Discussion: November 17, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks:

I work in logistics (freight and shipping) and I’m trying to come up with a better Objective statement for my resume. Right now it says, “Hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement.” It’s pretty basic. How do I write an Objective that makes an employer want to read the rest of my resume?

How to Say It: Dump the Objective statement altogether. Who cares what your objective is until you show you understand the employer’s objective? Replace it with a Value Offered statement like the one I suggested in the newsletter. (Ooops! You didn’t see it because you don’t subscribe? Hey, it’s free — no excuses.)

What kind of Value Offered statement would you use? What do you use on your resume to get an empoyer’s attention instead of an Objective? Anyone still stuck on using an Objective? Let’s have at it… and we’ll all learn something! ;-)

(Not to crow about it or anything… well, I’m crowing… but I offer three, count ’em, examples of powerful Value Offered statements in my brand new How Can I Change Careers? Answer Kit — just published today. Check it out!)


  1. Resumes with objective statements are for ads on job boards where the companies pimp their missions and values more than they describe the work they need done.

    “We provide strategies and solutions designed to help our clients optimize performance.”

    “Seeking a position as part of a dynamic team in a growing company where I can leverage synergies to raise the bar.”

    Peas in a pod.

  2. Resume objectives can be resume killers … in part because they are typically vague and general AND in large part because they speak to what a candidate wants rather than how that candidate can solve a company’s problems.

    Value statements, as you suggest Nick, answer the question “what’s in it for me” that companies are asking and want answered by prospects. The “value” statements contained above the fold on the first page of the resume are “the” most important. If you haven’t sold your value within that section, anything else that follows may be completely irrelevant because the reader will have moved on to the next resume in the very large pile.

  3. I agree with Nick.

    If you include an objective, it has to show the difference you are going to make for the particular company.

  4. “Hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement.”

    could morph into

    “Operations manager wanting to make a difference leveraging experience and attitude.”
    “Experienced operations manager seeking senior management opportunity.”

    Either can make some sense but I’d think the bigger key would be the cover letter that goes with the resume in most applications that I know. There are exceptions like where recruiters will go through the resumes posted on-line on various job boards but even there I’d caution about trying to do too much at once to get somewhere.

    I might still have an objective statement on my resume but that is because it seemed like a cool thing to have back when I needed it last.

  5. I tell candidates if you have only 20 seconds to grab someone’s attention why would you use them up telling them what you want?

    Tell them what you can offer and make sure you know what they need before you write it.

    Instead of writing an Objective compose a “Profile” “Professional Summary” or the like. It should be targeted to the requirements of the job you are after. Most people have many areas of experience and experise. Change your “Profile” to highlight the ones that are relevant to the job in question to capture the manager’s attention.

    An Objective that just states a job title and what you are seeking is a waste of space on a resume IMHO.

  6. I write resumes professionally and I always use an equivalent to Nick’s value offered statement to introduce my clients.

    One thing I try to do with the value offered statement, if possible is to construct it from apt quotations from refernce letters as in the following:

    “Extremely creative and reliable” Sales and Marketing leader ”delivering “top notch results” in revenue growth and client satisfaction with “the highest degree of integrity.”

  7. There is a big different between “objectives” and “profiles.” An objective says, “this is what I want,” whereas a profile states, “this is what I have to offer.”

    The first comes from a position of weakness and the second conveys your unique value position to the next employer.

    A great profile allows the potential employer to determine your skill set and ability to produce results. It should grab the reader’s attention and persuade him / her to read further into the resume.

    I always tell my clients that a profile should be able to stand by itself.

    If I were to tear their resume in half horizontally and leave the top half on someone’s desk, that profile should articulate not only what the person has experience in (for instance, marketing, branding, campaign development, etc.), but also the results of those skills.

    Let me show you the difference.

    Here is your objective:

    “Hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement.”

    Here is a profile I wrote for an operations manager client:

    “Results-focused, cost-conscious Operations Management Professional with specialized experience in production facility management. Demonstrated success in driving cost containment, improving processes, implementing safety programs, complying with governmental regulations, and formulating quality initiatives. Innate ability to formulate policies for process standardization to achieve congruency between production plants. Expert in minimizing equipment downtime and improving efficiency by devising and implementing strict equipment installation and maintenance procedures. Reputation for accurately forecasting material requirements and negotiating volume pricing, which translates into multi-million-dollar cost savings.”

    See the difference?

    My client had no summary statement when he came to me. Through our consultation I determined what his strengths were and how those created value for the next employer.

    You need to determine your expertise and then “sell” it to your “audience.”

    Hope that helps!

    Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM
    The Write Resume

  8. Objectives are stupid because they tell the reader what YOU want from the reader, rather than how you can help with what THE READER wants.

    It’s like going to meet someone at an interview and saying “Hi, my name is Andy Lester, and here’s what I want you to give me.”

    The other problem is that adjectives like “hardworking” and “capable” mean nothing, because anyone can claim to be “hardworking” and “capable”. Also on the list of meaningless words and phrases: “customer-oriented”, “results-driven”, “professional”, “gets along with others,” etc etc etc.

  9. Andy –

    The only way that “results-driven” or “customer-focused” would be meaningless is if the job seeker can’t back those statements up on their resume.

    I do agree with “hardworking” and “capable” being “trite” statements. When I hired people I sure hoped they would work hard and were capable of handling tasks presented to them! :-)

  10. However with soft skill words like “results-driven” mean nothing more than just words without substance. Without firm accomplishments that directly link these words with measureable results dont bother.

  11. I enjoy my job, but for family reasons, I will have to relocate to a town where my current employer doesn’t have have an office, so I have just started looking for a new job. Therefore, this topic is very relevant to me.

    Fran wrote: “I tell candidates if you have only 20 seconds to grab someone’s attention”

    Only if you send the typical application for an advertised position. I have instead decided to call managers at a few of my target companies and discuss their needs and see how i can fill them. Then they will have to talk to me for more than 20 secs – and we will discuss business.

    Kathy wrote:
    “Here is your objective:

    “Hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement.”

    Here is a profile I wrote for an operations manager client:

    “Results-focused, cost-conscious Operations Management…..etc etc ad infinitum”

    Kathy, I am not a manager but my first impression is: This candidate tries to impress by drowning the reader in buzzwords. Zzzzz… Instead, I would like to se a few good examples of what he/she as accomplished.

    As a geologist with only a few years experience, I don’t try to impress potential employers by putting up as many geological words I can – I concentrate on the topics where I can contribute, and I am ready to show examples.

  12. Karsten,

    I appreciate your comments. However, the purpose is not to “drown the reader in buzzwords.” These are actually “keywords,” and will likely be used by an HR Manager when searching the company’s “back-end” HRIS system for candidate resumes.

    These systems rank the candidates based upon relevancy to the keywords the HR Manager uses to find the Top 10-20 candidates to interview. If you don’t have the keywords they are looking for, you won’t even come up as a relevant candidate.

    I’m not sure what you mean by concentrating on topics where you can contribute and showing examples. I assume you are talking about achievements.

    BTW, I was an HR Manager for six years with two Fortune 500 companies before I started my business. So, I have been on the other side of the table reviewing resumes and deciding which candidates to call for an interview.

    I had to fill certain “skill set” requirements. If the person didn’t have them, I moved on to the next candidate. Then, I looked for “proof” of the candidate’s ability to be successful on the job (achievements).

    So, you might want to consider the use of keywords in context (not just a laundry list of terms) in your resume. I promise you that it does make a difference. :-)

    Good luck in your job search!

    Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM
    The Write Resume

  13. @Kathy Sweeney: Good points about using keywords to get to the HR manager. But if a job hunter is bypassing HR and going directly to a specific manager about a specific job, then the generic approach fails. I don’t think an Objective OR a Profile works well in that case. The manager wants to know what you’re going to do for him/her.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between a resume that is a “marketing tool” and a resume that is a business plan directed at one specific manager. Keywords can become buzzwords unintentionally.

  14. Nick, you know I love you, but I am going to disagree with you! :-)

    A specific manager needs to determine whether the person has the skill set to perform the job, and the accomplishments to back it up, as well.

    The “what you are going to do for him / her” can be written in different areas of the resume.

    A candidate could have a separate “selected achievements” or “core expertise” section which include quantifiable results near the top, achievements under each position, or expertise combined with quantifiable achievements in the profile.

    Each candidate is different and there should never be a broad-brush approach to writing resumes.

    A great resume will be a fantastic representative of both skills that a client possesses and the results of those daily duties.

    Employers want to know either one or both of these things – can you make them or save them money. Everything drills down to the bottom line.

    If a candidate were approaching a specific manager and wanted to highlight certain areas of expertise, then I would recommend a leadership addenda, in addition to the resume. This document would focus, in greater detail, on key projects or programs that directly relate to the specific company needs.

    I would also recommend a highly targeted cover letter to sell the employer on the contributions a job seeker can make to that specific company.

    Or, in Karsten’s case, he could identify the company’s issue through research, and formulate a list of areas where he can contribute and results of previous projects related to the information he uncovers through his due diligence. This way, he is fully prepared to make phone calls and not forget or stumble over his talking points.

  15. I’m starting to think this could well become the game of, “Do I do this or that?” where some companies may work one way and others work another way. A “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” result at the end of the day.

    It may massively suck but this is our world where not everyone follows the same ideas when it comes to things like hiring.

  16. Kathy, thanks for a clarifying reply!

    I reckognise the purpose of having the keywords in a resume because HR needs it. However, as Nick pointed out, if I approach axploration managers directly, it should not be necessary. (Why should I call HR, they know nothing about geology anyway?) And, if a HR department relies on keywords, it is may be an indication that they have too many resumes in their archives – but too few good ones?

    Furthermore, relying on keywords may be troublesome, as you indicates by your statement that you look for keywords first and then look for the proof of ability.

    An example: I could easily create an application with all the correct keywords: Sequence stratigraphy, geophysics, amplitude mapping, play fairway analysis, sedimentological and structural modelling, diagenesis, Petrel, SeisWorks, maturity analysis etc etc – and thus waste the HR reps time, because I can contribute in only half of these fields at most. Instead, I have concentrated on stating what I actually know and can do (structural geology, tectonic modelling, clastic sedimentology, seismic interpretation), with examples from my current projects, and how it may benefit the hiring company. Any good exploration manager will understand the point.

    So, my examples are partially achievements, partially explanations of which type of work I do.

    I am, however, very happy to read that you suggest that there are many ways to write a resume – too often the focus is on form rather than content.

    JB King also makes a good point: That far too often, the hiring process is kafkaistic – candidates are first required to submit within strict formats, often without functions, thereafter they must answer a lot of stupid or irrelevant questions, may be played tricks to – before they are judged by criteria they do not know. I rekognise that companies may need some standardization in hiring procedures, but if we could get more transparency and get rid of the stupid tricks, much would be gained.

  17. Re JB King’s comment, I’ve come across the same sort of thing regarding marketing. Different people will tell you that it’s their way or failure, and one can easily end up confused about what to do.

    I figure that, at the end of the day, I do better using the approach that suits my personality and that I can do well. Trying to act like someone else doesn’t work.

    A company or client is hiring not just my skills, but my personality and style as well. If they don’t feel comfortable with all of these, it’s best that we don’t try to work together.

  18. Nick, great topic and Kathy, great points! Personally, I think you are both correct.

    For resumes that will be submitted into an ATS system or posted online you must have the correct key words or you are wasting your time. Key word searching is NOT the best way to find great talent (even though some think it is), but it is the process that 99% of companies use within their recruiting organizations to source resumes.

    For resumes going directly to a hiring manager, or to a network contact that is forwarding to the hiring manager, key words are much less useful than RESULTS STATEMENTS or as Nick called them “value offered statements”. One could argue that key words are a waste of space in this context.

    When a hiring manager decides s/he needs new/different talent they typically have one or more business problems in mind. They seek talent to overcome those problems. If you can show in your resume that you have overcome the same or similar problems, particularly if you can quantify how successful you were in overcoming those problems, you will stand out from the crowd. This is why you should take the results/value offered statement approach for the hiring manager. Hiring managers look for problem solvers that get results! Keep this in mind when interviewing!!!

    With HR I think the problem they face is a little different. Their problem is finding someone that meets the hiring managers “skill set requirements” as Kathy put it. You may be asking yourself, how is this any different than what I just said? The key difference here is that the hiring manager rarely, if ever, presents HR with a list of business problems to be solved because that just isn’t the way they work (but maybe it should be). Instead, HR is presented with a job description or list of qualifications. Their task is to find someone who meets that specification or they run the risk of a dissatisfied customer! Don’t fault them for this, they are just doing their job. That said, HR looks for skills, qualifications, pedigree, key words, etc.

    This is where one of the biggest problems with resumes comes from. Both people are involved in the recruiting process and both require a resume. Even though they want the same thing in the long run, they look for different things. The trick is to get a document that satisfies both when you have to interact with HR before the hiring manager and to use the format Nick is suggesting if you have the ability to connect with the hiring manager first. YES, this means having two somewhat different versions of your resume on hand.

    For more about how to write a resume summary read my Blog post at http://wp.me/pCoHk-1s. For my complete resume writing advice read my Blog post at http://wp.me/pCoHk-3.

  19. I have never used an objective.

    I usually do use a short “Strengths” section at the top of my resume. This is less than 20 words, in bullet points.

    I try to use this section to quickly distinguish myself from the competition for the specific opportunity.

    I pay no attention to “keywords.”

    For all five of my professional-level jobs, I gained them after applying directly to the hiring manager.

    In only one of those five cases was my resume submitted in response to an ad.

    In three of them, I had some connection to the hiring manager before I applied. In two cases, I had an unsolicited referral. In the other case, the manager approached me at a conference and invited me to apply.

  20. JB JaneA are on to something. The answer to all questions in job search that begin with “Can I…’, ‘Should I…’, ‘Do they…’ ‘Will they…’ is ‘Yes/No/Maybe’. There is no ‘they’; there are thousands and millions of individuals who fit all the slots on any scale from 1 to 10. One rule of thumb in resume writing is to avoid all mention of things religious. However, I know of at least 2 companies here where church activities would be a plus. My rule is, if you know something wiil help, include it; if you don’t know or aren’t sure, leave it out.

    What seems to be missing in the Objective Statement debate is that every resume you send must be customized to the position you are applying for. This is the reason a generic Objective doesn’t work: it doesn’t speak to a specific employer/position. Personally, I use three different resume formats, and I have 41 resumes on my home computer each saved as the name of the company I applied to (diebold.doc, beaconjornal.doc etc.). Gone is the right of passage I went through when I graduated from college and my Dad took me to the printer to get 200 resumes.

    Remember nick’s advice to ‘Fold Your Resume In Half’.

    Chris Walker

  21. The folks at Guerrilla Marketing have similar advice, which is that the first statement on a resume should be the objective to either increase sales or reduce costs for the targeted company. I took it one step further by putting the company’s name in a stand-out font or color.

    So an objective would be: “To reduce costs for XYZ Company by doing this or doing that.” One sentence, and you’re done. Nothing about you, it’s all about the targeted company.

  22. Maurreen – you have brought out something very important. In all cases, except for one, you have either networked your way into the job by knowing someone or been sought out by the individual who is hiring for the position.

    So, what does this tell me about you? That you have continually “worked your network” and positioned yourself as an “expert” in your field. This is what all job seekers should aspire to achieve. Bravo!

    Her reputation is her “keywords.” She has established a solid personal brand and is known in her industry.

    There is no reason other job seekers cannot attain this kind of status.

    Build up your network and answer questions on LinkedIn; start a blog regarding your industry, posting thoughtful (yet, non-bashing or non-controversial) information. Get an account on Twitter and follow experts in your industry, “re-tweet” their informative posts, and post your own “positive or thought-provoking views.”

    This will not only help “brand” you, but if you have any “digital dirt” you can get it buried about 3-4 pages back in the search engines.

    Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM
    The Write Resume

  23. I know it can seem confusing to job seekers about what information to believe, as there are many differing opinions out there.

    I do not just “espouse” information to show how “smart” I am. I share information that I know works based upon 22 years of experience as a resume writer and 6 years as a former Hiring Manager. Frankly, I just want to help make life easier for job seekers.

    However, try out what I am suggesting regarding keywords in your resume.

    But, as Karsten pointed out, don’t fill your resume with keywords that don’t apply to you. That will only annoy anyone reviewing resumes.

    That is why I use the word “relevancy.” The relevancy factor is related to what YOU possess in your background and how it relates to what is in the actual job posting.

    BTW, if you want to be found on LinkedIn by recruiters, you need to use the right keywords in your profile. You can check out my profile on LinkedIn if you want some ideas of what makes a strong profile.

    Good luck in the job search, everyone!

    Kathy Sweeney, NCRW, CPRW, CEIC, CCM
    The Write Resume

  24. @Kathy Sweeney **BTW, if you want to be found on LinkedIn by recruiters, you need to use the right keywords in your profile.**

    Someone who searches for keywords on LinkedIn is not a recruiter. It’s an armchair database junkie.

  25. Well Nick, many of my clients have been contacted and ultimately hired for senior-level positions through LinkedIn, so there must be something to it! :-)

  26. @Kathy S: No doubt! I think lots of people get hired through LinkedIn. But my point is that “recruiters” who spend the bulk of their time doing keyword searches on online databases are not really recruiting. Databases hold data, whatever data people put in. The meaning of that data is shallow.

    Many recruiters will disagree with me, but such data has little depth. It astonishes me that employers will pay “headhunters” 30 grand to go sift through data bases.

    But your point is well taken – people can land jobs by putting their info on LinkedIn. To me, the bigger question is, what kind of job does that lead them to? Rather than choosing what they want, they wind up with what comes along. “Forced choice” is whole ‘nother discussion.

    I’ve got no beef with LinkedIn. It can be a useful tool. My issue is, What is a headhunter or a recruiter?