On The Subject of Objectives: Summarizing Who You Are and What You Do at the Top of the Resume

Think of it as an elevator pitch. The “objective” on your resume likely represents the first 50 words you’ll present to a potential employer. You can use it to succinctly identify the position you want, why you want it and why you’re the best person for the job.

That can be a big challenge for such a small segment of a resume, but it’s worth the time and effort to get it right. Employers’ expectations have changed in the last few years, and they want to know more about you than about the job titles you’ve held. Positions are diverse, and today’s labor market gives companies the leeway to hunt for people they feel have the perfect personalities to fill them. Do your best to share your priorities, your approach to management, your work tempo, your goals and anything else that demonstrates what you are like to work with in person.

Here are a few tips to ensure your objective gets results:

Customize it:

Just like a cover letter, every resume objective should be unique to the position on offer. Broad descriptions like “a position in leasing” or a “management role” could tell a hiring manager you’re sending numerous, boilerplate resumes to companies you don’t particularly care about. Or, worse, your resume could confuse a personnel department and divert your application from the specific position you had in mind.

Mind the computer:

At least within a personnel department, a real human will decide which pile best suits your resume. An unfortunate reality in applying at many large companies is the use of computer programs to sort applications and pick out those most suited to the company’s needs. The objective section can address this by offering a place to mention key words that may be used to sort applications but might not feature prominently elsewhere in the document. An example: If you’re applying for a position involving project management, but your project management experience is obscured by a vague job title with a previous employer, the objective section offers a place to work that specific term into your resume. Effective key words can include degrees, product names, company names, professional organizations, service types, industry issues and phrases from the posted job description.

Make it about them:

This is counterintuitive, but try to see your career objective through the hiring manager’s eyes. What sort of career ambitions, personal traits and knowledge would he or she want in the ideal candidate? Let the position shape what you say about your interest in it. For example: “Objective: To take a position as a leasing executive at a Miami REIT” simply repeats what the employer already knows about the position. “Objective: To continue my nine years in leasing and apply my knowledge of the Miami office market to help a REIT exceed its NOI goals,” on the other hand, offers a better look at why the candidate is qualified and what he or she has to offer.

Don’t be too specific:

While you want to be clear about what position you’re applying for, it’s worth remembering that employers frequently consider candidates for positions beyond the immediate opening they may have applied for. For example, instead of citing a specific “senior financial analyst” position advertised, the subtle change to “senior analyst” signals you’re open to other job possibilities. There are usually several types of analysts, accountants, managers and other professional titles within a large organization. Mention a job title that can apply to more than one position and that also sums up your broad area of expertise. If you feel that even a broad job description would shut down opportunities at a given organization, many people have success omitting the objective entirely.

That said, for most jobs the objective offers a worthwhile place to pitch yourself as the best candidate for a position. Hiring managers going through a stack of applications may not get through all the employer listings on a resume, but they read what’s at the top. Use it well.

For more than 25 years, Christopher Frederick has helped recruit the most promising talent for leading companies in the real estate industry. To learn more about how we can enhance your next executive search using our extensive digital network of professionals, contact Chris Hingle at chingle@chrisfred.com. Or visit our website at www.chrisfred.com.