Resume Update: Objective or Summary

Resumes SHOULD be accompanied by a cover letter in almost every case, and in your cover letter, you typically communicate what would be stated in both an objective and summary. But since your resume should also be a stand alone need to have either an objective or summary at the top of your resume in order to be competitive. Confused? Read on.

An objective is intended to communicate the following:
  • Professional direction
  • The position for which you are applying
  • The skills you specifically bring to that position

Do not include an objective...

  • If you don't possess career direction ("To obtain a full-time job" isn't going to help a hiring manager know what to do with your resume.)
  • As a means to espouse your lofty ambitions (e.g. "To obtain career-advancing position with a forward thinking and successful company where I may develop professionally and emotionally.") {urp!}
  • And only list the position you are seeking (That's wasted space...use it to also tell them what you bring to that position as supported by the rest of your resume.)

Now, some people argue that the objective is a "dying" section of the resume and should be replaced by a summary of qualifications or a professional profile. Others argue that only more seasoned professionals should use a summary. My opinion...unless you have to "stretch" to come up with a summary, I think it is a beneficial section for college graduates. I know many student leaders and/or students who have held meaningful internships, part-time jobs or summer jobs who have skills, personal traits and successes that should be shared at the top of the resume, not buried somewhere below.

So, what's a summary, you ask?

  • A list of skills and personal traits that make you competitive for the position sought
  • A place to communicate the position sought with more support than the objective allows (An example of one bullet might be: Student leader with proven interpersonal, problem solving and organization skills seeking management position with XYZ Company.)
  • A way to reflect how your skills specifically (yet briefly) reflect the needs listed in the job posting

Take this weekend to play with the top of your resume. Objective or summary? You decide!

Samples of both are listed in the Career Handbook

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