by them for very long. I say stick to the facts, make sure you stack your relevant experiences for the position at the top of your resume, and spend your time crafting bullet points that thoroughly explain your experiences and your accomplishments within those roles. And, above all else, tailor your resume to each position you apply for. Cover letters are the place for you to expand on your experiences, your career passions, and how you are a good fit for the company.
If you have more questions or want assistance on making your resume stand out, hit me up. #shamelessplug (I had to!).