Last week, while providing subject matter expertise to a workforce development program, an instructor asked me whether her jobseekers should add an objective paragraph to explain their career transitions. The query initially surprised me because I thought the majority of jobseekers as well as resume writers consider objective statements pointless.
An objective tells prospective employers what we want, instead of telling them what we will deliver. Employers are more interested in matching our skills and experience to their job and the business problems and opportunities they need to address, than they are in why we want to change careers.
The alternative approach is to offer a branded summary on top of your resume. The branded summary tells readers what you do—your personal brand—then highlights your skills and accomplishments.
Here are three points to consider when deciding whether to use branded resume or an “old school” objective statement:
- Objectives emphasize your goals and not the benefits of hiring you,
- Branded summaries frame your resume as a document that gives the employer reasons to “buy,” and
- The top section of your resume becomes its “executive summary.”
A small number of resumes I see today have an objective statement. The problem is that employers do not care about our objective—they care about whether we can make money or save money for their organization. A summary markets us to the leader that needs to get something done.
Objective statements do not tell our prospective employers what they need to know.
The objective was intended to tell potential employers what we wanted to do, where we wanted to do the work, and what kind of organization we wanted to do the work in. I’ve seen many resume objectives that read something like this:
“Objective: A challenging Customer Service role in an expanding company that will utilize my skills and give me an opportunity to grow.”
This statement would probably lead hiring managers to reject this job candidate’s resume without reading any further because:
- It does not communicate anything about the job candidate. The recruiter already knows the candidate is applying for a customer service job because the candidate sent the resume.
- It tells the manager to reject the resume if the job, in their view, is not challenging, if the company is not expanding, or if the position offers no growth.
In other words, this objective statement told the prospective employer nothing useful. It will, at best, be ignored. Even worse, it could cause the candidate to be rejected without further consideration.
Branded summary statements resolve this problem.
A more productive approach is to write a headline and paragraph that tells an employer what we bring to the table instead of telling them what we want.
The first step is to set the reader’s expectations using a personal brand at the top of the resume, right below the contact information.
For example, we used the following resume heading and subheading for one of our most successful clients.
SENIOR GOVERNMENT RELATIONS DIRECTOR
A leading policy advocate that influences legislative agendas at the state and federal level
Then we wrote the following accomplishment-based summary.
Campaign Leader with extensive, progressively responsible experience as an advocate on behalf of non-profit organizations. Expert at moving legislation on issues including caregiving, affordable utilities, Older Adults Protective Services, Work and Save Retirement Plan, reduced prescription drug prices, veterans affairs and the aging population.
- Led advocacy on behalf of AARP that resulted in enactment of the CARE Act of 2016, Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Medicare Part D, Pennsylvania Lottery Fund protection, unemployment compensation for older workers, PACE/PACENET, Family Caregiver Support Program expansion, long term care reform, CHIP and State Senate passage of telemedicine reimbursement legislation.
- Initiated the Citizen Advocacy Team program for AARP Pennsylvania to foster key contact involvement in the state and Federal legislative process.
- Established the Alliance for Retired Americans presence in Pennsylvania for action in key Congressional campaigns.
Would you want to learn more if your task is to hire someone that will advocate for your organization with legislators? Yes.
We communicated the benefits of hiring the candidate rather than stating that she wants to advocate for state and federal legislative changes on behalf of an organization. That’s powerful—and my client landed her dream job within weeks. You can read the complete resume here.
Write the summary last.
The brand headline and its accompanying paragraph is similar to an executive summary or cover summary for a business report. It is a brief synopsis of the rest of the document. That means you may not know what to write until you develop the rest of your resume content. Consider writing the summary after you write the rest of the resume.
This approach is especially challenging for career-changers that seek to use their transferrable skills in another occupation, another industry, or both. Yet it does work. A client who was a fashion buyer moved into an accounts payable role in the construction industry because her summary demonstrated that she cut costs and increased profit margins through spreadsheet analysis and business relationships with vendors.
One of the most powerful sections of your resume should be the headline and paragraph just below your contact information. It tells the reader succinctly what you will bring to the table in your next role. In other words, it communicates the benefits of hiring you!