Summary or Objective Statement on Your Resume: Which Is Best?


If you’re currently on the job market or getting ready to find a new job, you’re probably spending a fair amount of time adding to, revising, tweaking, and in general optimizing your resume so it will get noticed by a potential employer and, eventually, be so powerful and effective that it leads to a call-back for a job interview.

When you’re putting your job application materials together, you want to make sure that you’re abiding by the most current “best practices” so your resume stands out for all of the right reasons. That brings us to the “objective statement vs. summary statement” dilemma… Most resumes will have some version of these two elements at the top of your document, but which one is preferred by employers today?

Here’s a breakdown of which type of statement you should include and when:

What is an objective statement?

A traditional resume objective statement may briefly define your job title or area of expertise but functions more as an expression of the position that you’re seeking. The focus here in the one or two sentence description is to articulate the job title you’re looking to find.

In recent years, the objective statement has fallen out of favor with many employers. For the most part, employers don’t need you to regurgitate their job description or open job titles and are less interested in learning what kind of position you’re looking for and more interested in finding out what you can bring to them. After all, if you’re applying to their position, it stands to reason that they can figure out what field or job title you’re generally interested in.

Who should have an objective statement?

Objective statements are most helpful to job applicants who are either very entry level, like students or those new to the job market with little past experience. The objective statement affords you the opportunity to focus on what you’re looking for in the future, rather than describing your past experiences (which you may not have much of).

It can also be a helpful section to include if you’re undergoing a major career shift or changing industries or fields. If the experience and previous jobs held on your resume don’t immediately align with the type of employment you’re seeking, a resume objective can help to communicate your new career goals.

What is a summary statement?

The resume summary is fairly straightforward in function, but highly important to get right. A summary statement is just that… a summary in a few sentences or less of your experience and professional capabilities that ideally will align with the positions to which you’re applying.

Summary statements are by far the more preferred way to introduce a resume and typically taken more seriously than the more traditional objective statement. Again, employers are usually much more immediately interested (at the resume review stage, anyhow) in learning about the skills and experiences you bring to the table and offer them, rather than learning about what type of employment you’re looking for.

What should your summary include?

A summary statement (often referred to as a career statement, professional summary, or an executive summary) should not exceed a few sentences, and within that should summarize your most important qualifications or experiences. It should highlight the skills you have that are most in line with the job requirements of the positions you’re applying for, and it should give any potential employer or hiring manager a very brief, high-level snapshot of “who you are” professionally speaking. In effect, it’s your professional bio boiled down into one or two sentences.

As such, it can be daunting to try to summarize your entire career in a few lines, but remember to stay focused on communicating only those skills or results that are of greatest relevance to the jobs you’re currently seeking out. Think of the summary statement as your own professional “brand.” It’s a space where you can communicate the value that you’ll bring to the company and use keywords that directly align with what your potential employer is looking for.

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