January 29, 2016

Resume Objectives and Headlines: Outdated or Awesome?


The other day, someone asked me about objectives and headlines on resumes, and it got me thinking a lot about how I utilize these things when writing resumes. Today, I’d like to explore whether or not headlines and objectives are right for your resume.

We’ll start with a couple of definitions:

– A resume objective is a statement on your resume that explains to the reader what your professional goal is at this time. It is important to mention, before we go any further, that objectives have fallen out of favor in recent times – and for good reason. Traditional objective statements are usually wastes of space. Writing out an official “objective” often seems unnecessarily repetitious to employers. They can usually figure out what your objective is based on the resume itself and your application.

– A resume headline or headlining statement is a very brief summary of you as a professional. Its goal is to grab the attention of the reader.

With objectives and headlining statements on resumes, you need to ask yourself two questions. The first – and most obvious – question is, “Am I going to use a headline and/or objective on my resume?” If the answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself, “How am I going to use this headline and/or objective?”

Let’s explore the answers to these questions:

1. Am I Going to Use a Headline and/or Objective on My Resume?

Objectives, as we covered above, are rarely necessary. For the most part, you can – and should – safely leave objective statements off your reusme.

As for headlines, I feel that spacing is the deciding factor when it comes to whether or not you should add a headline to your resume. The skills matrix/summary of qualifications that your resume presents is much more important than a headline is. Therefore, if adding a headline will overcrowd your document or make it spill over onto the next page, then it isn’t worth it.

Sure, you might be able to handle some minor spillover with creative formatting, but remember: You don’t want your resume to look squished or cluttered. Better to be safe than sorry and cut the headline or objective.

ThreadI talk a lot about making your document reader-friendly, and this is a prime example of reader-friendliness in action. The difference can be minimal, but once you see how crowded the bottom half of the resume looks after adding a headliner, it will become apparent as to why you have to think about neatness and presentation in your resume.

It is always difficult to justify adding a headline or objective to your resume. For that reason, you may be better off incorporating headline/objective info int your cover letter instead. In general, a cover letter is a great place for statements or information that is relevant or important, but doesn’t fit into your resume.

If You Are Using a Headlining Statement on Your Resume

If you are using a headlining statement, you want it to be a statement that gives a quick snapshot of what you are offering and detailing in your resume. Some good examples of information to include in your headline are:

– How many years of experience you have in your field. (Note: You should only include this information if it is an impressive number of years (i.e., 5+) or the job description requires a specific number of years of experience and you qualify based on that metric.)

– Your special skills.

–  Qualifications that are listed as required and prominent within the job description you’re responding to.

– Any certifications or specialized training that will benefit you on the job and makes you stand out from other candidates.

Two Good Formulas to Follow for Your Headline:

1. “Accomplished [industry] professional holding more than [x] years of experience, specializing in [x,y,z].”

2. “Certified [industry] professional seeking opportunity to focus on [x,y,z,] and promote [desired company’s mission or goal].”

The Bottom Line

NotebookSo, is it really important to include objectives and headlining statements on resumes? I believe that depends on the spacing of your resume. Generally speaking, neither objectives nor headlines are necessary as long as your resume is eye-catching, keyword-optimized, and reader-friendly. However, if you have some extra space, it might not hurt to give the reader a quick snapshot of who you are.

Make sure that, if you are using a headline, you utilize the keywords or buzzwords found in the description of the job you’re applying for. This way, the first thing a hiring manager sees is that you are the kind of candidate they are looking for.

Remember: A headlining statement is there to benefit you and intrigue the reader. Utilize any information you may have about your desired position or company to your advantage!

Read more in Resume Writing

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application packages and personal styles. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume and style and boost your confidence.