Resume Headlines: Objective, Summary & Profile…Oh My! (Part 1 of 2)

So much advice from so many perspectives it often leaves even the savviest job seekers scratching their heads. Objective, Summary or Profile statement, which one should I choose? What is the difference between them and how will any of them give me an edge over another candidate? Whoa Nelly! Let’s back up a minute, as we all know, if you put the cart before the horse you will not get anywhere. Perhaps we should start with a few basic questions about your employment goals before deciding what your next employer sees on paper.

Your resume is a reflection of your experience, skills and education but let’s not forget it is also a very valuable communication tool that can make or break your chance to be interviewed. With that said, here are four things to consider before you start choosing headlines and sharing things in writing that may not be appropriate for your audience.

1. What is your job target?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, chances are, you are not ready to create a resume and more importantly, you are not ready to start looking for a job. At this point, you may need to consider doing some career exploration and assessing your skills and interests before diving into a job search. An employer isn’t looking to hire someone who merely wants a job, they are looking for someone who wants to become part of the company, mission, goals, philosophy and culture, as well as provide contributions that positively impact the overall success of the company.

Stating anywhere on your resume that you “want a job” is not going to help your chances! The reality is the vast majority of the public needs to work in order to pay bills, provide for their families and survive but this alone is not going to get you hired.

You need to be specific about the job you want and more than that, you need to possess at least 70% of the requirements for that job (unless something in the job description states “training provided” or “no experience needed”), as well as a willingness to learn.

What do I mean by being specific? Let’s say you decide that you want a job in customer service, that’s great! Now, what do you want in customer service? Phone work, retail work, sales, banking, food service, office administration, warehousing, non-profit? Being specific means picking the environment, the industry and the position you desire. It isn’t enough to say something as generic as customer service, as with almost every industry some level of customer service is required.

Why only 70%?  For the most part, job descriptions are designed for the “Perfect Candidate” and often by people who have never had to actually perform the duties being asked for. In most cases, there is no such thing as the perfect candidate, which employers are aware of, and in general, they are open to allow for some learning to take place on the job. Of course, some of these allowances are going to depend on your attitude, professionalism and passion for the industry and position you are applying for, and these things do come across to the employer during your interview.

Choosing a job target doesn’t mean you have to pigeonhole yourself into only one position but at least if you have a starting point, whether it’s something in retail, food service, office administration etc…then you can start to narrow down something suitable to your interest, experience, skills and education that actually fits what the employer is looking for. 

2. Who Are You?
No, I’m not asking you to provide your life history. This question is more related to describing yourself as a professional. In other words, what experience, skills, education and knowledge do you have that will transfer into the industry and position you’re applying for? These are definitely things that will be included in your employment and educational history but by providing this insight at the beginning of your resume, you are showing the employer that you are ready, willing and able to make an immediate contribution to their company. The intent of providing this information is not to replace your cover letter, that is a separate document, and something you still need to provide to the employer. Besides, this is just good practice for you, as we all know there is about a 98% chance the first thing the employer will say to you at the job interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” 

3. What do you want?
This isn’t just one question, but rather several questions rolled into one topic. Deciding what you want is going to be the catalyst for finding a job that is the right fit for you, instead of trying to choose a survival job that has no chance for future advancement or satisfaction. When you answer these questions, you will be more inclined to look for opportunities that align with your wants, values and desires rather than wasting time applying for jobs that don’t suit you or your long-term employment goals. Here are some of the “want” questions; What is your desired position? What industry do you want to work in? What kind of environment suits your work style? Do you want to work in teams or individually? Do you want professional growth or educational opportunities? Do you want a permanent, temporary, on-call or contract position? Do you want to work on a full-time or part-time basis? Do you want employer benefits? Do you want a flexible schedule that allows you to work from home or take time off for personal commitments? Do you want overtime? Do you want to be in a union?

4. What type of job seeker are you?
Basically there are five major types of job seekers; new to the workforce, experienced professional, recent college graduate, seasoned or executive professional and career changers. Why does this matter? Well, you are trying to determine which headline to use and the point of your chosen headline is to keep the employers interest long enough to read your resume and possibly contact you for an interview. Aside from your contact information, your Objective, Summary or Profile statement is what employers will see first and is the segue into your into your employment and educational background. Being up-front with the employer by identifying which type of job seeker you are will help the employer understand your motivations.

Just an explanation of these five major types; (As I have worked to assist people in identifying the type of job seeker they are, I picked these specific terms for that purpose-if you have something more fitting to your personality or style, by all means please use your terms…these are just suggestions.)

1. New to the Workforce: someone who has very little to no paid work experience…they may or may not have volunteer experience or participated in work experience through a high school or private program. In most cases they seek entry-level positions where training is provided.

2. Skilled Professional: someone who has 2-6 years experience in the same industry/position…they may or may not have specific education but they have real world experience and transferable skills obtained from their current position.

3. Recent College Graduate: someone who earned a diploma, degree or certificate from a recognized institution within the past year…they may or may not have previous work experience.

4. Seasoned or Executive Professional: someone who has a solid work history within the same industry or position for a minimum of seven years…they may also be classified or identify as “mature workers” if they are 50 years of age or older. They may or may not have specific education but they have real world experience and have participated in training or courses through their job(s) and may have earned specific credentials related to their field.

5. Career Changer: someone who has a minimum of 5 years in the same industry/position and has decided that they no longer want to work in the same industry/position. They have skills and experience that will transfer into other industries/positions.

Two additional categories of job seekers are Seasonal/Contract only job seekers and Independent Contractors.  Seasonal and contract only job seekers are people who prefer not to have a permanent employer and primarily work for temporary agencies rather than directly for an employer. Independent Contractors are business owners and self-employed consultants who are hired to provide goods and services on a contractual basis.  

Please click here for Resume Headlines Part 2  

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