The Recruiter Roundtable is a monthly feature that collects career and job-seeking advice from a group of recruiting experts throughout the US. The question we put before our panel this month is: How important is having an “objective” or “summary” section at the opening of a candidate’s resume?
Your 15-Second ‘Elevator Pitch’
If you want to convert your 15 seconds of fame into an in-person interview at the company of your choice, include a summary statement at the opening of your resume.
"A well-written summary statement tells me how your experience and skill set will help my company solve a particular challenge, become more profitable or efficient, or break into or further penetrate target markets. In other words, it will make me want to read the rest of your resume and consider you for the opportunity. The best summary statements I’ve seen are no more than three to five sentences long and show me that you clearly understand the role you’re applying for." — Cheryl Ferguson, recruiter, The Recruiter’s Studio
A Better Use of That Space?
"While a summary could clarify your goal or objective, I don’t think it is a necessary part of one’s resume. Recruiters review candidates’ information every day, and look for certain skills and experiences found in the body of a resume. Save the extra space for accomplishments, goals achieved, awards and unique skills relevant to the job." — Bob Hancock, senior manager of global talent acquisition, Electronic Arts
Review Real Situations.
Including an objective targeted to a specific position can be helpful since it quickly tells an employer why the job candidate is interested in the opportunity and is the right fit for it. The key is to provide information that will pique the hiring manager’s interest without adding superfluous details or items listed later in the resume.
"Only include an objective if the resume is targeted to a particular opportunity. Omit this section when creating a general resume." — DeLynn Senna, executive director of North American permanent placement services, Robert Half International
Most Useful Cases
For me, it’s most important in two cases:
- "Executive or Experienced Candidates: If you have “been in business” for a while and have taken on a variety of challenges, and even if you have depth in one discipline, it’s still helpful to know your elevator pitch. An experienced executive will be able to make a pithy statement about top-level skills."
- "Career Changers: If you are trying to reposition yourself from one discipline to another (and I know people who have done this successfully), you should explicitly state the skill sets that are directly transferable. A candidate I know went from market research/analytics to organizational development and this [objective statement] was crucial for the hiring teams to connect the dots." — Ross Pasquale, Search Consultant, Monday Ventures
If the candidate fully understands the job they are applying for, a succinct objective or summary could be helpful. However, many candidates do a poor job at making their statement match the position of interest. Instead, there is a tendency to lean towards making a broad statement in their objective such as, “To obtain a position in the financial services industry.” A statement such as this loses the momentum the “objective” or “summary” could have had. — Robyn Timmerman, recruiter, Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group