Many college career offices and some resume books are emphatic that it is vital to have an objective in your resume. The objective section is the first section after the header and states your job search or career goal. A traditional objective statement is one sentence that succinctly states your goal in terms of a position or type of company for which you would like to work.
An objective statement is very limiting and is often the weakest portion of the new graduate resume, coming in a position on the resume where you want to project the most power – the top half of the first page. If you limit yourself with your objective to one type of job, you are greatly handicapping your prospects for success since most new graduates are quite flexible in the type of position they are seeking or the company for which they would like to work. By using an objective statement, you are narrowing your opportunities at a time in your career when you truly have all sorts of choices.
Objective statements tend to be weakly worded and poorly considered. Most new graduates sense that employers are not so much interested in what the candidate is seeking in a job, but rather interested in whether the candidate’s background meets their needs. An objective, in its very nature, is not employer-focused. As a result, most new graduate job seekers write very poor objectives.
Let’s look at this example: “Objective: To apply my skills and enthusiasm in business to meet the needs of a progressive company.” What does this objective actually say? Does it address the needs of the employer? Does it give any information about the candidate? Would any job seeker NOT consider him- or herself enthusiastic when vying for a new job? This objective statement is a very typical, ineffective piece of writing that all-too-often appears in new graduate resumes.
If an objective statement is not the best choice for a new graduate resume, then what is?
A better choice for the beginning section of a new graduate resume is a summarizing statement or paragraph. Three to five lines of text (not necessarily complete sentences) that summarize the qualifications that a new graduate has to offer an employer. If the new graduate has specific qualifications that provide an edge over the competition, that information should appear in the summarizing statement of the new graduate resume.
Examples of information that might give a new graduate an edge over other candidates might be bilingualism, scholarship receipt, internship experience, leadership experience, or high honors. If you have worked your way through college, financing your own education, that is a plus factor that shows dedication and work ethic—traits an employer would be seeking. Employers also like to see prior military experience since often that translates into maturity and leadership abilities. All of this information would be good to have in a summarizing statement.
Avoid cliché or overused phrases and words in a summarizing statement on a new graduate resume when possible. Some examples would be “enthusiastic”, “detail-oriented”, “people person”, “goal-oriented”, and “dedicated”. These phrases have been used so much in resumes that readers no longer give any credence to them and consider them fluff. Choose better words that more powerfully paint a picture of your qualifications.
Keep your summarizing statement to a summary, not an expository paragraph. If a piece of information does not contribute directly to positioning you as a candidate to be interviewed, it should not appear in the summary and maybe not even in the resume. Within three to five lines of text, you need to capture the reader’s attention and generate the desire to read the entire resume rather than scanning it cursorily and putting it in the ‘maybe’ pile.
An example of a well-written summary:
“Hands-on experience in civil projects involving environmental and construction aspects of the engineering field. Superior knowledge of computer systems, design and analytical projects. A mature student achieving high academic honors while maintaining part-time employment; scholarship recipient and former military member.”
This summary was for a resume of an engineering student seeking an internship with a high-profile civil engineering firm. In approximately four lines of text, the summary gives a good picture of his strengths and the unique qualities he possessed that would make him stand out in the crowd. It won him several interviews with leading firms including an interview with the Army Corps of Engineers (due to his mention of his military experience). He later was hired by the company he interned with and is now a junior partner in the firm.
It is doubtful that a weak summary or an objective statement would have had the effect this particular summary had in making his resume stand out in the crowd. If he had simply used “Objective: Civil Engineering Internship” it is almost certain he would have had a longer, more difficult search. As it was, he gained an internship within two weeks of beginning his application process. Speed is an asset when vying for the limited number of internships that are available for students and this summary definitely sped up the process for him.
When constructing your new graduate resume or resume for an internship, remember to consult with an expert in resume writing for the best results. Most experts will tell you to ditch the objective statement and go with a powerful summary statement to reach out and grab the attention of the hiring manager. The top half of the resume is the most important part of the resume and it must not only introduce you to the reader but also make the reader want to pick up the phone and call immediately. Can an old-fashioned objective statement do that? Hardly.