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January 31st, 2007
04:37 pm
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Dear job seekers
For the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, never ever ever ever put a "Goal"/"Objective" section on your résumé.

I'm looking at the résumé of a job applicant here at the store, and this is the very first line underneath the contact information:
My goal is to secure a position using the knowledge and skills I possess and further my education and training.

This is dreadful, yes. But here is the insidious thing about résumé goals: This is as good as they get.

There is only one reason people ever seek jobs: They want to trade their time and skills for financial resources. This is the entire basis of the system of employment upon which our culture rests. Don't waste 20 words of the reader's time telling employers, "My goal is to get a job." That is the subtext of the résumé itself.

Rhetorical trickery can make the Goals section look useful, but when you dissect it, it does absolutely nothing that can't be better expressed elsewhere. Don't write that you're looking for ways to apply your decades of experience or hard-earned degrees; your Education and Experience sections should speak for themselves, and if you feel they aren't sufficiently emphasized, plug them in your cover letter. Don't write about your lifelong ambitions; either they match the employer's and you're saying "I want a job WITH YOU!" (again, the subtext of the résumé already), or they don't match and your application gets marked down. Don't talk about what you hope to accomplish in the job; that's what the interview is for, and you'll give a better answer if you can talk to the employer first and find out what their goals are. Don't document your sesquipedalian erudition or utilize managment jargon; it will be quite obvious you're trying too hard. And for Deity's sake, don't be a smartass; employers aren't known for cogno-intellectual sophistication.

Meanwhile, you're still just wasting space to say, "I want a job!" And that is what you're saying; there is no other way to honestly answer the question a Goals section poses. Only to obfuscate the fact that you're giving the same answer as everyone else.

In short, the section is wasted space. So what a "goals" section tells me is this: The job seeker would rather do things in the way they're told than apply the effort and creativity necessary to take pride in their work. They see no need to question rules that make no sense, and will contribute to bureaucratic buildup rather than raising efficiency.

I wouldn't want to hire people like that, and I definitely wouldn't want to work for any company that saw those characteristics as assets.

...

</rant>

---
UPDATE: Much more in comments, including the quite sensible recommendation that you replace "Goals" with a "Qualifications" section to summarize the ways in which you meet their needs.

Current Location: ~calorg
Current Music: "The Ballad of John and Yoko", The Beatles
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 09:19 am (UTC)
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"... and then give you an immediate 60% raise."
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From:firestrike
Date:February 1st, 2007 02:12 am (UTC)
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Every resume-building seminar/class I've ever had has insisted that that section is necessary. I'm not saying that there is any actual need for it, but if the industry mindset expects it, you may have trouble getting past the first filter without one. Though assigning rational motivations to HR professionals is a questionable task at the best of times...

Heck, what do I know? I'm a chemist. We're off in an entirely different quadrant...
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From:circuit_four
Date:February 1st, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
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I'm with Firestrike here. You're telling us one thing, and every career site I've ever seen is telling me another. Now, I do think you're clearly on the side of common sense here. I dropped the objective section from my resumes ages ago.

And I suppose that should encourage me, somehow, about my impending job hunt. But instead, to be brutally honest, this post makes me feel even more like the employment game is hopelessly cryptical, arbitrary, and impenetrable. I'm sick of feeling like the interview's primary purpose is not to detect and cultivate talent, but to repel outsiders to corporate culture, reward willingness to jump through arbitrary hoops, and keep career-advice columnists in business. And I hate the process just a little bit more now, but even moreso I fear it from the bottom of my heart.

Still love ya and wish I had better news. :(
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:33 am (UTC)

Further explanation; and reaction

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The explanation, trying to make a little more sense out of what started out as purely a rant:

What I tell myself -- and this is based on my personal experience; it comes with no warranties, but I've been successful with it -- is that following the advice of every career site out there is a great way to stand in the same lines as everyone else who follows career site advice. Hand-tailoring resumes instead of cookie-cuttering them, "Goals" section and all, makes you stand out. In the job market, with dozens of other resumes fighting against yours, that difference can work for you.

I think understanding the purpose of resumes -- and building a resume that fulfills that purpose -- makes a bigger impact than assembling all the same jigsaw pieces in all the same ways and using pastel cardstock instead of gleaming white paper. (Also see the comments below.)

And ... this is the important part ... I'm speaking from a position where I feel I've made my refusal to disappear into corporate culture an asset. Not every company is going to appreciate the tack I've taken, but the ones that do are, happily, the ones that don't fall prey to cookie-cutter management.

In that sense ... I approach my jobs in much the same way as I've approached my draconity. It sure ain't going to endear me to everyone. But the people who do appreciate it tend to be drawn to me by what I display ... and they're the people I want to attract anyway.

---

The reaction:

... I'm sorry that my post had that effect on you. (Though I'm glad you spoke up.) I feel guilty ... increasing cynicism and fear among those I care about isn't the way I want to change the world.

I'm struggling to figure out what to say next; I'll try not to descend into advice or platitudes, and I can't retract what I said or try to spin it into something it isn't. The truth is that I ranted because there are frightening elements to job searches ... you're not the only one this post hit a nerve for.

I wish you didn't have to go through the search that lies ahead. It ain't fun ... it is dehumanizing. But we've survived this long. It chips little pieces off of us, but life is about regenerating and healing.

I'm trying not to say that as a platitude ... the difference between platitude and perspective is so thin sometimes. :P When I lived in Seattle, I got fired from three jobs in a row and couldn't find anything beyond a temp job to save my life. I see in your hurt some of the sentiments of the me of 2002.

I'm really in a different place now ... so, again, I'm sorry I'm screaming rants across that divide.
Let me know if there's more to say here, or else we can change the subject and use our brainmeats for the things life should be about.
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From:circuit_four
Date:February 1st, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Further explanation; and reaction

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Meh, it's all my fault, not yours. And actually, charging into my next job interview with an attitude "listen, I know I'm smart, and let me show you in a slightly unexpected way..." might not be such a bad idea. It might not get me the job, but it can only help me get over the sense of Brazil-esque doom... You're right, it's also a good filter, a good way to keep Dilbertesque environments at bay.

I never knew you were fired from a series of jobs. And just four years ago? That's kinda encouraging, really -- I'd been going around thinking my dismissal from Component Assembly over the Martian Brain Flu had taken a bad CV and made it worse. I keep forgetting there's life after that sort of thing.
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)
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And also. *hug* Which is what I should have said in the first place.
From:antwondotcom
Date:February 1st, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
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I have an "objective" section on my résumé. It does feel very pointless, yes. But it feels like it's in the same class of pointlessness as, say, knowing which place-settings you use in what order at a formal luncheon. It is of no inherent use at all, save for demonstrating that one knows how things are "supposed" to be done. (The same thing, to a lesser degree, can be said for acquiring a diploma from Medicore State University, where it frequently says little about one outside of a passing ability to be part of The System.)

Really, the whole "I want money, so I need a job" objective is true... but it would be too "unsavory" somehow for most folks on both sides of the HR divide to be honest with themselves and admit that it were true. So instead we shroud our job applications in "boy howdy, I hope to be actualized as a person!" sort of rhetoric, and HR pays lip-service to "life-work balance" and "achieving personal fulfillment"... when most folks would bolt in a heartbeat for a 20% raise and most corporations would toss you aside like so much used Kleenex if it best suited their quest for profitability. But such are the games one plays to be a boring cog in the corporate machine, eh?
From:tropism
Date:February 1st, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
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I've always fucking hated the idea of that section, and I've always hated it when I was asked -- at, say, a Civil Service interview, or worse, at some shitty retail place, "Why do you want a job with us?"

The answer is, almost invariably: "Because I need money." I just have to bullshit it up.
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From:roaminrob
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:05 am (UTC)
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Eh. "Why do you want a job with us?" is, in my mind, a little bit different from the Objective part of a resume. You could tailor the Objective section of the resume to match your answer to the question, but usually when you're being asked that, you've been personally introduced to the company, and maybe shown around a bit.

So what the interviewer here is actually asking is, "What is it about our company that gets you excited?"

Now, if I were the interviewer here and you tried bullshitting your way through this one, I'd tell you straight out that you're probably not a good fit for the company; likewise if you shrugged your shoulders. But, if you gave me something -- almost anything -- genuine, you're probably going to be offered the job. Hell, it could even be something like, "Well, this sounds silly, but I really like the way you guys set up the employee break room." See, now I know that you were paying attention during the walk-through, and you notice details.

I use this sometimes to help my chances in getting hired somewhere. If I don't get asked the question, then at some point during the walk-through I'll comment on something that I found interesting.
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:43 am (UTC)
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What Rob said, with the caveat that I hate "Why do you want a job with us?" too. Something about the phrasing of it rubs me wrong -- gets back to that basic "I want money, duh." If I loved the company enough to work for them without that carrot being dangled, I would have volunteered, not applied.

But. Totally legitimate interview question, for the reason he states above. And good advice.
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From:xydexx
Date:February 1st, 2007 07:17 am (UTC)

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*nodnods* I hate that question for the same reasons. I'll have to remember this.
From:tropism
Date:February 3rd, 2007 08:49 am (UTC)
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True, but applying for your company is different from being in a pool of civil service people. "Why do you want to work here shuffling paper as a clerk with us?" "Fucking fantastic benefits and job security, duh."

Actually, what I really wanted to say was "Because I'm a closet masochist and papercuts just turn me on."
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From:yoje
Date:February 1st, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
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I took it out of my résumé years ago. Being the one that helped narrow down résumés in several jobs, I've found that section is more useful in two situations: those that recently graduated (now that you're out of school, what do you want to do) and those going for a career change (so why do you want to do something else). For anyone else, as you say, it's mostly filler.

But almost every résumé I've seen still has it, needed or not, because all the career web sites and books say it's needed. And I've seen a lot worse. These days, time is money, and space on the résumé is at a premium, because the more the HR/recruiter has to read, the more likely it will be tossed. I think the "Goal" section goes back to the days where fluff (such as this comment >.>)and padding were encouraged, but those days are gone; HR is all about getting to the point with today's résumés.
From:lhexa
Date:February 1st, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)
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"Don't document your sesquipedalian erudition..."

Aw. :( Don't you know how challenging it was to work "sybaritic" and "belletristic" into my résumé?
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 05:42 am (UTC)
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Hee. :D I'll make a special sesquiped exception for that one, although I suspect it also falls into the "don't be a smartass" category.
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From:xydexx
Date:February 1st, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)

Better use of space: A summary of your skills.

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I use the space at the top for a summary of my mad skillz. This seems to be common in tech jobs, at least around here.

The last time I went job hunting (2002), I took the help wanted ad, broke it down into its component parts, built a compliance matrix of everything I was qualified for, and then fed it right back to them in my cover letter and resume. They need someone with proposal experience? I've got proposal experience. Know how to use templates? Yep. Microsoft Office? Oh hell yes.

I got the job offer from them about four hours later. Maybe it was because I've got tons of experience, maybe it was because they were at the end of the government's fiscal year needed someone ASAP, or maybe it was because they told me I'd have to be crazy to work there and I responded I'd fit right in. -=) I don't think any amount of advice I or anyone could offer is going to guarantee someone a job... but one can increase their chances.

Also, it helps to tailor the resume to each individual job application, rather than sending the same copy to everyone.

For reference, the most recent version of my resume (which I should probably update) is here.
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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 05:44 am (UTC)

Re: Better use of space: A summary of your skills.

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Agreed: "Qualification Summary" is a far better use of space. I probably should have recommended that instead of pointlessly ranting, so thank you for correcting my omission.
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From:xydexx
Date:February 1st, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)

Re: Better use of space: A summary of your skills.

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Glad to be of help.
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From:xydexx
Date:February 1st, 2007 07:11 am (UTC)

Re: Better use of space: A summary of your skills.

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Note to self: I need to Photoshop Karl so he's smiling.
From:premchai21
Date:February 1st, 2007 05:50 am (UTC)
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"I am applying for this job in the hopes that it will further my progress towards long-term career goals X, Y, and Z."

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From:baxil
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:40 am (UTC)
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Again, this is a case where you face some real danger: If X, Y and Z are things the HR person appreciates, you've earned maybe a tiny positive mark; if not, they start thinking "Ah, so their goal is to kill time here for a while and then leave the company to pursue their REAL interests."

That's a very bad conclusion for them to reach. I very nearly didn't get the job I'm at now because the manager reached that conclusion about me. I'm here because I got my foot in the door long enough to convince her I wouldn't be a short-timer, really, honest, I swear.

The resume's job is to get you an interview. The interview's purpose is to determine your fit with the company. Sell your qualifications on the resume and sell your interests in the interview.
From:premchai21
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:47 am (UTC)
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This is all true, and supports the idea of not including that section. My main point was that that seems to be the type of section to which the mainstream career advice sites are referring, so the idea that the only plausible goal to put in the hypothetical "Goals/Objectives" section is that you want to get that job may not quite be accurate.

Though probably I just misread the post—

From:premchai21
Date:February 1st, 2007 06:48 am (UTC)
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Note to self—don't switch between hexadecimal Unicode input and decimal entities; it makes you type the wrong punctuation… even when you use the Preview button.

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From:schryari
Date:February 2nd, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
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Too bad a lot of places, including, say, colleges, tell people to put an objective section.
From:lhexa
Date:February 2nd, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)

Because one joke wasn't enough

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Objective: 20x
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From:taral
Date:February 4th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
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At the top of my resume is "Job Interest". It states in brief what kind of position I am looking for. After that is a resume of my qualifications (previous work experience, education, etc.).
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