At the top of most resumes, you will find either a summary or an objective.
But what are the differences between a resume objective and a resume summary, and are they important?
It turns out the differences are quite big, and they might make the difference in whether you catch the attention of a hiring manager.
1. Objective or summary: what recruiters want
Your obvious goal in submitting a resume is to get a callback or interview.
For this reason, you want your resume to contain exactly what the hiring manager or recruiter is looking for.
Objectives are almost obsolete.
You will find this is a popular opinion amongst recruiters and those who have to read resumes and make hiring decisions: “Objectives are dead.”
This advice appears right next to advice on how to write the perfect summary.
The reason resume objectives are not commonly used is explained in more detail below, but in short, it has a different focus than a resume summary.
Take the advice of recruiters and ditch the resume objective.
Summaries are commonly used.
Currently, more than 90% of resumes contain a summary as an opening statement, instead of an objective.
You will find more advice from resume writers stating why objectives should be completely left off; however, there is a time and place for them, and we will discuss that further in point 3 below.
Your goal is to get noticed by the recruiter or hiring manager.
And making the simple change from using an objective or using a summary on your resume might make all the difference.
2. Objective or summary: what is the focus?
Objectives focus on what the job candidate wants.
Categorically, objectives tend to be more about the candidate: “I plan on doing this in my career and this is where I hope to be one day.”
They generally included statements of ambitions geared to let the company know that your objectives are aligned with the job description and company.
Now, if you want to state your mission to an employer, an objective is great.
But most recruiters these days want the bottom line, which is, "What can you provide to the company?"
Summaries focus on what the job candidate provides.
Over the last 20 years or so, it appears that hiring companies have found a summary much more useful than a resume objective.
The company has its own objectives, and a resume summary is what will show if the job candidate can help the company achieve them.
Ultimately, companies want to know more about the value the job candidate will bring to the company and what he/she can do for the business.
The summary is more of a giving statement than a wanting statement.
3. Objectives do have a time and place.
Earlier, we mentioned that there are times when a resume objective will be suitable. This will often be in one of two cases:
- You are a college graduate.
Objectives work great for those with no experience to outline on a resume summary, such as a recent graduate.
You would use an objective to explain what you want to do because you likely have no experience to summarize.
- You are changing careers.
The same applies if you are changing careers.
You have to state what you intend to do because a summary is generally for those with a long work history in a specific career.
4. Structure of objective vs. summary
- An objective can almost be structured like a really short cover letter of only a few sentences.
- A summary will be more focused on the needs of the employer while still remaining short and succinct.
Both an objective and summary can be about the same length of 40 to 50 words.
On the lengthier end, they can be up to about 100 words.
You don't want to make them longer or they might be overlooked altogether.
Examples of resume summaries
Let's close with a few examples of effective resume summaries.
Example resume summary from a Senior Finance & Operations Executive:
Senior Executive offering accomplished career focused on driving investment valuation, process design, and internal control for enterprise organizations.
Demonstrated success in leading financial modeling and analysis for private equity, real estate, and hedge fund investments. Accomplished change agent successful in transforming operations through the design and enhancement of business processes and technologies.
Strategic advisor across all business functions with advanced ability to build and manage partnerships with stakeholders, board members, and fellow executive leaders to support strategic planning and drive continuous improvement.
Example resume summary from a Senior Sales Executive:
Specialized in driving medical product sales growth through effective presentations, sales leadership, and client relations
Business & Sales Growth: Led two largest locum tenens physician recruiting companies in U.S. with combined revenue over $1.3BN (key contributor to growing company from $100MM to over $1.5BN).
Strategy, Vision & Mission Planning: Successful experience in delivering industry leading results in growth, profitability, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.
Leadership Development: Experienced in building and leading high performing leadership teams that succeed through a culture of performance and engagement.
Example resume summary from a Chief Nursing Officer:
Chief Nursing Officer/Executive with extensive experience in coordinating and managing clinical, nursing, home health and patient care services for diverse health care facilities.
Demonstrated success in developing new programs and managing nursing departments to ensure the ongoing improvement of patient care. Strong staff leadership and development skills with the ability to hire, train and manage nursing teams through daily care tasks.
Highly adept at working with interdisciplinary teams and administrators to address and resolve ongoing challenges, introduce new programs and technologies, and drive continuous process improvement.
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