A career objective for resume building

A career objective for resume building strategies: good or bad?

A career objective for resume introductions can be a big timesaver to a recruiter, but it might not help you at all. If your objective line says that you want something other than the available job, you are practically begging for a rejection letter. If a recruiter works for a newspaper and gets a resume from someone whose objective line says that person wants to work for a TV station — it really happens — the recruiter can stop reading immediately.

Although objective lines send many resumes submarining to the bottom of the stack, few are so good that they make resumes float to the top. Objectives that miss are deadly, objectives that are right on are rare, and those that are in the ballpark generally don’t make a lick of difference, anyway. The only time an objective line really helps is when it is honest, specific and matches the job for which you are applying. Research into the company and job you want can produce a tailored objective line, but that has a shelf life in files. An objective line tailored for today’s job will stay on your resume for the next job, and the next job and the one after that — all jobs for which you might have an interest but for which your objective line might be inappropriate.

Here’s an alternative: Don’t put a career objective on your resume. Put your goals in your cover letter. Unlike resumes, cover letters carry dates. This gives them a fixed place in time. It is only natural that objectives will change with time, and subsequent cover letters can explain a changing or expanding career goal. The cover letter also gives you more room to explain your career goals. And this approach answers another question, “What do I say in my cover letter?”

Speaking of cover letters …

This reader wanted to know whether to address his past history in his cover letter.

I’m a copy editor who left a position as a deputy chief two years ago to pursue a master’s degree in nonfiction writing. Now I’m ready to look for another copy editing job — well, almost ready, that dang thesis needs defending.

I was a Dow Jones intern and have been generally regarded as very good at my job at the desks where I’ve worked. However, there have been three of those jobs, and then grad school — all in the span of seven years. I don’t regret my moves, but I know they could look bad to a recruiter, who might fear I’m an incurable ship-jumper. Actually, I’m looking for a job at a newspaper in a city where I think I’d like to stay for the long haul and even — gasp — settle down.

Should I worry about addressing this issue in my cover letter, or should I stick to my skills as an editor? Also, should I address the grad school thing? While it wasn’t j-school, it’s made me a smarter journalist, and I could talk about that in a cover letter. Or not, because maybe nobody cares what I did in grad school and what’s important is my desk experience. Thoughts?

My answer:

Stick to your skills and how your master’s degree will help you as an editor.

There is no point in defending a history that might not even be a problem.

When editors look at resumes, we look for patterns. Patterns manifest themselves in the moves people make and the intervals at which they make them. A pattern of diminishing responsibilities can be a problem. A series of rapid changes for similar jobs can be, too. A pattern of increasing responsibilities is positive. It does not sound as though you changed jobs unreasonably fast and, if you were improving your position, this could all be good. If the most notable exception to your career arc is grad school, be ready to explain how it has helped your growth and increased your commitment.

Mastering the newsroom:

Want more advice on career objectives for resume strategies? These questions, answers and advice come from my book Ask The Recruiter, where I have collected years of experience from recruiting in newsrooms. The book contains popular questions and answers dedicated to breaking open the occasionally opaque nature of newsroom hiring, promoting and managing.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email