The Career Objective is one of the most powerful parts of your resume

In spite of some recent negative discussion, I am convinced that the Career Objective is one of the most important sections of a rsum.

An effective rsum has to grab the employer's interest in the first few lines by very briefly describing why the candidate is the right person for the job. The first section of the rsum is usually a goal statement, eg Career Objective, or a summary such as Professional Profile or Career Summary.

A summary statement is the usual choice if the candidate is seeking a position similar to the current role, one where recent career history demonstrates the skills required for the new job.

A Career Objective, however, is usually the more effective choice for candidates who are seeking a position somewhat different to current or recent employment and, of course, for young people seeking their first 'proper' job. A Career Objective demonstrates that the applicant has the required skills and motivation in spite of the change in career direction.

The reason why Career Objectives have suffered bad press is because some applicants were using them to state what they wanted to get out of the position. That is not the purpose of a Career Objective. The purpose is to state what the applicant wants to achieve for the employer.

If a Career Objective is used, it is usually the first section of the rsum and, as such, it gives the employer a first impression of the candidate. And employers are interested in what you, the candidate, can do for them, not in what you want them to do for you.

Employers are looking for three things in every candidate for every position. They are:

1st and least important (not unimportant but less important), the Skills to do the job

2nd and far more important, the Motivation to do it well

3rd and equally far more important, the ability to fit well into their Team.

Numerous surveys suggest that employers spend on average somewhere between 8 and 15 seconds to decide whether or not an application is worth further consideration. In eight seconds, they can read about halfway down the first page.

You need to grab the employer's interest with those first few lines and the best way of achieving this is to demonstrate your motivation for that specific position by stating in your Career Objective what you want to achieve for them.

There are four steps to composing the Career Objective

  1. Write the position title: this should be the exact title of the position you are seeking
  2. Identify the key tasks and responsibilities of the position: knowing exactly what is required is the key to ensuring that demonstrating your ability and motivation to meet the employer's needs
  3. List the relevant knowledge, skills, experience and personal qualities you would bring to the position - including your motivation for the position: you need to express these to show that you can do the job and do it well
  4. Record evidence that you can use to support your claims
  5. State what you would do to help the employer, the benefits they would gain from employing you

There is a formula which can help you get started with this process. It starts with the position title followed by the word 'where'. Then you list the key skills, qualities, qualifications and experience that you would bring to the position. Finish by listing the benefits the employer will accrue from hiring you.

Here's an example. The applicant is applying for a position heading a youth support organisation.

Chief Executive Officer where my passion for helping young people coupled with my business background and ability to build and lead happy teams will help Star Futures remain financially secure and continue to provide much needed support for Wangaratta's youth.

Notice how it follows the formula; 'position title'; 'where'; 'motivation, skills and personal qualities'; the words 'will help'; and the 'outcomes that would be achieved'.

In that example, the candidate only hints at how his capabilities might have been developed with the phrases 'helping young people' and 'business background'. When this happens, it is essential to provide strong evidence needed in the next section of the rsum.

Here is another example. Notice how, this time, the candidate provides evidence of her relevant skills through talking about her experience as a teacher and pharmacy rep.

Health Promotion Coordinator where 15 years teaching secondary science and three years as a pharmaceutical sales rep will help me fulfil a strong desire to be active and effective in improving the quality of life of people suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal diseases.

Using this formula can lead to long sentences. Journalists are trained to limit the first sentences of their stories to 25 words because if the sentence is too long, the reader may stop reading halfway through it. The same is true for the opening sentences of your rsum so it is important to keep the sentence as short as is conducive to expressing what you want to say.

The second example, at 45 words, is almost twice as long as is recommended for the opening sentence of a newspaper story. It wouldn't want to be any longer. Yet it works simply because, in a brief way, the candidate is expressing the skills and motivation the employer wants to read. If it were to get any longer, it would need to be divided into two sentences.

Here is an example where the Career Objective has been broken into two one-sentence paragraphs:

Project Manager, Electrical Operations where extensive graduate electrical engineering experience in an industrial environment and including design, power-saving and project management, will help ensure well designed and implemented electrical and communication systems across all campuses of the university.

I bring more than 20 years graduate experience in designing, project managing and installing electrical systems in manufacturing, including electricity generation, and in fault-finding, problem-solving and rectification.

The essential is to grab the employer's interest with the first few lines and then to keep that interest by talking about what the employer is interested in.

Note: the three Career Objective examples are taken from my book How to Get a Good Job After 50.

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