Cover Letter Vs Objective Statement

Ask three people to look over your resume, and you’ll get three different perspectives on what should and shouldn’t be on there.

Yet, somehow, pretty much everyone agrees that objective statements are out of fashion. In their place, you’ve probably heard, should be a resume summary statement. Or, since you need to keep it all to one page anyway, just save the space and dive right into your relevant experience.

And that’s true, generally. But there’s one occasion when your resume should, in fact, return to the objective statement: when you’re making a huge career change.

Think about it. If you have, say, five years of experience in business development and you’re now interested in marketing, your resume probably isn’t selling you as the best candidate for the gigs you’re applying to.

In this case, you could definitely benefit from having an objective statement to clearly explain that you’re making the switch and show how your skill set aligns with this new career path. It might even be confusing if you don’t use an objective statement if your experience doesn’t line up cleanly with the position you’re applying for.

That said, it’s very easy to get resume objective statements wrong. That’s probably why they’ve gotten such a bad reputation—people just write them poorly. Something like “Objective: To obtain a position as a public relations specialist at an innovative and impactful company that utilizes my skills and experience” is literally just wasting space—every single company in the world likes to think of itself as “innovative and impactful,” and it’s not clear what “skills and experience” this person brings to the job. The top of your resume is prime real estate, so you don’t squander it by using vague filler material.

A better approach is to be as specific as possible about your goal and plainly state how you intend to bring your skills and strengths to a position—something like this: “Objective: To leverage my 10+ years of client-facing experience, public speaking skills, and expertise in the tech industry in a public relations role at a growing educational technology startup.” Like a summary statement, it shows off your skills, but it also explains exactly how you plan to transition them in a new role.

While you’ll often hear that the resume objective statement is dead, it’s important to note that, really, there just aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to resume writing. (In fact, the only resume advice that really matters is to do what it takes to get the interview.) Focus on what works for your experience, not what works for the masses.

And if that means including a resume objective statement, go for it.

How to know if your resume has an objective statement that helps or hurts.

Photo by Meiying Ng

This is a guest post by Paula R. Stern.

Does your resume have an Objective Statement that starts with something like, “A responsible position allowing me to fully utilize my professional skills and which provides me with an opportunity for professional advancement”?

If it does, consider that you've just asked a potential employer to read 20+ words that say absolutely nothing and risked having that person close your resume rather than learn what you can really do for them. This could be the fastest way to lose a job before they even read your resume.

When going through the job-seeking process, it is very important to understand the stages and the roles of the documents that support each stage.

Free bonus: The One Resume Resource You’ll Ever Need is a handy reference to make your resume get you more job interviews. Download it free now

Cover letters that get your resume read

In today’s job hunting environment, most jobs involve emailing your resume to someone.

Too many job seekers fail to realize that the job of the cover letter is to get the recipient to open the attached resume. That’s all. No one gets a job because of a cover letter, but if the recipient opens the resume, the cover letter worked brilliantly.

I receive dozens of emails from people looking for work, maybe even hundreds over the period of a year. If I receive a blank email, I am as likely to delete the email as I am to open the resume. Perhaps even more so. My feeling is best summed up simply be explaining that if you can’t be bothered to write me a brief note, why should I feel obligated to open the resume?

Resumes that open the door for you

Like the cover letter, the role of the resume is not to get you a job. It’s to get you an interview. If you are called and asked to come to a company, your resume worked.

From there, the process goes on, but what is in the resume is critical – every line, every bullet, every section.

  • Your name and address should be placed at the top of the page or file, not on the sides, not on the bottom.
  • The name of the file should include your name; not “resume2011.doc.” I might like what I see, but if I save a file that uses that type of naming, I’ll probably never find it again, never open it, never call you for that important interview. (Here are more samples of resume filenames that recruiters won't respond to.)

Resume Objectives that… attract or repulse?

The next big question I have often been asked to discuss, is what to put in the Objective portion at the top of the resume.

Understand that a manager will glance quickly at a resume and decide in seconds whether to bother reading further. In a sense, the manager is looking more for reasons not to continue reading, rather than trying to gain a true assessment of how you can fit into their company.

Is a resume Objective needed?

Does it add or detract from the resume?

The answer, I believe, is “it depends.”

3 rules to decide if you need an Objective Statement in your resume

Here are a few rules for deciding whether to include it or not.

1) Who will see your resume?

If you apply directly to the person who has advertised the job and is responsible for hiring the ideal candidate, the resume Objective Statement may well be redundant. Even more, it may be distracting.

On the other hand, if you are sending your resume to the Human Resources department or to a general email address within a company, the Objective Statement can be helpful in directing your resume to the proper person within the company.

2) What do you want to accomplish?

If you are applying for a specific job and your resume clearly reflects that direction, the Objective Statement may not be necessary. After all, it is obvious you are a dentist, a technical writer, a translator, etc.

Nothing is gained by stating the obvious and given that you have only seconds to impress the recipient, it is often best that they begin reading your background information, rather than confirming you are looking for the job they are offering. After all, if you weren’t interested in the job, you would not have sent it to them, right?

On the other hand, if you are applying for multiple positions within the company because your goal is to get a job and you hope by seeing your abilities, the recipient will decide you match “one of” the jobs that are available, rather than “the” job that was advertised, a good Objective on your resume may well open additional possibilities.

3) Finally, what should you write in the Objective Statement, if you decide to include it?

It is very important to make the Objective Statement as directed as possible. You can damage your positioning or lower their impression of your abilities by making it too broad.

If I see an Objective Statement that states the person is seeking a position as a technical writer, editor, or translator, my first impression is that they should make up their minds what they want to do. My second thought is to wonder if I offer them the job, will they leave it as soon as their “true” objective is offered somewhere else.

Don’t include a statement of your personal abilities. Though you may be a team player, quick to learn, responsible, etc. these are only words until proven. The proof should be in the sections that follow, in your Experience and Education.

The goal of the resume is to impress the recipient enough to invite you to an interview. If they are so busy reading the Objective Statement, they are delayed in getting to the important sections that follow. Who you are and what you can do, is best represented by the Experience and Education sections.

While there are times that an Objective in a resume is important, even critical, there are often times when it can work against the job seeker. If it is too long, if it is too broad, if it is too obvious or redundant, the damage may be enough to create a lost opportunity.

On the other hand, a resume without an Objective Statement may be lost in the vast network of job seekers. It may not open other doors if the particular door of interest isn’t available to you.

So, should you have an Objective for your resume?

While this is a decision you have to make based on many factors, the most important consideration is what you plan to put into it.

A short, direct, proper, Objective Statement may help you land the job of your dreams; a long and winding Objective Statement may well close doors of opportunity as quickly as the manager will close the resume you sent them.

Like all elements of your resume (and your cover letter), if you choose to include an Objective Statement, spend time reviewing it so that it is concise, clear and relevant.

Other opinions

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About the Author

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of Writepoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel providing comprehensive documentation and training services to Israel’s hi-tech companies. WritePoint was founded in 1995 and has been providing quality documentation at affordable prices ever since. Paula can be reached at paula@writepoint.com. Paula is the list owner/moderator of Techshoret and is an Adobe Community Professional.

This article was part of the Over $5000 in Prizes: The 5th Annual JobMob Guest Blogging Contest, which was made possible thanks in large part to our sponsors:

Marcus Tandler’s JOBlog is Germany’s oldest blog about job search & careers.
Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg is an internationally acclaimed advisor to successful business owners, known for his small business ideas.

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About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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