While often overlooked, career objectives are one of the most important parts of your resume.

They are intended to demonstrate to the reader that you have a strong sense of direction when it comes to your career, and that the role you are applying for fits into that career path.

A well-written resume objective will help hiring managers and recruiters to see your application within the frame of reference that you provide. They don’t need to be particularly long to make an impact, but they do need to be well considered and well executed to be both meaningful and impressive.

What is a resume objective?

A career objective is a brief opening paragraph explaining to hiring managers and recruiters your career direction, or your career objective, positioning yourself as the ideal candidate for the job based on your experience to date. It should appear at the top of your resume, usually right after your name and contact details.

It is always tailored to the job you are applying for.

Resume objectives are particularly helpful for three categories of job applicant:

  • Applicants new to the job market
  • Applicants changing careers / fields
  • Applicants with something to explain on their resume: a big geographical move or extended leave from the workforce, for example

Note that if you don’t fit into any of these categories, a resume objective may still work well on your resume, but you may want to consider a career summary statement instead.

Why are career objectives important?

A well-written resume objective can also help frame your resume for the reader by setting the tone from the outset. A well-written, targeted career objective can help the recruiter read the rest of your application with your career goals in mind.

But it will also explain why this role makes sense for you. Consider, for example, a nurse who wants to transition into healthcare education. It may not be immediately obvious to the hiring manager exactly why they are making such a drastic change, or indeed, even if they’ve sent their application in to the correct job advertisement.

However, with a short career objective opening their resume stating their enjoyment of teaching, their new diploma in education, and any transitional skills and experience, the recruiter is aware of their desire to take their career in a new direction, and can more easily see the skills they can bring with them into a new role.

How to write a resume objective

Space on a resume is precious, so every section should pack a punch.

Your career objective is perhaps even more important, as it sits atop all other information, and it’s the first thing employers are likely to read. Making it short yet engaging will compel employers to find out what the rest of your resume has to offer.

For that reason, we recommend making it no more than five lines.

Specificity is key

Just as you need to tailor your resume for every organisation and role you apply for, so too will you need to write your career objective for every application.

Inserting something generic will not succeed in making yours the most compelling. In some cases, it may not even be suitable or relevant.

You’ll need to do your research:

  • Read about organisation itself;
  • Speak with current and past employees;
  • Read articles and forums, and chat with friends in the industry.

Ultimately, you want to know what sort of employees the organisation wants, and why.

Having this information will help ensure your career objective is specific and relevant to you, the organisation you’re seeking to work at, and the employer or team assessing your application.

Use keywords

Go back and do a thorough read of the job advertisement, and make note of any keywords. You want to use these, and mimic its tone of voice.

The reason you want to use them is two-fold: firstly, it ensures your resume will be highlighted by a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS), and secondly, it calls attention to how well your application aligns with what the company is looking for when it is read by a hiring manager.

You can do this a few ways. You’ll want to pay attention to:

  • The way the job application words things. If they ask for ‘CMS experience,’ for example, then make sure you use that exact phrase instead of just ‘Salesforce.’ You can include the specific example elsewhere in another section of the resume, but an ATS may not know that Salesforce is a CMS.
  • Any jargon or abbreviations within the job ad, and use the same.
  • Do they use numbers instead of words? E.g. ‘6 years experience’ instead of ‘six years experience’? Whatever the job application uses, you should use the same.

Once you’ve compiled a list of words and notes about its style, you can begin to compile your summary.

Open with who you are and what you do

This immediately positions you in the mind of the reader.

For example, if you have applicable work experience or transferable skills, you could frame your position like this:

“# of years of relevant experience + 2-3 examples of relevant responsibilities or achievements.”

Example: I am a diligent customer service provider with six years of experience in the IT sector. I have experience managing high-pressure situations and my problem-solving skills earned me Employee of the Year in three organisations.

The strength of this opening is that it is short and to the point, and bringing their skills and accolades to the reader’s attention from the start.

If you do not have work experience or transferable skills, as a recent graduate for example, you could structure your sentence as:

“I am a recent graduate with (name of degree) and # months/years’ experience in (relevant experience).”

Example: “I am a recent university graduate with a BSc in Psychology with 6 months experience within a marketing internship.”

Don’t forget to make sure you’re using those keywords and mimicking the style of the job advertisement.

Then focus on what you can bring to the table

A common mistake many candidates make when writing their career objective is that they focus on what they want, rather than the value they can bring to the role.

Of course, that’s understandable. After all, it’s a statement about career objectives so it makes sense to talk about you!

However, when recruiters have hundreds of applications to read, they have very little time to plot your career path to see how well this role would fit you. Spell it out clearly for them by focusing on how you can contribute.

For example: As a senior accountant with experience in both the public and private sectors, I successfully deliver growth to diverse markets across the Asia-Pacific region. Winner of the Thought Leader of the Year Award at the Australian Accounting Awards in 2019, I am perfectly positioned to lead sustainable change at your company.

This objective example is strong because it calls out a major accomplishment in the candidate’s career, and how this relates to the potential employer.

What not to include

Remember, recruiters are looking for the ideal candidate, the best applicant, and they can tell if your resume hasn’t been tailored to the job advertisement.

The point of the career objective is this: how are you going to fulfil the needs of this specific role? Will you fit into the company? Every part of your application needs to be written with this question in mind.

Example career objectives

Below are some examples of resume objectives at different career stages.

Applicants new to the job market

Use the following format:

  1. Include the name of your degree and any relevant experience or accolades.
  2. List two to three skills or qualities you have that are listed in the job ad. Make use of your list of keywords here.
  3. Describe your overall goal with reference to the company’s goals.

For example: “I have recently completed an MBA with distinction and was resultantly selected for KPMG’s prestigious graduate program. Always delivering quality and driving innovation, I am ideally positioned to drive portfolio expansion and am ambitious about leading risk management programs for clients.”

Career change

Use the following format:

  • Include your job title and transferable skills that you can leverage in the new role.
  • Describe your overall goal with reference to the company’s goals.

For example: “Experienced communications specialist seeking to leverage extensive knowledge of email marketing, social media management, and graphic design skills for a new career path with a non-profit organisation. I am looking for a role that will allow me to apply my passion for the environment and my professional experience to make a tangible change to the local community.”

Geographical change or career gap

Use the following format:

  • Include your job title and reference the date of your relocation, or
  • Include your job title and reference returning to the job market after # time.
  • Describe your overall goal with reference to the company’s goals.

For example: “Detail-oriented administration professional relocating to Perth in August. Seeking employment as an office manager in a medical clinic. I bring 10 years’ experience, strong organisational skills, and social media management experience, and am looking to provide support to staff in a healthcare facility.

Another example: “Results-oriented certified accountant returning to the workforce after maternity leave. Analytical and a strong problem-solver, I am seeking a position in a boutique firm as a senior accountant.”

Once you’ve completed your resume objective statement, it’s time to know what to include in the rest of your resume.