With all due apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, that is the question, and one which has bothered me for a while. Whenever I read a resume prominently featuring an “objective statement” section at the top, I am always left with the impression the applicant is either likely a novice at applying for positions or has just finished reading a 25-year-old book on how to write a resume. To me, an objective statement on a resume is sort of an out-of-vogue relic from days past. It’s not a huge deal, and I can get past it easily enough, but somehow I always end up feeling the individual has not necessarily put his or her best foot forward. After all, isn’t it rather obvious that an applicant’s objective is to land the job for which they are applying? Plus, wouldn’t a cover letter be a better place to include such information?
Then again, I thought, maybe it’s just me. To try and determine how my views on this matter align with those of others, I decided to take a look at some of the resume advice available online. As you have probably already guessed, the jury is not just still out, it is hopelessly hung. One “expert” will tell you to definitely include an objective statement; another, definitely do not. Still others will tell you one should be included “sometimes” or that “it depends.” Real helpful, huh?
Let’s try another approach. I contacted a colleague of mine at a university to see what advice professors and counselors currently give their students regarding this matter. “Well,” was the response, “I tell them it’s a gray area. Some career counselors suggest including an objective statement for various reasons, but usually when they are included, the statements are so vague and poorly written that they don’t help. I don’t include one on my resume as I let my cover letter serve as the ‘objective’ and I need space for other items.”
Well, it definitely appears I am not alone in my views. Remember, too, that acceptable resume writing styles have evolved and changed over time, just like countless other things in the working world. However, it also appears not everyone has changed, so what is a job seeker to do in this situation?
Personally, I would not include an objective statement on a resume unless the posting clearly indicated one should be included or it is the norm in your particular field. Again, the employer and you both know the position you are applying for (you mentioned it in your cover letter, right?), and the physical space on your resume could probably be put to better use. Suppose you included a somewhat typical but poorly written objective on your resume which reads:
“To secure an entry-level position as an Electronic Technician I with a progressive, high-quality organization, utilizing my skills and experience to service complex electronic devices.”
Ask yourself this: Exactly what helpful information does the objective statement convey to the potential employer? How does the statement help convince the reviewer you should receive further consideration? If I am the employer:
- I already know which position you are applying for.
- I already know it is an entry-level position.
- I like to think – just like every organization – that we are a progressive, high-quality organization.
- You mentioned skills; which skills?
- You mentioned experience; what experience?
- I already know our electronic devices are complex.
Space on a resume is like valuable real estate. You wouldn’t use an expensive, beautiful, Malibu oceanfront property as a location to erect a used tire store; why squander resume space to do nothing more than merely state the obvious? As some applicants may have difficulty finding room to include all their relevant education and work experience in one or two pages, losing the objective section helps by providing space for a few additional lines of text.
I cannot dispute the fact that, in the end, the desirability and importance of including an objective may well be a matter of personal preference and taste; but whose? In this situation, I think it is the preference and taste of the employer with which one should be concerned; after all, the employer is the one doing the hiring and thus the one to whom the applicant should be appealing. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you or I would ever know the personal preference and taste of the individual who might end up reading the resume. So, now what?
A well-written objective section probably does not hurt or detract significantly, and may very well help your cause if the reviewer happens to favor the inclusion of objective statements; however, including a poorly-written one could certainly do some serious damage.
This sounds like a situation where a risk-benefit analysis is warranted, and I fear more is risked by including an objective statement (which might be poorly received by a reviewer) than the benefit which would be gained if the reviewer happens to prefer the inclusion of one. I would rather use the extra physical space made available on my resume to further detail my experience and skills than to chance including an objective statement and have no idea of how it will be received by the reviewer.
While you ponder that final thought, I will leave you with another quote by the Bard himself:
“Though this be madness, yet there’s method in’t.”
Featured image courtesy of Tonynetone – flickr