Objective statements are a truly dangerous thing for your resume. Since an objective statement goes at the top of your resume, it’s the first thing people see, but mostly people really don’t know how to write an objective statement because they don’t really know how to put themselves in the shoes of the hiring manager and empathize with why they are looking at your resume.
This will become a theme. You must understand why someone is reading your resume, and what they want to get out of the experience of pouring over your boring job history.
I’ll give you a hint. Nobody reads your resume for fun. Nobody reads your resume because they are dying to be impressed about your honor society accomplishments. They don’t read your resume to learn that you went on a volunteer trip with Charity: Water.
No, the only reason anyone reads your resume is because they have a very particular type of person / skillset they are interviewing for, and they want to see a piece of paper that verifies that you are indeed that person. The good thing about a resume is that you can shape it to tell the best possible story about what you can do for the company.
For example, I worked at an international company for about 2 years that wanted a San Francisco-based marketer who was familiar with SaaS business models, and cared about small businesses because small business owners were their customers. I needed my resume to convey that in my objective statement (and the rest of my resume) order to get the job.
So your first step is to make sure you understand who is reading your resume.
How to put yourself in the shoes of the person hiring you
The first person reading your resume is going to be one of two people. One, it’s going to be a recruiter, whose primary job is to filter out the people who *won’t* be a good fit for the role, and make sure that people who fit the profile of the job can be phone screened.
It’s helpful to think about recruiters as salespeople. In many cases (not all), they work on a form of commission, where they make a percentage or as much as ALL of the salary for the role that they fill. For example, the upper echelons of recruiters are often called headhunters, and their only job is to maintain a strong network of executives at various companies that they can recruit for other companies. Getting a well-compensated, successful executive to leave their current company is no small task, and these recruiters are well-compensated for the work.
However, even at the lower levels, recruiters are usually compensated based on their ability to successfully place a candidate, but they follow a the same process with each resume that they see. They’re essentially pattern matching for specific keywords, experience, and other cues that the hiring manager has instructed them to look for.
The best recruiters will take the time to find candidates who may not have the direct experience, but could still be a good fit. However, those recruiters are rare. In general, you should expect recruiters to skim your resume, and you need to make things jump out at them. Even when you get those awesome recruiters that are looking closer, you’ll still make their lives easier with a very clear resume.
The Hiring Manager
Hiring managers will look at your resume in a bit more detail, and since they are the ones hiring, they will have an intuition about what they need from the person that they hire, and in some cases they’ll be more apt to read between the lines.
Again, you still want to make your resume as simple as possible to read. The easier you make it on your future employer to consider you a good fit, the more likely you’ll get your interview.
But how are hiring managers thinking about your role when they read your resume?
Well, they are thinking about a specific set of tasks that they want to hire you for. They have a set of things that need to be done at the company, a set of deliverables that they want to be delivered, and they probably have a pretty specific way they are going to measure everything that you do.
Earlier this year, I was looking to hire an events manager / field marketer to take over a series of community events and conference planning. I knew that I wanted this person to have experience organizing a team of people to attend a conference. I knew that I wanted them to be super organized and to love spreadsheets.
Since the success of a conference is based on a simple math formula of Cost of the Conference / Number of Leads Captured x Value of a Lead, I wanted this person to be excellent at budgeting and measuring the success of an event.
When I read interviews, I was looking for experience in the above areas. Certain things I would be willing to work on with the person to help them grow, but in general my #1 priority was to find someone who could do this job without too much input from me so that I could just count on shit getting done.
When you are writing your objective statement, you need to appeal to those people.
Take your career story and put it into a single sentence.
In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about how important it is to have a good story about how each of your jobs leads into the next. Well, your objective statement is a 1-2 sentence summary of your job story. It’s a statement in the present tense that describes exactly who you are as a potential employee.
If you remember, I talked about how to break down the key things that you take away from each of your past jobs and how you grew as an employee and as a human being at each job. You describe tools you learned how to use, and specific processes or projects you mastered that you can apply to future companies. You talk about how the experience at each company leads into the next one, and how they all add up to make you a perfect fit for the next company that you join.
Your objective statement should be an incredibly brief summary of your entire resume. If someone was going to sum up who you are in terms of your career, that’s your objective statement.
This is what my objective statement says:
Community and product marketer with over 5 years experience at rapidly growing startups. Focus on product marketing, developer communities, go-to-market strategy, and sales enablement.
I can break this down for you.
My bread and butter is as a community manager / community marketer. I thrive on connecting with users of products via content and social media, as well as at events and in person. I’m happiest when I get to be out there working with people who are using a product I am passionate about. I know this about myself, and I really only want marketing jobs where I can be as close to the customer as possible, developing relationships with them.
I also have a good deal of experience launching new products and developing messaging, press strategy, and awareness strategies around new products, and I love this part of tech business, so I put product marketer down.
The years of experience is helpful because it tells people how much I should know about startups, growing companies, and what they can expect from me. I want to set realistic expectations for what I can accomplish / what I can’t accomplish, and years of experience is a helpful barometer of this. Of course there are always exceptions this, but you get the idea.
The second sentence describes the areas of marketing where I have the most experience and can add the most value. If you dig into my resume and look for product marketing experience, you’ll see bullets that demonstrate that. If you look for go-to-market strategy, you’ll find that as well.
This sentence is high level that cues the hiring manager into what the rest of the resume hold, and qualifies me in for some jobs, but out for others. I don’t want to be interviewed for a job that I wouldn’t be a good fit for, so I want people to know who I am as soon as possible!
They also describe the things that I *like* to do, and want someone to hire me for. It’s ok to let your future company know what you want to be doing!
Avoid using meaningless statements.
I also said this in the previous blog post, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t put meaningless words and phrases into your objective statement. You get one shot to make your first impression here, so you need to make sure you make it count.
I worked with someone who used the following sentence in his resume (I’ve changed this to anonymize it).
I have a deep affection for people, art, Lego, and music.
First of all, I have no idea what a “deep affection” means, but it sounds like something that belongs on your E-Harmony profile, not your resume. And what is a wonderful affection for people? What is a wonderful affection for art? Why do you have Lego on your resume?
If I was hiring for that job and that resume came across my desk, it would go in the “no” pile immediately.
Tailor it for every single job you interview for.
This really goes for your entire resume, but particularly for your objective statement. If you’re applying for jobs that have somewhat different descriptions, you want to tailor your objective statement based on what the skills and required experience are for each job. This should be a simple process of making a note of the what the job listing describes and then using the exact phrasing, or similar phrasing in your resume.
Now don’t manufacture things on your resume just to fit a job description. That will only get you in trouble because if you actually get the job, it won’t take long before your employer realizes you don’t have enough experience.
Hope this helps.
Austin W. Gunter