4 Times You May Want to Use a Summary Objective on Your Resumé
With very few, well-worded exceptions, your resumé should avoid a summary objective at the top of the page. Your objective is typically redundant, obvious, and takes up space that would otherwise be better used to display your experiences or skills. It also uses up a significant amount of the 30 second (or less) time period the hiring manager has to make a decision whether you’re worth interviewing. That said, I would recommend that an objective be no more than 2 sentences and no more than 3 lines of your resumé.
Here are four instances when you should consider including one:
1. You’re Trying to Change Careers (Not Just Get a New Job)
You’ve been working in education for 10 years but want to apply for a job in finance? It’s not impossible, but you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
You can keep the general skeleton of your resumé, honed to focus on the skills and responsibilities you feel are most transferable to the position you want. Without a summary objective, however, a hiring manager might think you applied for the wrong job or that you don’t understand what the position entails.
Your summary objective can explain in 2 sentences: 1) what type of position you are looking for (since it will likely contradict with what your resumé indicates) and 2) what makes you qualified for the position. These ideas will be expanded in your cover letter (and later, your interview), but a note at the top of your resumé will ensure the hiring manager that you know what you’re doing and will compel her to give your resumé a closer look.
2. You’ve Taken a Hiatus
In this scenario, I would recommend using an objective only when you’re currently on a hiatus. A hiatus in between previous jobs can either be ignored or written in with a brief sentence explaining what you did during those years off.
If you’re currently on hiatus, your resumé will show your most recent experience as having ended quite a long time prior to the present. A hiring manager may consider this suspicious or a “bad sign.” One way to counteract this impression is to include a strong summary objective, stating your qualifications and accolades (“Award-winning graphic designer with 10 years’ experience…”) and interest in the type of position.
Mention your hiatus in a brief sentence above your most recent experience, explaining the gap strategically.
So you’ve taken a couple years off. Hiring managers won’t hold it against you for taking time off, as long as you’ve demonstrated that your skills are still sharp and that you are capable and motivated to take on a large workload and steep challenges. How? Add one or two sentences to your resumé describing what you did during the “gap.” Add the “activities” you did that kept your transferable skills honed. For example:
Starting in May 2013, I left [COMPANY] to work as a stay-at-home mom for my three children. During this time, I did part-time, remote administrative work for a local jewelry company, served as treasurer and bookkeeper for my daughters’ recreational soccer league, and was the lead planner for multiple charity events, raising over $75,000, for my children’s school.
Notice how your participation in even minor extracurriculars, like your children’s recreational activities, can demonstrate your organizational, administrative, and detail-oriented skills, among others.
3. You Have a Strong, Concise Personal Brand
If you are recognized as an individual for accomplishments or contributions outside of your prior employers, you most likely have a strong personal brand. More often than not, your reputation and online presence will precede your resumé. Make sure your summary objective is consistent with your brand, adding your interest in the relevant type of position or company.
4. You Have Over 10 Years’ Experience & Notable Accolades
Professionals with more than 10 years’ experience and multiple accolades have a strong incentive to include a summary objective.
“3-time Chief Operating Officer with over 25 years’ experience helping start-ups become Fortune 1000 companies. Long record of exceeding quarterly service expectations, adapting to frequent changes, and demonstrated interest in mentoring and building successful Operations teams.”
This summary is exciting, interesting, and intriguing. It makes you want to know which companies this COO worked for, what exactly his responsibilities were, etc. It makes you interested in talking to this candidate before you even read his resumé. You can add awards or other accolades to enhance your credibility and background.