Dear Sam: I am a college student seeking an internship. You’ve said that when it comes to constructing a résumé, the objective statement should be omitted. I was wondering if the same rule applies to résumés for internships. Some professors have shown me sample résumés that open with objective statements, so I’m confused by what I’m seeing versus what you are saying. — Baron
Dear Baron: Yes, the same rule does apply to any résumé, regardless of whether you are submitting it for an internship or a full-time professional engagement.
The goal of a résumé is to showcase what you can do for the employer based on past experience, successes or credentials. An objective statement does exactly the opposite: It focuses on what you want to do.
In today’s candidate-saturated market, employers do not have time — at least not in the initial screening process — to be overly concerned with what each candidate is looking for. By virtue of applying for the role, you are communicating your interest, so spend the most important real estate on your résumé — the top third of Page 1 — focused on what is unique about your background, experience, skills, and abilities that position you as qualified and right for the role.
Unfortunately there are still outdated techniques and advice being promoted as “today’s standard.” At times, that advice is not on par with 21st-century practices, even though it comes from otherwise-respected sources.
With the age of technology came widespread changes in how candidates had to position themselves on paper in order to shine in an ever-so-brief screening process. With just a few seconds of a hiring manager’s time, one must immediately tell the reader what he/she can do — not what he/she wants to do. Doesn’t that make sense? I promise you, opening with a summary of your qualifications is the best practice, whereas opening with an objective statement is an antiquated approach.
While we are on the subject of outdated advice, let me clear up a few other misnomers.
• Formatting: Engaging your reader through an aesthetically pleasing format is indeed appropriate. If your audience isn’t ultra-conservative in nature, adding color, imagery, quotes from performance reviews or letters of recommendation, and other personality-infusing elements is entirely on par. The résumés that hit the market and perform in the strongest manner are those in which personality, flavor and passion come through loud and clear.
• Length: If I never again hear that a résumé “has to be one page,” it won’t be a day too soon. Unless you are entry-level, right out of college or perhaps have just held one job for your entire career, it is unlikely that you can fit all your content on one page. You must take time — and space — to explore your career fully, presenting not only the main functions of each of your roles, but also (and most importantly), what you did to add value to your employer. To do this takes space. A one-page résumé is no more effective than a three-page résumé when information is prioritized and placed in the highest-impact places on the page.
• Content: I often hear that candidates are concerned that their résumés are too “wordy.” There are times when a résumé should be succinct, but you should never sacrifice value-added content for brevity. Think about it: As long as you are engaging the reader and presenting valuable (not redundant) information, you will have a stronger chance to emerge successful from a computerized screening process. I have seen many résumés that are far too brief and lack the ability to convey the uniqueness of an applicant’s candidacy. Always take the space to explain the value you have provided to past employers, as this predicts future contributions.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to email@example.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.