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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Should I use an objective statement on my resume?

Q. I've been talking with a career mentor who told me to get rid of my objective statement at the top of my resume. She seems to think the statement is useless, and just takes up space that I could be using to help give a thorough snapshot of myself with my resume, and that the place for such statements is in the cover letter, and not the resume. Why do you think the objective statement on a resume is so important, and what should be included in that statement? I'm having a hard time wording an objective statement that is broad enough, yet brief. I have an idea of what my "perfect" job would be like, but since I probably won't find that with my brief experiences having just graduated from college in this economy, I don't want to close any doors where I might have a chance of finding full-time employment.

A. Great question! I'll answer with a story from my recruiting days. When I was recruiting for a publicly traded party goods company, there was one point where I had four positions open in marketing - marketing coordinator, marketing project manager, marketing director and vice president of marketing. When I'd exhausted my network for suitable candidates (they were niche roles - the candidates had to have experience marketing kids products) and started placing ads, I got blasted with applicants. I saw hundreds of resumes, many with "seeking a position in marketing" as an objective, or no objective whatsoever.

As a recruiter, I wasn't a marketing specialist, and while I probably knew more about marketing than many other recruiters, I didn't know enough to read people's minds and discern from their work histories (which I had all of 10 seconds or so to scan) what level of position they'd be best suited for, be happiest in, etc. Most of the time, I was left feeling that if this person couldn't market themselves properly, how were they ever going to effectively market the company's party goods? Someone with a clear, non self-serving objective that told me exactly what they wanted got farther in the process than someone who had a self-serving or absent objective.

Here's an objective statement I wrote recently for someone seeking a marketing job, "Results-driven sales and marketing professional with extensive experience in retail and corporate environments seeks to contribute marketing project coordination skills and an eye for design in a position with .

My client will personalize it each time, to make it clear she wants to work for THAT company (not just anybody) and wants to work in THAT role (knowing full well that a job title on her resume's objective statement will not keep her out of consideration for other positions for which she might be equally or better suited). Plus, it adds another incidence of the target job title on the resume - highly likely to be used as a keyword if the company is using a keyword scanner. I followed with a few supportive statements that emphasized her marketing accomplishments in an opening paragraph. Note that the word "objective" is never a keyword (talk about wasted space!), so I replace that phrase with a headline - often including the job title.

These reasons, coupled with the fact that, according to my research, (conducted personally over many years and gathered from other sources,) 80% of hiring managers never read the cover letter (yet notice when it's missing and take points off), are enough for me to include objective statements on every resume I write. Of course, elaboration in the letter which demonstrates goodness of fit and the reason one is interested in the position, is always a good thing - for the 20% of hiring managers who will actually read it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To whom do you address your resume and cover letter, when you don't know the name of the person?

When you don't know the name of the actual person to whom you're addressing a cover letter or resume, see what you can find out via LinkedIn or your network. Failing that, go with "Recruiting Manager". It will be tough to know what to do when working with staffing agencies.

When applying online to jobs posted by agencies, you'll want to address your letter to the agency. When you make contact to someone at the agency, let them know you can write a letter for each opportunity for which your materials are submitted if they feel it would be helpful. A good agency recruiter acts as your cover letter - talking up your strong points and emphasizing goodness of fit.