Objectives: Leave Them Off Your Resume

This hiring manager says objective statements hurt a candidate's chances much of the time.

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Last week, when writing about things to leave off of your resume, I mentioned objective statements, which I believe don't belong on a resume. Some commenters wanted to know why.

I've never seen an objective that made me more interested in hiring a candidate, and I've seen plenty that actually hurt a candidate's chances. At best they're neutral, so why risk it?

Objectives usually fall in one of three categories:

1. Objectives that are all about what you want. For example: "A position that allows me to develop my interest in international relations." At some point I'm going to care about what the candidate wants, but at this initial screening stage, the process is about what the company wants.

2. Objectives that aren't sufficiently tailored to the position, or even have nothing to do with it. For example: Writing "a job in finance," when you're applying for a job in health care. This objective makes it look like you're simply blasting your resume around without enough focus--and that you have no attention to detail.

3. Objectives that just don't add anything compelling (and therefore just waste space). For example: "A job where I can apply my skill set, at a company with potential for growth." It's pretty much assumed that you're looking for that.

Here's what most hiring managers want from a resume: A concise, easily scanned list of what you've accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills. That's it. Don't use the resume to talk about what you're looking for, or for your own assessment of your strengths. Present factual information about what you've done.

There will be time to talk about what you're looking for, eventually--but first the hiring manager needs to figure out if she's interested or not.

I believe objectives at best add nothing and take up space, and at worst harm your chances. But I know some people are firmly convinced they should use them--so if you think you've got an objective worth including, tell us why in the comments.

Alison Green is chief of staff for a medium-sized nonprofit where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. She is working with the Management Center to coauthor a book on nonprofit management. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.

  • For more advice from Alison Green, check out 7 Things to Leave Off Your Resume.
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