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Informal Survey: Should Resumes Have A Summary Or Objective?

I have joked for a few years that I want to put seven of my HR and Recruiter friends around a table with 10 bottles of wine and record the audio (video may be incriminating) as I ask some of the most common resume and job search questions.

Resume questions like:

1 page resume or two (or three)

Summary vs objective vs nothing

Cover letter or no cover letter

Reverse chronological or functional

The reason is I think the answer to the above is

It depends on the situation

And

If you are getting your resume to a decision maker through a friend it matters much less

So a PR friend who is updating their resume (creating a template that can be customized) asked if they should have a summary or objective on their resume. And that they had consulted with three “resume experts” and all had differing opinions.

That does not shock me… it’s what I expect.

It’s why I want to get some of my colleagues a little tipsy and see what they really think. My guess is I would get seven slightly different answers.

My answer is simple…

Summary: if you have one, great. Make it mean something. No fluff.

Objective: not a big fan. You want a job and further your career. I get it.

Don’t have one: I’m cool with that too.

Side note…  I think most Recruiter and HR pros are too judgmental on what they see or don’t see. I think they tend to exclude rather than include people in the process.

And if/when they are the job seeker I don’t think they could pass their own test.

Back to it…

So I posted this question on , and :

Recruiter & HR Friends: resume question... do you want to see, do you care if there is a summary or objective? Preference? Does it matter?

As I expected:

50/50 on having a summary… make sure it is short and has purpose

Most did not want to see an objective…no need for it

Here are some quotes from Recruiter and HR pros (corporate and search firm):

For:

I've never understood why many candidates don't use that space for an abbreviated "elevator speech", especially if they align it with the position/company they are targeting. As long as it's professional and well-written, it can be very useful and influential.

Profile: tell me who you are, what you bring to the table and what you're looking for. It at least tells me if you're close to a fit and I know if I need to keep reading. Plus tells me whether you bothered to customize your resume for THIS job.

I like a summary when it targets the specific role they are applying for. I prefer summary over objective as summary tells what you will bring to the company and objective to me tells more of what you want. (while both are important to know, on the resume I feel the summary is more important)

Don't care about Objective. I'd rather see "career highlights/accomplishments". That allows job seekers to tailor what's relevant at the high value section of the resume, including accomplishments that might be a few companies old

 

Against:

I dislike summaries/objectives - I think they hurt more than they help.

Little value in my eyes. Those are discussion points to be had vs. something that can be easily quantified in text.

Waste of space, but I don't mind a quick skill set at the top (tech resumes)

Waste of space. I skip over them for the most part

I agree with “NAME”, it's a waste of space. I would rather have more space allocated to relevant experience and skill. Perhaps this is because I have never seen a well-written one but either way, I think it's completely unnecessary.

Not a big fan, unless it has significance and is relevant! 99% of the ones that I see seem to have no value!

 

50/50:

if it is well written it helps, but most of the time it is done poorly. "i want a great career, at a good company, where i can utilize my skills".. i just think well yeah who doesnt want that?

Only if they're headed in a different direction than they've been, or are coming out of school and are targeting a specific type of position.

I don't care either way. Would never make a decision on that alone and coach hiring leaders to think that way too.

Prefer summary over objective if it tells me something I can't glean from their resume but most often this is not the case so would rather an applicant just skip it

Either is fine. No big deal either way as long as they can be concise and show important skills or background.

If it speaks to the role to which they're applying, I like to see it. It if resembles something like "To get a job that pays me money," not so much.

 

Halfway through a comment stream is this note from a non Recruiter/HR friend:

Unreal how many differences of opinion there are just in this post alone. Good luck with that Paul.

And there it is… there is no answer.

So why post this?

There are a lot of “resume experts”, writers, bloggers, authors, etc. who all seem to have “the answer”.

I’m here to say there no answer other than if you use a summary, make it count.

But you already knew that.

Hopefully I just saved you the $19.99 for the book you were about to buy.

 

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Comments

TRC Group

If you chose to have a summary for your resume, it is important to keep i short and crisp highlighting your strengths.

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