Should You Include an Objective Statement on a Resume?

A young lady looking at a paper and appearing very confused about its content.Here’s a pop quiz for you.  What question often divides job seekers as well as those who advise them?  The answer?  Should an objective statement be included on a resume?

Admittedly, this question has bothered me for a while.  Whenever I read a resume with an objective statement at the top, it just doesn’t feel right.  The presence of one always seems to leave me with a funny feeling, and it’s not a warm and fuzzy one.  To me, it appears the applicant is either a novice at applying for jobs or has just finished reading a 25-year-old book on how to write a resume.  An objective statement on a resume just seems like a relic from days past.

For me, it’s not a huge deal and I can get past it easily enough.  But still, I feel the person has not really put his or her best foot forward.  Isn’t it sort of obvious one’s real 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.

What Do Others Say?

I wondered how my views on this matter align with those of others, so I decided to take a look at some of the resume advice found online.  Spoiler alert!  We have a hung jury.  One “expert” will tell you to definitely include an objective statement.  Another, definitely do not.  Still others will tell you an objective should be included “sometimes” or that “it depends.”

So what exactly are others saying?  A blog published by Pongo, a provider of resume services, states, “Should you lead your resume with an Objective or Summary that briefly describes your skills and background? In a word, yes.”  Ok, chalk up one for the other side.  However, according to Alison Green in an article from U.S. News & World Report, “Resume objectives never help and often hurt.”  A point for me!  The well-known job search website Monster says “An objective sometimes helps and sometimes hinders your job search, so knowing when or even if to include one gets a bit tricky.”  A little confusing?  You bet.

Let’s try another approach.  I contacted a colleague at a university to see what advice professors and counselors currently give their students regarding this matter.  “Well,” was the response, “I tell my students it’s a bit of 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.  I let my cover letter serve as the ‘objective’ and besides, I need the resume space for other items.”  My thoughts exactly.

What to Do?

Yes, it’s a mixed bag of advice out there.  Acceptable resume writing styles have evolved and changed over time, just like countless other things in the workplace.  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 asks for one or it is the norm in your field to do so.  As I said earlier, the employer and you both know your real objective is to obtain the position for which you are applying.  Have a lot of education, experience, etc. to include? The extra physical space gained on your resume can be used for this.  I also firmly believe having no objective statement on your resume is far better than including a poorly written one.  Here’s an example:

An excerpt from a resume showing a poorly-written objective statement which reads "To secure an entry-level position with a progressive, high-quality organization as an Electronics Technician, utilizing my skills and experience to service complex electronic devices."

Ask yourself this: does the stated objective really provide the employer with any useful information? Does the statement do anything to help convince the reviewer you’re the right candidate for the job?

After reading this objective statement, the employer may be thinking:

  • I already know your objective is to get a job in this field.
  • I already know it is an entry-level position.
  • Every organization likes to think it is progressive and high-quality.
  • You mentioned skills; which skills?
  • You mentioned experience; what experience?
  • I already know our electronic devices are complex.

Including an objective doesn’t really seem to help in this case.  It states the obvious. Plus, it seems to leave more questions than it answers.

Give Me Some Space, Please

Space on a resume is like valuable real estate.  You wouldn’t buy an expensive and beautiful Malibu oceanfront property strictly to put up a lemonade stand.  So, why waste valuable resume space to do nothing more than merely state the obvious?  Experienced applicants may already have trouble finding room to include all their relevant education and work experience on one or two pages.  Leaving out the objective section may help provide space for a few additional lines of text.

Final Thoughts

I cannot dispute that, in the end, at least to some extent, whether or not to include 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 you should be concerned.  After all, the employer is the one doing the hiring and thus the one to whom the resume should appeal.  But, it is very unlikely one would ever know the personal preference and taste of the individuals who might read the resume.  So, now what?

Let’s pause and look at what we know.  A well-written objective section probably does not hurt or detract.  In fact, it may very well help if the reviewer happens to favor objectives.  However, inclusion of a lousy one will do some serious damage for sure.

This situation seems to call for a risk/benefit analysis. I fear the risk of including an objective statement which might be poorly received by a reviewer is greater than the benefit which might be gained should the reviewer happen to favor its inclusion. Since I have no idea how any reviewer will feel about inclusion of an objective, I would rather just leave it out and use the extra space to further detail my experience and skills.  Why gamble?

What do you think?


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Featured image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360 – flickr

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