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How to Write a Resume Objective

Throughout my career, including my most recent role as VP Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon, I've reviewed literally tens of thousands of resumes. Some were good, but most were not. And the one thing that most often sets most good resumes apart from the bad is the use of a clear and concise resume objective.

Many graduates looking for their first job, fresh out of college with little or no work experience, wonder "How do I write a good objective?" There is no such thing as a universal or general resume objective statement that is suitable for any job or candidate. It must be specific and personal to you and your goals and career focus. Resume objectives are more than just the introduction or opening statement of your resume, they communicate to employers exactly what kind of position you are seeking.

So what is a good resume objective, and how do you create one? This step-by-step guide will lead you through the process of defining and writing an objective for your resume.

Step 1: Narrow and Refine Your Focus

There are three ways to narrow your resume objective: 1) job type; 2) industry; and/or 3) geography. You can use a combination of one, two or even all three. And yes, you really do need a resume objective. It is not the job of the resume reviewer to figure out what you are looking for and what role(s) might be a fit for you. That is your job and it is a necessary step for you to focus and narrow your job search.

You can change your career objective over time to either broaden it out to include more potential job opportunities or narrow in down to exclude job opportunities which are not of interest. Always consider your resume objective as a work-in-progress that needs to be updated and refined as you move forward with each new job search.

Step 2: Narrow by Job Type

The job type is the most important component of your resume objective. Think of the potential roles and jobs which exist based on both your education and experience. If you're not sure, start by doing some career exploration to understand which careers align with your education and/or your experience. And this is also a good time to note whether you might have any shortcomings for this type of job if you are entering at the entry level.

The job type does not have to be a specific job title, although a generic job title (such as "Accountant" or "Software Developer") is acceptable to cover a broad range of jobs within a specific band. But it can also be a very specific role within the generic job title, such as Cost Accountant or Java Developer. The employment objective can also use a broadened term such as Public Accounting to denote both the industry and the job type. Note that in almost all cases, the job type is a requirement for the resume objective. The only exception to this rule would be for a person who has developed a specific industry expertise across multiple job types and roles. Use the word "role" instead of "position" or "job" in the objective after the job type.

Step 3: Narrow by Industry

Some careers lend themselves to a specific industry or industries. An example would be actuarial science, which is usually tied to the insurance industry. Or finance, which is sometimes (but not always) tied to the financial services industry. But even within a broader industry (such as insurance) there can be sub-industries (such as life insurance, health insurance, property and casualty insurance, etc.). In most cases, entry level candidates will not narrow by an industry unless there is a specific focus which arises out of either their education or experience.

An example would be for a Chemical Engineering major who specifically wants to work in the oil and gas industry. Or a Computer Science major who specifically wants to work in the cloud computing industry. Yet you should ask yourself if this is an actual requirement or simply a want. Working in a specific industry may be more of a want. So ask yourself if you truly are closed to all other industries before putting that type of restriction on your resume objective. Remember that the audience for your resume is not just those you send it to directly, but those who receive it secondarily or indirectly. Make sure your resume objective speaks to that broader audience.

Step 4: Narrow by Geography

Geography can be very broad ("Open to relocation.") or very narrow ("…in the Chicago area.") or extremely narrow ("…in the Arlington Heights area."). The question you need to ask yourself is not what you prefer for your job location, but rather, what would you want to consider as an option and what would you not consider due to location. If you are truly open to locations everywhere, say so. That will help you in your job search as it is no longer a restricting qualifier. But if you are geo restricted and are only willing to consider one targeted metro area or region, you should state that up front as well. That will help the resume reviewer to know if you are a potential candidate or not. But realize that this restriction will keep you from being considered for those locations which are not "in" for you.

Also note that this is an inclusive, not exclusive marker. So you can list what is in, but not what is out. Look at the map, be specific and be ready to change in the future if/when you need to broaden out your overall objective. For example, a job seeker might initially seek out jobs in their local area for a period of 30 or 60 days, but then broaden out further if they are not able to find the job they are seeking. A great question to ask yourself is this: "If the ideal job was available in _____, would I be interested in exploring that option?"

Step 5: Tie It All Together

Now that you have your initial narrowing parameters listed, it is time to combine them into one or two clear and concise objective statements for your resume.

Here are some resume objective examples and samples:

Software Developer role in the Austin or Dallas metro areas.
Accountant role in the financial services industry. Open to relocation.
Actuarial role in the life insurance industry in the New York metro area.
Electrical engineering role in the aeronautical sciences industry in the Houston area.
Elementary education teaching role. Open to relocation within the State of California.
Journalist role in the online media industry. Open to both virtual and in-person roles.

Step 6: Use Your Objective to Drive Your Resume

Once you have completed your resume objective, use it to drive the content of your resume. Always be asking yourself the question: "Will this content further qualify me as a candidate for my objective?" That is the question the resume reviewer and interviewer will be asking, so be the first to ask it. And answer the question with content that reinforces your resume objective. If it helps, include it. If it doesn't, leave it off. If it's a neutral, you can use that content only if you have the space available to fill out the page.


More "How to" Guides:

How to Get an Entry Level Job

How to Write an Entry Level Resume

How to Write an Internship Resume

How to Interview