Does an Objective Have a Purpose?
EACE Blog contribution by Beth Settje, Associate Director for the Center for Career Development at The University of Connecticut
Does an Objective Have a Purpose?
Recently I attended a day-long event with a number of career professionals, and the subject turned to Objective Statements. Opinions were varied and inconsistent. Do we or don’t we? Does a student include an objective on the résumé or not? When is it time to leave it off, if you support the idea of having one to start? How about professional summaries and profiles? Do you subscribe to using them instead of an objective or at all? So many questions…
It is reasonable to state that a poorly written objective statement hurts the candidate far more than not including one at all. This type of objective would be about the student only, indicating what he wants from the opportunity or the company, would not include any skills or any relevant to the position being considered, and would be poorly constructed. There are no redeeming qualities, and that fact alone could send the candidate directly to the No pile.
So what about the student who writes a compelling objective? She indicates the type of experience she is seeking, the industry of interest, and the skills desired by the field and/or the organization specifically. How can this type of statement be harmful? Well, employers have shared with me that if the objective is too specific to just one position, the recruiter cannot share that résumé with anyone else at the company, because it is an application piece for just one job. Yet different hiring managers and recruiters have also shared that they appreciated the objective statement when it matches the position, so they know that the student has been attentive to the posting. To complicate matters, I have also heard from some hiring managers who really appreciate when the student puts not just the industry or field, but the company name, in the objective. They have stated that personalizing the résumé just for them makes the student stand out. Of course, recruiters have debunked that myth, stating cut and paste is a skill anyone can do, and there is nothing special about including the company name or position on the résumé. Is there a right answer? Does it matter if the résumé is going to a recruiter in Human Resources or the Hiring Manager, or both?
Our department has determined that for students going pursuing an internship or their first job, having a well written objective that is part of a tailored résumé, is definitely worthwhile. It can provide focus, a road map even, for both the student and the employer. There are some students with quite a bit of breadth to their experiences, but not necessarily depth. The objective is like a hypothesis, guiding the student to indicate what skills need to be highlighted and demonstrated in their bullets. Employers are offered insight into a student’s goals and can start to see the how dots connect, that may at first appear unrelated or confusing. Once the graduates are employed, we have recommended that they no longer use the objective, unless they want to write one as part of the résumé development process, and to then take it off before actually using it.
A profile or summary of skills is something our staff may suggest to alumni who have been working for a few years. That gives the individual time to reflect on a career path and further develop or enhance skills first acquired in college. The summary statement is more about the individual than the objective and allows for a different level of presentation.
Ultimately, it does not seem there is one answer. So we just need to do the best we can to continually stay attuned to trends and if possible, employer specifications. If I know one employer absolutely abhors objective statements, I will not advise the student to use one. Similarly, if we learn an employer really likes seeing the company name on the résumé, we will be sure to share that information with our students. They will collect advice from many professionals and hopefully, more of us are consistent than not. We can encourage them to avoid typos, be articulate, and to ethically highlight their attributes so they are making the best impression possible. Perhaps writing an objective statement is situational, and at the end of the day, the document belongs to the students, and they will do what they want anyway.
Beth Settje has been working in higher education for more than 20 years, and in career development four about 14 years, with a focus on internship and co-op development since 2005. Beth earned her BS in Business Administration from Arcadia University and her M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland. Currently, Beth is the Associate Director for the Center for Career Development at The University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. One of Beth’s favorite pastimes is speaking to, and writing about, career related topics, and she regularly presents at state, regional and national conferences on these subjects.