Resume Objective vs. Resume Summary: Which Is Right for You?


While the importance of having a resume has endured across the years, the consensus on what constitutes the optimal resume has fluctuated. It was once standard practice for all jobseekers to include an objective statement at the top of their resumes. However, the practice has fallen mostly out of favor because applicants tended to execute this portion rather poorly.

Despite this change, the objective statement is still acceptable in specific cases. On the other hand, some job applicants are encouraged to include a summary statement in place of an objective statement. Keep reading to find out when and how you should include one of these sections on your own resume.

When to Use an Objective Statement
In general, the only situation in which it is advisable to use an objective statement is when you are attempting to make a major career shift or change industries entirely. In this case, it may not be obvious to recruiters how you will apply your previous experience to your desired position. By including an objective statement, you can answer this question before your recruiter even gets the chance to think of it.

How to Create a Strong Objective Statement
As previously noted, resume objective statements fell out of style because they were so often used poorly. So how do you write a compelling one? The key is to use strong, specific language to state your goals and tie your skills and experiences together.

Never use a vague statement such as, “To apply my expertise to the betterment of the lives of clients.” Your goal is to paint a clear picture of how you can use your existing abilities to excel in a new profession. A statement such as, “To use the leadership skills and strategic planning abilities cultivated during my 20 years as a military officer to assist former inmates in the transition to civilian life” carries far greater impact.

When to Use a Resume Summary
Resume summaries are different from resume objective statements in both their wording and their application. Both are synopses of your experience, but a resume summary is more of an elevator pitch about yourself, as opposed to a statement of your goals.

If you have worked in a variety of diverse settings, then you can use a resume summary to highlight common themes in your experiences and underscore your transferable skills. This function of summaries makes them useful for new graduates, but it also makes them ideal for professionals who have unusual or random work histories. However, if your career has progressed in a conventional fashion, then you will most likely be able to present that information in the body of your resume without having to incorporate a summary as well.

How to Create a Strong Resume Summary
Like resume objective statements, summary statements should be written in clear, specific language. However, summaries are phrased differently. The following example illustrates the right way to compose your summary.

Imagine that you are a recent college graduate applying for a marketing position with your local school board. You do not have specific marketing experience, but you do know how to create compelling visual material after several years of filming wedding videos. You majored in psychology and held an internship in your campus’s child development lab. The position requires you to direct and interact with children, and you were a camp counselor for six summers. A summary statement such as, “Experienced leader of children with extensive training in developmental psychology and 5 years’ experience as a freelance videographer” ties your most relevant skills and experiences to the requirements of the job.

Do Yourself Justice
As hiring needs have evolved, hiring managers have continually adjusted their preferences and ideas of the ideal candidate. One thing that remains the same, however, is the importance of representing yourself well on your resume. By composing an outstanding objective or summary statement, you illustrate to employers exactly how valuable of an asset you are capable of being.

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