Objectives and goals, oh my!

Recently a friend asked me for advice about her resume.

“In my “Objectives” section, should I say I want to ‘acquire’ a position or ‘obtain’ a position?”

Neither, I thought. (I’m difficult like that sometimes.)

These days, there are tons of sites online that purport to give you insider information about job hunting, resumes, etc. I find a lot of it, especially the stuff about resumes, to be worse than worthless. One site, helpfully titled “Resume Objective,” gives as an example an “Objectives” section at the top of a resume submitted for a job as an actuary:

Want to obtain a respectable position in the actuarial field where quantitative and analytical skills can be best utilized for the growth of the company. Seeking a post as an actuarial analyst with a consumer based organization that leads to provide good premium policies.

Great. So you’re applying for a job as an actuary, and you just spent two sentences – at the top of your resume, no less – assuring the employer that you were in fact applying for the job they advertised.

This is not a good use of such prime real estate.

As I said in “It’s not about you,” the employer probably already assumes that you meant to apply for their actuary job, not for a job as, say, a pastry chef. I’m sure they consider themselves “respectable,” and they probably already know that the job involves “quantitative and analytical skills.”

So I’m begging you – don’t plop a “Goals” or “Objectives” section at the top of your resume. As I keep saying, the employer doesn’t care what your goals are; they have a problem, and need to figure out quickly whether you have the chops to solve that problem for them.

A much better idea would be a “Professional Summary” section, where you write a value-packed paragraph describing how your background fits what the employer needs. Rewrite this with each resume you send out (see “No carpet bombing”).

Ten years in the actuarial field, including experience in auto, life and homeowners insurance products with several top-50 firms. Moved from intern to managing a small team within three years. Saved my current firm $3 million over five years by installing more flexible statistical software.

See the difference? (I made up all those details, but you get the idea.)

This is just another flavor of “Show, don’t tell.” But because it comes right at the top of your resume, it’s extremely important – whether you want to become an actuary or a pastry chef or anything in between.

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