When I began as a recruiter, long, long ago, every resume began with an objective was followed by a flowery and slightly vague statement about what the jobseeker wanted, written in terms that were all about the candidate.
Back then, a typical resume objective would be something meaningless like: “Objective: A challenging position in a fast-paced company where I can use my current skills and learn new ones, with opportunity for promotion and growth.”
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why this approach died, because it’s all about the candidate, all about me, me, me, and never about what the company was looking for.
When the job market got more competitive, we started to catch on and realize that companies don’t hire you because of what you want.
In fact, companies really don’t even care that much about what you want, and they sure don’t want to worry about it when they’re screening resumes.
Companies hire you because you are what they want.
Today, even though some people still use this kind of meaningless resume objective, the powerful way to start your resume is with a positioning statement and summary that tells the company what you do, and what you can do for them, in terms that they can instantly understand.
Look at it from a recruiter or hiring manager’s perspective.
We have a position we need to fill, and we want to find someone who is experienced, and hopefully a specialist at that job. The closer you are to our idea of a perfect candidate, the more we want to talk to you.
So instead of saying what you want, show that you are what the company wants, and you need to say it right from the beginning.
Let’s say, for instance, that I’m looking for a confident marketing manager who has online experience to work for a company that sells consumer products. Included in the posting is that we’re looking for someone who understands the latest in social networking, and who has experience managing complicated projects.
Resumes begin to pour in, and the work of selecting which candidates make it to the interview phase begins.
Recruiters will give your resume only about 15 or 20 seconds of attention, so you need to grab them from the very first to get their attention, and that works best with a positioning statement.
What’s the difference between and objective and a positioning statement or summary?
Let’s take a look at a sample resume objective, and a sample positioning statement. Which one of these resumes do you think will go to the top of the stack?
Seeking a challenging role as a marketing manager with a fast-growing company that will let me build on my experience in online marketing and expand my responsibilities into social network marketing and project management.
Innovative Online Marketing Manager
Consumer Products, Social Network Marketing, Campaign Management, and Project Management Experience
Both of these resumes will make it through the computer system that is just looking for important keywords, but once I review them, Candidate B is going to the top of the stack, because they’ve told me what they are, and what they can do, and it’s a match with what I’m looking for.
Candidate A’s resume will be read, because the right words are there, but they probably won’t get the interview, because they have set a tone that they are looking for what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for the company.
Let’s look at another example for a position for an administrative assistant position working for the head of manufacturing for a company that makes consumer electronics products.
Seeking an administrative or assistant position where my twenty years of office experience can be utilized.
Flexible and Confident Administrative Assistant with Experience Supporting Senior Management in Top-Tier Manufacturing and Consumer Electronics Companies
Again, Candidate B has the edge, because they talk about who what they do and what they bring, rather than what they want.
Does this mean that the rest of the resume isn’t read? No.
The recruiter will spend a few seconds to scan down to see what kinds of skills you list, and to evaluate where you’ve worked, for how long, and what you did there, and you still have a chance.
But in both of these examples, Candidate B caught our attention by positioning themselves as exactly what we’re looking for by using a strong positioning statement or summary, so we’re already feeling good about them.
So instead of wasting precious top-billing space on your resume with an old-fashioned objective that talks about you, tell us what you do and follow it up with a summary that shows you know what you’re talking about.
Then you’ll get the interview, and you’re one step closer to getting the job.
Leslie Ayres is The Real Job Guru. A staffing expert and executive recruiter for more than 30 years, she currently places senior executives for cutting-edge technology startups. When the dotcom crash shook the job market and many people found themselves out of work, Leslie also became a job search coach and speaker, sharing her expertise in how to get a job that fits, even in a very competitive market.
Leslie is the author of Be Yourself & Get the Job (and Life) of Your Dreams!, a workbook for getting a job search on track, and her newest book is BE REAL: The Simple Secret to Knowing the Perfect Job for You.