Ditch the Résumé Objective

Nels Wroe, SLH Group

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Your résumé is  spit-shined, polished, lightly buffed and glistening in all its glory. You've run it through keyword tests, tailored it to specific employers, focused on results you've achieved, and even printed it on coffee-scented paper stock (one can never be too prepared, right?).

But when it comes to that darn objective, you're never sure what to write. Will you sound too generic? If you get too creative, will it turn the employer off? Yet the truth is that the objective -- at least in the traditional sense -- is dead.

Ready to take its well-worn place is something far more important: a stark assessment of who you are through the eyes of your potential employer. Maybe your experience is solid, and the results speak for themselves -- but can employers truly relate to your experience in their world? Are you helping them see your potential through a lens they understand?

Potential is in the eyes of the beholder

Many job seekers get so focused on presenting themselves to a potential employer using the traditional "here's what I want to accomplish" objective that they overlook another, more critical component -- the valuable skills they already possess.

But why are those so important? Heck, it's results that count, right? Sure -- but only to a point. When faced with the choice between someone who blew past his sales targets but left a trail of upset co-workers and frustrated clients in his wake, and someone who can show equivalent results using a forward-thinking and team-oriented approach -- you can likely guess which one a hiring manager will go for.

Yes, employers want to see results. But they also want to see how you achieved those results. An objective will give them an idea of how you'd go about it for their company – so show them. Why waste your time, and theirs, with an objective that speaks nothing to this?

Understand your potential

Before you can hope to sell a future employer on your potential, you need to understand it yourself. Anyone can say she has "tons of potential" or use phrases such as "out of the box" or "dedicated," but how can you quantify and describe this to employers in a way they can relate to? It's simple. You need to understand yourself.

Not in the vaguely New Age kind of way, but in the brass tacks, nuts and bolts of knowing your own work styles and competencies kind of way.

And there's the problem. Most of the objective methods used in the past to help us understand ourselves and our potential are not ideal for illustrating this to an employer.

Instead, assess yourself using one of the many tools that employers use to identify potential. These assessments provide accurate, objective and useful measures of your natural styles and competencies in the workplace. They can help you put your accomplishments into context -- and better yet, will help you explain how you achieved your results in language that employers can relate to.

(You'll also learn a thing or two about yourself along the way too, but don't let that stop you.)

The result will make a big difference in how you present yourself -- and how an employer will see you. For example:

Skilled sales professional with a 15-year track record of meeting/exceeding sales targets: two-year winner of top performer award, exceeded annual revenue targets by 50 percent or more in 2008 and 2009.

Turns into:

Skilled sales leader with a 15-year track record of exceeding sales goals using a highly adaptable and persuasive selling style. Exceeded annual revenue targets by 50 percent or more in 2008 and 2009 by building on strong organizational and goal-oriented skills.

An overly simplified example perhaps, but this new version answers a number of questions an employer is bound to ask about how you accomplished all those things on your résumé.

Still stumped on where to begin? Visit sites such as http://www.onet.net/ or http://www.shldirect.com/ (free to use!) to assess yourself. Or use recruiters or outplacement firms such as Teneo Talent (http://www.teneotalent.com/) that offer proven competency and motivation assessments. A bonus? These firms can also connect you with a career coach to help you further identify and understand your potential.

Crafting a résumé certainly isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, but this much is clear: The old rules no longer apply. So throw out that objective, and replace it with something that matters -- a statement about your true potential.

Nels Wroe is an assessment and talent management expert for SHL (http://www.shl.com/), a global leader in workforce-related talent assessment solutions. Nels.Wroe@shlgroup.com

Last Updated: 02/08/2010 - 11:07 AM

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