Should I Start with a Resume Objective or Resume Summary?

There are two preferred ways used today for starting a resume.

  • Objective – what you want to achieve
  • Summary – what you have to offer

The resume objective is a brief statement that immediately tells the employer what you hope to achieve in terms of employment. Often resume objective is simply a statement identifying the specific job you are applying for when submitting the resume.

The summary, on the other hand, is a brief statement that indicates the talents and abilities you have to offer an employer. In a few brief sentences you succinctly describe what skills you possess and your accomplishments that indicate how you will be able to benefit the employer.

The resume objective and summary statements are excellent beginnings for a resume, but you seldom use both of them. That begs the question: How do you know when it’s better to use a resume objective versus a summary statement?

Resume Objective or Summary – It Depends…

Don’t you hate it when you ask a question and get the answer, “It depends”? That seems like such a non-answer. But the truth is that there are no hard and fast rules as to when it’s best to use a resume objective statement over a summary statement. It really does depend on your particular situation and the set of circumstances surrounding the job search.

A resume objective is often used when you know the exact title and position you are applying for when submitting your resume. You can state that you want to be an Office Manager or an Accountant. The very name of the position is your objective.

Another situation that makes a resume objective the best choice as a resume opener is when you are a recent graduate or someone with little job experience. A summary statement is much more difficult to write when you are fairly new to the job market since it focuses on what you are offering the new company. A resume objective, on the other hand, lets the employer know you have a good grasp of your goal.

A summary is excellent to use as the resume opener when you have a variety of skills that can be used in more than one job. Instead of asking for a particular position in a resume objective statement and limiting your options, it’s possible to write a summary of your appropriate skills. This gives the employer an opportunity to consider you for more than one position.

Debating the Merits of Each

Speak to a particular recruiter or Human Resource manager and he or she will have varying opinions on what makes the best resume beginning.

  • Resume Objective
    • Precisely states what is desired
    • Takes away all guesswork as to the resume goal
    • Makes it easy for the reader to identify best use of the information
    • Serves as a guide for the rest of the information in the resume
  • Resume Summary
    • Makes it clear up front you have the skills needed for a job
    • Makes it clear you have skills that may be useful in more than one job
    • Forces the reader to skim a brief statement of your qualifications

A summary can provide a statement of your major achievements and demonstrated strengths. Though meant to be kept short, it has to include enough information to entice the reader to find out more.

Understanding the Difference between Resume Object and Summary

Following are two statements you can use to understand the difference between a resume objective statement and a summary statement.

Resume Objective: Sales Manager

Resume Summary: Outstanding achievement as a sales leader. Excellent accomplishments in the areas of establishing and meeting sales goals, developing strategic sales plans, and motivating sales staff.

The resume objective lets the reader know you want a Sales Manager position. The summary statement lets the reader know you could handle a Sales Manager position, an Account Manager position, a Sales Project Team Leader position, a position within a marketing department or any of a number of other positions.

Assess your particular circumstances first, and then decide between a resume objective and a summary as your resume opener. Each makes a great beginning.