Dear Sam: I have a question about a qualifications summary versus an objective statement. I hear experts say both ways are the “best” and don’t use the other. Which is correct? Does it depend on the position? I feel a qualifications summary is not specific enough for a position and your qualifications should be in your work experience. Thoughts? – Eric
Dear Eric: Any expert in the hiring industry will agree that objective statements are archaic and fall short in today’s employer-centric process. An objective statement simply states what you want out of your next position, doing nothing to convince the reader why you are qualified to take that next step. A qualifications summary presents the information critical to convey during a 4 to 7-second screening process including how you are qualified, why you are unique, and how you fulfill the requirements for the types of roles you are seeking.
Objective statements used to open every resume (20 years ago!). Over time, these statements became incredibly self-serving and more and more vague. In essence, what ended up happening was that resumes were opened with “stuff” that did nothing to differentiate the candidate. Typically, the statement would present the obvious—for example, “Seeking a progressively responsible role as a (insert job title) with an opportunity for growth”—and candidates would simply change out the title they were seeking with every resume they sent out.
With a qualifications summary, you are providing an executive summary of your resume. It is absolutely vital that you present this information as, regardless of the length of your resume, the reader will not get past the first half of page one. Because screening processes have become so brief, this section will allow you to pull forward all of the most important highlights related to your candidacy. In essence, the summary is your elevator pitch or the answer to the question, “Why should I hire you?”
Dear Sam: I have had several jobs over 10 years, including 2 in the past 2 years, and have been receiving feedback that I have too many jobs and too many gaps in employment. If I don’t include all of my jobs, it looks like I am hiding something; if I do include everything, it really looks bad. What do I do? – Brett
Dear Brett: A resume is a strategic picture of what you have done which positions you for what you now want to do. Very different from an employment application—which typically requires the disclosure of all roles—a resume affords you the ability to be somewhat selective in what you include and omit. Once you omit months in your dates with each employer, a cleaner picture will emerge. Often the omission of months allows the rather clean exclusion of short-term and unrelated positions, not to mention near elimination of the appearance of employment gaps. For example, if you were out of work from February 2017 until November 2018 and you include months and years, potential employers will see a rather large gap in employment. If you omit months of employment, you end one position in 2017 and pick up another in 2018. While one would have to assume you ended one engagement in December and started the other in January, it at least closes the gap and removes a potential disqualifier. If you held multiple short-term and unrelated roles during that time out of your career, you can omit those from your resume without fear of retribution. Hiring managers understand that your resume is not a narrative of everything you have ever done, so don’t worry about being seen as “hiding” something. As I mentioned, an employment application is a very different animal, but let’s hope most of the positions you apply for are resume- and not application-driven.