Every resume is supposed to tell a story. It is like a sales sheet that is specifically created to sell yourself to an employer by highlighting your unique history and what makes you a professional asset.
Most component of a resume are difficult to complete but simple enough to understand. For example, it may be difficult to write a compelling and valuable work history, but at least the applicant recognizes why their work is important to highlight to the employer.
Yet there are two sections of standard, traditional resumes that are not only difficult to write — they also don’t make sense to people that haven’t written many resumes before. These sections include:
- Resume Objective Statements
- Resume Skill Sections
The objective statement is a brief statement about the reason you’re applying for the job and/or your goals with the position, and the skills section is often a list of skills at the bottom of the resume that are unrelated to the work history.
Now, over the past several years there has been a significant shift away from using these two sections on a resume. There are replacements that we will talk about later that may be more valuable. Nevertheless, resume objectives and resume skills are still a common part of most resume templates. The following are several tips and strategies for helping you write these sections.
The Resume Objective — Adding Meaning to a Dry Resume
The objective section of the resume is a one or two sentence statement that indicates your career goals and what you believe you can achieve in the position. It is the first sentence on your resume, and is placed directly beneath your name. That makes it especially important to write one that is impressive.
The resume objective is, in many ways, a statement about goals. Employers have typically used these objectives to see if the reason you are applying for the job correlates with the type of person they are hoping to hire. They’re also a small chance to add a little personality in a way that the resume typically doesn’t allow.
Here are some examples of objective statements. Afterward we will provide more information of what a resume objective should be, and how to write one:
- “Obtaining a leadership position in a team-focused enterprise, allowing me to utilize my experience in management to grow a professional organization.”
- “To begin my career with a leading warehousing company that is dedicated to both professional and personal growth.”
- “Joining a universally renowned non-profit promoting the safety and wellness of refugees from war torn countries.”
If these read a little corny, that’s because they are. Resume objectives do tend to err on the more cliché side. But they are still capable of making an impact with many employers, especially those that value traditional applications.
Who Should Write a Resume Objective?
There should always be something at the top of your resume that attracts the hiring manager before they scroll down to read the rest of your resume.
However, that doesn’t have to be a resume objective, especially with the growth of the “Professional Summary.” Many people are skipping the resume objective statement altogether, and instead inserting a short paragraph about the individual’s career history. This is often referred to as a Professional Summary, or a “Summary Statement.”
Unlike a resume objective, a summary statement involves less cliché and is about boasting your professional credentials and highlighting your best professional features. The objective, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily say much about your professional abilities. You may find that a professional summary makes more sense for the job you’re applying to.
But objective statements still have their place, and can be invaluable for certain careers. You are most likely to use an objective statement if:
- You are applying to a non-profit.
- You are changing careers.
- You are an entry level worker with limited/no job experience.
- You are targeting a position that does not yet exist.
- You would have a specific goal at the new employer.
If any of those qualities match you, then an objective statement is likely to your benefit. But more experienced workers in the business world may benefit more from a professional summary.
How to Write A Resume Objective
Now that we know who the objective statement is for, it’s time to look at how to write one. Resume objectives are:
- Short — Usually one sentence, never more than two.
- Specific — Broad objective statement are easier to write, but have little value to employers.
- Explanatory — Objective statements are supposed to briefly tell the employer why you’re applying.
Think of the objective as a chance to tell employers why you want the job before moving into the details about why you should be hired for the job.
Resume objectives should also be confident (say positive things about yourself) and goal driven (either directly share a goal or imply a goal).
It should also be written specifically for each application. That is because if your objective is not possible within the company you are applying to, you will not get the job.
You should also avoid very common objective writing mistakes, including:
- Saying You’ll Leave — Perhaps one of the most common mistakes with entry level objective writers is to imply you plan to use your experience to leave. For example: “To gain experience in research analytics so that I can build my resume for graduate school.” Employers want to feel like your goals are with them as a company.
- Meaningless — Write an objective statement like you mean it. Throwing the most cliché thing you can think of in an objective is a good way to have your resume ignored.
- Elitist — Even though the objective should be confident, it should not be a chance to brag. The company should feel like you can help them achieve their goals with your objective.
When you write an objective statement, you should also be aware of the format. For example, most objectives start with a “to,” such as:
- “To obtain…”
- “To begin…”
- “To pursue…”
This relates back to the statement part of the objective statement.
However, some people begin with an action verb. For example:
These are all very common words to use to start your objective.
The next step is to simply determine what your goal is, and how that can best be described in a professional way. Although there is no hard rule, the best objective statements start with either the position you’re applying for, and ending with details about what skills you bring to the table.
For example, if you are applying to work at a daycare, and you have spent the last few years working as an accountant aide, then your objective may be:
“Obtaining a position in a pre-school daycare, where my love of children, knowledge of safety and education, and passion for caregiving can be best maximized.”
Here, you’re explaining the personal qualities about yourself that have led you to apply for this job. You also help make sense of why your work history doesn’t match the job you’re applying for.
Let’s try another one. This one is for someone seeking out employment in a brand new startup, that believes they have the skills necessary to help the company grow:
“Seeking a position as sales lead with a company that would benefit directly from my experience with startups, pipeline management, and online sales tactics.”
Presumably, these are needs that you’ve identified at the company, and you know that your work history will show them that you are a match.
Writing an Objective Takes Time
There is no denying that writing an objective statement can be a challenge. But it is a worthwhile one. Those that take the time to create a very well written and impressive objective statement are going to make better first impressions with the hiring manager, and although many applicants benefit from replacing the objective with a professional summary, others will find that their objective statement helps them put their resume together.
Resume Skills — From Swimming to SQL
The other often forgotten section of the resume is the skills section. Traditionally, the resume skills section was placed at the bottom of every resume.
Its primary goal is to add information that doesn’t fit nicely in the work history and education section of the resume. For example, if you are bilingual in Spanish, that can be extremely advantageous to the employer. But often there isn’t a good place to write that you’re bilingual in the work history section, so instead you would place it in the skill section.
In the very distant past, the skills section was often a combination skills/hobbies section, and used to be used to add character to the individual and to potentially show a bond with the employer. Applicants would place a variety of hobbies and skills, such as:
- Microsoft Word
Those first two likely seem out of place on the resume, but in the past they were a good way to show someone that you were like them. If the hiring manager also liked golf, perhaps they could imagine playing golf with you while talking about clients.
But times have changed. Rarely is it acceptable to put unrelated skills on a resume unless you can tie them in to the job, and even then it can be risky.
Consider the following example: One applicant was applying for a job in data analysis, and added “passionate about baseball analytics and advanced statistics” in their skills section, and this intrigued the hiring manager because they were both into advanced baseball statistics themselves, and recognized that someone that is passionate about statistics is likely to be passionate about data.
But that same individual sent the resume to a different employer that was completely unimpressed, and noted that they found the addition unprofessional in their response. This means that even when you can tie it into the job it can be risky depending on who is reading it.
What Skills to Place on the Resume
Instead of viewing your skills section as a way to share unrelated facts about you as a person, it is often in your best interests to use the skills section to highlight very impressive or mandatory skills and experiences that do not fit easily into the other boxes.
Let’s use an example. There is a type of customer relationship management (CRM) software known as SalesForce that is used by marketers, sales staff, project managers, and more. If you frequently used SalesForce at your last job, chances are you are going to list it on your resume.
But what if you have also been trained in other CRM software?
If you didn’t use it at your last job, you may not be able to list it on your resume. But it may have a place in your skills section, where you can place information such as “Experienced with Zoho CRM, Solve360, and Capsule CRM.” This way, if the employer uses a different CRM, you show that you have the experience.
The skills section is also a place where you can put:
- Special Training
- Languages Spoken
- Important Facts About You
If you are applying to a job performing manual labor, the skills section is where you can put how much you can lift. If you are applying to a job as a receptionist, the skill section is where you can put your words-per-minute typing speed. If you are applying to work at a construction company, your skill section is where you can place your familiarity with safety regulations and DOB/OHSA guidelines.
Essentially, the skills section should be your place to put spillover information that doesn’t appear to fit elsewhere on the resume, but will help you get the job.
NOTE: There is another use for the skill section as well. The skills section can be a place to use keywords. Some hiring managers use databases known as “Applicant Tracking Systems” to manage those that apply to jobs. These databases look for specific keywords in each resume, and flag the ones that have the keywords that they are looking for. Skills sections are a great place to add keywords that do not fit into your resume, but they should still be written truthfully and highlight your best skills only.
How to Write a Skill Section
Skills sections have almost always been the last section of the resume. But these days you may find them at the top — right under the objective statement/professional summary. This is especially useful for resumes with extensive skills sections, and used primarily by experienced workers.
If you do not have many skills outside of those already written in the work history section, it is recommended that you simply list the skills briefly, such as:
Bilingual (English and Hmong), Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite.
However, as more and more people write extensive skills sections to highlight all of their best features, it is recommended that you put it in a bullet point list of no more than 3 to 5 bullet points, and write it similar to how you write achievements in the work history section. For example, consider the following section for an advertising job:
- Proficient in numerous ad technologies, including Google Adwords, AppNexus, DFP, RightMedia, and several custom platforms.
- Knowledgeable of IAB Advertising Guidelines and Best Practices.
- Completed professional courses in SQL, SASS, Excel, and Microsoft Access.
With this example, you are able to create a skills section that shows a great deal of required knowledge and shows you are an expert in the field, using information that may not have been available on a resume.
What about a job that is less tech heavy, such as a job in a warehouse? The skill section may not be quite so substantive, but can still be used to highlight important information. For example:
- Maintained active truck and forklift licenses.
- Familiar with OHSA regulations and guidelines.
- Demonstrated expertise with logistics, process management, and vendor negotiation.
In this example, terms like OHSA and listing off your active licenses are all valuable ways to show that you’re committed to the industry, recognize what it needs, and are ready to get to work. The final line simply allows you to show that you have expertise in areas that may not be easy to list on the resume itself.
Your Skills and Abilities
The skills section of the resume used to be almost superfluous. But nowadays, more and more job seekers are finding that if they use the skills section to highlight more of their talents, they are more likely to get callbacks for the job.
Skills and Objectives — Every Space Matters
Your resume is your only opportunity to sell yourself to the employer in a limited amount of space. That is why every component matters, and why it’s beneficial to take the time to create a resume that is tailored specifically to the job.
Those that rush through their resume skills and objective statements are wasting potential space to impress an employer. But those that take the time to create objective statements and skills that are truly impressive will be more likely to make sure that the employer recognizes their potential.
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