Since most resumes are written to cast a wide net, they basically just recite everything the writer has done, but this approach dilutes the all-important data density that makes your resume discoverable. In order for recruiters to find your resume in the vast databases they search through, you need to focus on a specific target job, then get the role’s relevant keywords front-and-center where ATS, or “applicant tracking systems,” will detect them.
And as it turns out, one of the best ways to do that is by resurrecting–but with a twist–the dusty old “objective” statement you’ve been told dozens of times to cut.
Why Your “Objective” Doesn’t Matter
No one reads resumes for fun–only when there’s a specific job to fill. That means recruiters and hiring managers are fixated on the skill requirements of the job openings they’re looking to fill. Consequently, a resume that starts with “Objective” and focuses on what you want out of your career as the opening paragraph does nothing to help you. After all, nobody really cares what you want at this point (save that for negotiating an offer), so putting that right up top wastes prime ad space.
Headlines of all kinds, including the one at the top of this article, act as signposts, telling the reader what’s ahead–and that holds true on your resume, too. So replace “Objective” with a more relevant and compelling heading: “Performance Summary” or “Career Summary” tends to work well. Right away it flags for the reader that you’re going to tell them what you can do or what you’ve already done, rather than what you want.
Under this heading, highlight your capabilities as they relate to the demands of the target job, using the words, phrases, and acronyms listed in job postings for the type of role you’re angling for. Make sure you include objective criteria for your customers’ needs, too. That helps your resume’s discoverability by ATS, and it grabs the reader’s attention.
What Goes Into Your Summary
To write a good performance summary, you need to get inside the heads of your prospective employers’ customers to discover what they collectively want. Yes–think past the hiring managers and recruiters for a second, and consider the organization’s end goals instead: the people it’s trying to serve.
I’ve laid out some tips for doing this in one of my books, but for present purposes, the gist is just to think about your own capabilities as they relate to customer needs. How can what you do directly help them? The answer to that is the basis of your performance summary.
Here’s an example:
Performance Summary: 9-plus years of marcomm experience in new technologies executing high-impact, cost-efficient, media outreach for brand awareness, b2b marketing, and business and public-policy audiences. Expert in crisis communication and corporate reputation maintenance. Bilingual.
- Five years managing disbursed internal and external communications teams.
- Adept at developing marcomm strategy with teams spread across all EMEA cultures.
Note those keywords that are likely to get swept up by an ATS: “marcomm” for “marketing communications,” “b2b” for “business-to-business,” “EMEA” for “Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.” And the bullets help you quickly break out a couple of key highlights.
Using employers’ language to describe your capabilities, wherever you can, creates a tightly focused document that establishes a clear match between your skills and employer needs. That, after all, is your resume’s real objective.