All resumes should include a few essential elements: your education, work experience, skills, and, of course, your contact information. You might also list any awards or honors you’ve received, certifications you’ve earned, or special products you’ve worked on.
For years, many career experts advised job-seekers to also include a resume objective. But, these days in such a competitive job market, this section is actually considered outdated, says Jessica Sweet, owner of Wishingwell Coaching.
“The world of work today is really about understanding what you can do for the employer, and that’s what they want to see,” especially as hiring managers are looking through dozens (if not more) resumes for each open position, she explains.
Below, get your overview of what a resume objective is, why you should rethink using one, and what's better to include instead.
What is a resume objective?
As the name suggests, a resume objective tells a hiring manager what your goal is—usually to find a job. Sweet says an objective statement typically goes at the top of your resume describing what you’re looking for in a new role or for the next phase of your career.
Consider these traditional resume objective examples:
- To obtain a position as a marketing coordinator with [insert name of company here]
- To use my analytical skills to obtain a position as a financial analyst
An objective statement, which is typically two to three sentences, differs from a professional summary, which is lengthier. Sweet says a professional summary describes some of your work history, skills, and qualifications.
3 reasons you should ditch the resume objective
Still need more convincing that you should delete the objective from your resume? Let's get into it:
1. They aren’t that useful
When you think about it, an objective statement is redundant. You’re applying for a job, so it should be clear what your objective is. Beyond that, they don’t give hiring managers any new or useful information about you.
They also take up some of the most valuable real estate on the first document a recruiter or hiring manager sees—a document that often determines whether or not you’ll move forward and get an interview.
If it’s not useful or informative, what is it doing on your resume? Hence, it's best removed.
2. They’re self-centered
Objective statements are entirely focused on you: what you want the reader to do for you or what you expect to get out of the relationship. Frankly, a potential employer wants to read a resume and envision what you can do for them, not the other way around.
“They’re looking quickly at hundreds, sometimes thousands, of resumes, and they want to understand, ‘Is this the right person for the role?’” Sweet says. “An objective statement is here’s what I, the job seeker, am looking to do. They’re not on the same wavelength.”
Even if you’re a perfect candidate, the self-serving nature of a resume objective can leave a bad first impression.
3. They’re old-fashioned
The resume objective is an older resume trend, so using one could unintentionally date you. Those one or two lines could even put you at risk for age discrimination.
Leaving it on your resume might also make you seem like you’re not with it when it comes to the current job environment. Potential employers might assume that your skills and experience are also not current.
It could also signal that you haven’t revamped your resume in a while, giving the impression that you didn’t put much effort into your application.
None of these perceptions are helpful in your quest to get hired, so it’s better for everyone if you say goodbye to your resume objective once and for all.
What can you do instead of a resume objective?
Hiring managers will spend the bulk of their time scanning the top third of your resume, so it’s important to start with something compelling and eye-catching. There are a few more modern and effective alternatives to the resume objective that you should consider.
1. A summary statement
Instead of a resume objective, Sweet suggests using a summary statement.
Whereas an objective statement tells the hiring manager what you hope to get, a summary statement tells them who you are and what you can do. Use the first section of your resume to highlight accomplishments, relevant skills, experience, expertise, and other credentials that demonstrate your value as a candidate. Think of it as an elevator pitch to kick off your resume.
A summary statement should be very specific to the job you’re applying for, Sweet says. You should identify and state your value proposition to your potential employer, which is really what they’re looking for these days.
So, how can you turn your self-focused objective statement into a summary that’ll make a potential employer eager to hear more? Here’s an example if you’re a teacher looking for a job teaching middle school history, geography, or social studies:
Accomplished and enthusiastic teacher with nearly 10 years of experience in elementary and middle schools. Versatile background includes teaching history, geography, English, and social studies while supporting student growth and development using age-appropriate learning tools. Calm and flexible attitude creates an atmosphere that encourages student learning, innovation, and imagination. Recognized for fostering inclusive classrooms where all students are welcomed and supported.
Sweet suggests including metrics showcasing your success in previous roles. Here’s another example:
Social media manager with skills in content creation, video production, analytics, and social listening. Creative, organized, and always up-to-date on the latest social media trends and platform changes. Ability to generate unique, tailored ideas to grow social media engagement and reach. Responsible for growing a small business’ Instagram traffic by 20% and attracting 1,000 new followers every month.
2. A skills table
Another idea is to use a combination resume format that starts off with a skills table.
This can be a really useful tool on your resume because you can include keywords or phrases that are specific to the job description, company, or industry and draw the reader’s attention to them. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight your talents and expertise in an easy-to-read format right off the bat.
If you use a skills table, it’s best to include hard skills that can be quantified and objectively demonstrated, as opposed to soft skills.
Using the example of a teacher above, a skills table placed directly below your name and contact info might look something like this:
The skills table approach makes it easy to add, remove, or swap out relevant keywords on your resume without necessarily reworking full sentences in your experience section. This way, you can seamlessly tailor your resume for different positions.
Remember that you can also choose to use both a summary and a skills table if you think that’s the best way to sell yourself as a candidate.
3. Nothing at all
There’s no rule that says you must have an intro statement on your resume. If your professional history is straightforward and makes you a clear fit for the role, you may want to dive right into your work experience the way chronological resumes often do.
At the end of the day, you only have so much space on your resume, and you want everything you include to serve a purpose. Ultimately, Sweet says, “Do whatever you can to stand out.”
Thankfully, there are a few different ways you can do justice to your skills and expertise on your resume. So, ditch the objective statement and go with something that will actually help you reach your objective and land that job!
Erica Sweeney contributed to the latest version of this article.