Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry. He is the author of Advance: The Ultimate How-To Guide for Your Career and Lose the Resume, Land the Job. For more information, see KFAdvance.com.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes, and despite the vast amount of information available on how to write one, only a shockingly small amount of people do it well.
The most impressive resumes concisely and compellingly illustrate one major message: “This is how I made things better for the companies I worked for.” But the one section that gets in the way of this objective is ... well, the “objective” — those few words up at the very top, meant to capture the entirety of a candidate’s career ambitions. Instead, they don’t really say anything at all.
It’s highly outdated and unnecessary. And yet, I still get so many resumes that have one. While it might sound harsh, 90% of the time, I refuse to read through resumes that include an objective.
No objectives, please
Virtually every objective I’ve read has either been too broad or too short, never just right. To say that you’re “seeking a challenging team leadership position” might be true, but it still reveals nothing about what you can do for a prospective employer.
Here are some extreme examples from the Hall of Shame that illustrate why you need to eliminate the objective:
- San Jose, Calif.-based cybersecurity professional (working remotely, but willing to travel) seeking a CSO role managing a global team of like-minded, talented professionals.
- Senior-level executive looking to be hired as your next CFO.
- Looking for an opportunity to make a difference and change the world.
The first one is oddly specific and sounds more like a list of demands than genuine interest in the company. The second is just too “in your face,” while the last objective sounds overly presumptuous.
In general, an objective distracts the hiring manager from focusing on what benefits you bring to the table. It can also make you seem pigeonholed and ruin your chances of being considered for other great opportunities and open positions (because the hiring manager will assume they may be too different from your stated objective).
What you need to focus on depends on your experience
If you’re a job seeker with only few years of experience, a “headline” is a quick way to make an impact. The headline appears below your name, address and other contact information. Here are a few great examples:
- Award-winning graphic designer
- Marketing associate with experience running online and social media campaigns
- Communications manager for fast-growing Fortune 500 company
- Biochemical engineer with nanotechnology expertise
For mid-level professionals with several years of experience, valuable technical skills and expertise that directly relates to the contribution they will make to their next employer, a “summary” will suffice.
A solid summary might look something like this: “Financial executive with extensive experience building and leading teams. Areas of expertise include: Strategic planning, business process reengineering, SEC reporting and governance...”
Hiring managers hardly spend any time looking at your resume (their first glance lasts about six seconds) if it doesn’t immediately deliver what they’re looking for. So it’s important to use what little amount of space you have wisely.
A version of this article appears on CNBC.com.