Forget “Objective” Statements on Resumes – Summarize Your Strengths Instead

Most resumes used to lead off with an "Objective" statement that read something along the lines of "Seeking an opportunity to grow and contribute my professional skills in a dynamic corporate environment."

Often what most of us really meant with those objective statements was "After the group of psychotic bosses and co-workers I’ve had so far, I’m desperately trying to find an employer where intelligence and professionalism are actually valued rather than used for target practice!" Been there, done that….

Resume Summary Statements

Even in the best of circumstances, though, objective statements rarely helped make the case for what a terrific employee you’d be. Which is why the shift to leading off your resume with a summary statement is so much more effective.

Basically, a summary statement is a very brief paragraph – think perhaps two or three sentences – that showcases all of your most important strengths. The language is concise and businesslike, and generally (because you’re trying to keep the wording as tight as possible), you drop pronouns ("I") and focus only on those terms that deliver the greatest impact.

What Wording Might You Use?

So, for example, if you had a background in engineering project management, your summary statement might be something like:

Engineering project manager with 15 years managing increasingly complex telecommunications engineering projects in the U.S. and abroad. Track record of delivering projects on time and on budget; especially skilled at managing projects that combine multi-country workforces.

Or, if you had a background in managing retail establishments, for example, an art gallery where you’d been responsible for setting up art events, your summary statement might be along the lines of:

Experienced retail manager with demonstrated strengths in events planning, customer/client relations, website management, and administrative coordination. Marketing and operations management skills have been primarily deployed in the art and higher education environments, but are easily transferrable to additional business settings.

My background includes working as an information strategist for organizations, so my summary statement if applying for a job as an information strategist might look like this:

Experienced content strategist and content developer, working with corporations and nonprofits to develop information resources and processes that meet strategic goals. Expertise includes print and online content development, project-based research, information project management, and creation of information strategies that drive key organizational strategic goals.

Tailor Your Statement to Your Potential Job

When you craft your summary statement, you want to keep several things in mind. First, you want to keep it brief and focused on your most compelling strengths. Second, you want to highlight any differentiators that really set you apart as a job candidate ("especially skilled at managing projects that combine multi-country workforces"). Third, you want to proactively address any concerns the resume reader might have about your appropriateness for the job ("…skills have been primarily deployed in the art and higher education environments, but are easily transferrable to additional business settings").

Lastly, you want to make sure your summary statement is specifically tailored to the job you’re applying for. This may mean that you revise your summary statement for each different type of job you’re targeting, but it’s worth the effort – this is your best (and often your only) chance to catch the attention of that potential employer.