Resume styles change fairly frequently. There are “flavours of the month” type resumes that attract some attention in the beginning (usually for the wrong reasons) but then fade away. The problem with building a great resume is that it is very subjective. If you go to your local bookstore and look at 10 resume guides, I would bet that you would get 10 different opinions. So what is the best approach?
Having seen a ton of resumes over my career as a Recruiter and a Workforce Specialist, I look at it this way: “How can I make myself stand out from other applicants to an employer”? In other words, put yourself in the employer’s shoes and look at your resume from that perspective. An employer will probably have less than a minute to pre-screen your resume (if done by hand) and decide if it goes into the “keep” pile or the circular filing cabinet starting with “g”. That means the top third or half of the first page of your resume should have the points that you want an employer to see. These would be your selling points. That brings us to the ongoing debate of using an Objective or Summary at the top of your resume.
My preference is to use the Summary, for a number of reasons. Before you read further please check out this article by Roy Miller to see his reasons for choosing a Summary over an Objective.
What do you think now? Has your opinion changed? Let me further stack the deck in favour of the summary; look at the definitions above for Objective and Summary that I retrieved from an online dictionary.
In job search terms:
Objective = “something that one’s efforts are intended to attain” or “what I am looking for, or want”.
Summary = “a comprehensive and usually brief abstract of stated facts” or “what I bring to the table for you”.
An Objective simply covers what YOU are looking for or want.
A Summary shows what is in it FOR THE EMPLOYER. It allows you more opportunities to showcase your talents; i.e. a snapshot of all of the great things you have done, all wrapped up in a bow at the top of your resume. So instead of employers having to search through your resume for the reasons to interview you – you make it easy for them by listing them right at the top, where it will be seen first.
An objective can work if the rest of the resume is laid out in a way that allows the employer to see your skills easily. Having a list of skills right after the objective could work. To me though, an objective is boring, “cookie cutter” and misses an opportunity to show your worth to an employer.
Check out these two samples:
Objective – To secure a position as an Administrative Assistant at ABC Company
Summary – Personable Administrative professional, with over 5 years of expertise in handling customer inquiries (100 calls per day avg.), executive scheduling for 3 partners, data entry (70 wpm) and event planning (trade shows and client appreciation events). Proficient in Microsoft Office, multi-line phone systems, with fluently French.
If you were the employer which person would you want to meet?
By using a Summary, you can showcase your best-selling points to an employer to show them that you match their expectations. This allows you to stand out from the rest of the applicants, thereby making you a memorable candidate.
Finally, a Summary provides you with an opportunity to enter in key words or phrases from the posted job description. With many companies using scanning software to review resumes and identify key words which match the job posting, a Summary can get you extra points by having those key words mentioned upfront.
It is clear by now that my preference for a Summary rather than Objective. I believe that it has the best potential of getting an employer interested in interviewing the candidate, which is after-all, the purpose of a resume in the first place. But, this is only my opinion, which I have arrived at years of working with employers, reviewing articles by others in this field and searching for jobs myself. I’m sure there are folks out there who have a different opinion, and I say: if they use an objective and are getting interviews that lead to jobs, then by all means keep up the good work. As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
But if the saying that best resembles your job search is “Houston, we have a problem” then maybe consider using a Summary.
Good luck in your job search.