The Science of the Job Search, Part VI: Job Applicants With Resume Objectives Were ~30% Less Hireable

Today, we’re looking at the age-old question: Do you need an objective for your resume? Lots of folks say yes, lots of folks say no. We sampled 6,231 recent job applications, resumes and applicants across 681 cities and 115 roles and figured out the real-world answer for you.

tl;dr: Don’t put an objective on your resume (minus a few exceptions, see below). Not only are they unnecessary, but job applicants whose resume contained an objective were 29.6% less hireable than those who didn’t specify an explicit objective.

Objectives Hurt Everyone (Except Recent Grads)

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After 1+ year of experience, job applicants whose listed an objective were 20% to 67% less hireable (varying based on experience) than those who didn’t.

Controlling for experience, job applicants whose resume included an objective got 20.1% to 67.1% fewer job interviews compared to those who didn’t.

The only exception to this rule was for recent college graduates: for job applicants with <1 year of work experience, listing an explicit objective got ~7% more interviews. This isn’t a statistically significant gain, but it’s a significant contrast to everyone else.

Resume Tip: If you have less than ~8 months of experience, you might want to consider adding an objective. [+7% HIREABILITY BOOST]

Resume Tip: If you have 1+ years of experience, you should delete your objective. (See one more exception below.) Although it varies based on your specific experience, you’ll likely see a big hireability boost. [+20-67% HIREABILITY BOOST]

What’s Going On?

With the usual caveat that no one has any idea (anyone who claims otherwise is lying), I can give you my best theory as an experienced hiring manager. Here’s the short version: Most objectives are crap.

For example (anonymized to protect the innocent):

Focused and hard-working individual looking to develop new skills to serve the greater good.

Ambitious student working towards a B.S. in Epidemiology (pending graduation May, 2019).

To acquire, and maintain employment. To utilize the training and skills I’ve received in the past 5 years.

Like, really? As a hiring manager, I don’t really care if you want to “maintain employment.” (And honestly, this is a bit like saying your hamburger is 100% beef. If that’s the best compliment you can give yourself, you might have a bigger problem.)

What I do care is that you can do the job. Your objective gives me zero information about that and it’s something I have to wade past to get to the real stuff. But, if while wading past, I see something… well, it can definitely rule you out. For instance: spelling and grammar mistakes (rare), mismatch of interests (possible), a seed of doubt (common).

Here’s my theory: Most objectives convey zero information to hiring managers. At best, you can hope hiring managers will ignore it. At worst, it’ll give hiring managers an excuse to disqualify you.

This theory also explains why recent grads with objectives get slightly more interviews. Entry-level jobs get a deluge of applicants with no work history, and there’s basically no way to tell apart good applicants. If you can write a good objective (see below), you can squeeze out an edge over your competition.

Does Your Industry or Role Matter?

Controlling for role and industry, having an explicit objective still hurts (or doesn’t help) the overwhelming majority of job applicants.

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Listing an explicit objective doesn’t help for 106 out of 116 job roles — 91% of all roles out there.

It’s hard to make definitive claims about every specific role or industry (underwater welding, anyone?), but the overall trend is clear:

  • Only 2 out of 116 industries had statistically significant [*] higher hireability for applicants with an explicit objective. (Marketing Managers were statistically insignificant with a p-value of 0.902.)
  • There was a clear pattern for where it helped: they (a) were over-saturated, entry-level jobs where it was hard to distinguish good applicants, or (b) were in mission-driven fields where applicants’ motivations were especially important.

[* This of course doesn’t mean it only helps for 2 industries in reality, it just means that it either actually doesn’t help or the difference wasn’t big enough to be statistically detectable.]

Based on our holistic knowledge (we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people with their job search) and this analysis, here’s the full list of roles and industries where we believe an explicit objective might be helpful (even if there wasn’t a statistically significant difference):

RoleHireability Gain (%)P-valueWhy?
Budget Analysts121%0.187Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Credit Analysts144%0.456Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Financial Analysts105%0.410Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Counselors~500%-Mission-driven field.
Social Workers~500%-Mission-driven field.
Elementary Teachers~250%-Mission-driven field.
High School Teachers~250%-Mission-driven field.
Writers154%0.060Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Retail Salespeople50%-Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Customer Service Representatives62%-Hard to distinguish good applicants.

Which Kinds of Objectives Work In The Real World?

We took a look at the underlying resumes where objectives were correlated with increased hireability. Here are 3 objectives (details modified again to protect the innocent) from applicants who were 1+ standard deviation more hireable than their industry means:

Seeking a customer service position where I can utilize my multi-tasking abilities and attention to detail to assist in a fast-paced environment. Skills: real-world clerical experience, organizational skills, interpersonal skills.

Summa cum laude graduate with BS in communications studies, graduated May 2015. Proficient in Spanish.

Experienced with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux OSes; popular social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram); OpenTable, AldeloPRO, and NoWait restaurant management software

And here again are the 3 mediocre, low-hireability ones from above (these were all 1+ standard deviation below their industry hireability means):

Focused and hard-working individual looking to develop new skills to serve the greater good.

Ambitious student working towards a B.S. in Epidemiology (pending graduation May, 2019).

To acquire, and maintain employment. To utilize the training and skills I’ve received in the past 5 years.

What do you see? Here’s what I see in the low-hireability objectives:

  • They were generic and basically conveyed zero information to a hiring manager.
  • They spoke to the applicants’ wants & desires (not the hiring managers’ wants & desires).
  • Worse, they sometimes contained spelling or grammar mistakes. (Strictly speaking, the above weren’t grammatically incorrect, but two had awkward punctuation.)

On the other hand, the increased-hireability objectives all name-drop specific qualifications. In fact, they’re almost not even real objectives! They’re objective sections acting as a trojan horse to casually name-drop qualifications in the first few words of the resume. That’s brilliant!

In other words, good objectives weren’t actually objectives at all: rather than summarizing their own personal objectives, well-crafted objective statements gave their audience (hiring managers) what they wanted instead.

Resume Tip: If you have to include an objective, don’t talk about your own wants and desires. Instead, use it to casually name-drop a few of your skills that might appeal to hiring managers (in over-saturated fields) or summarize your motivation (in mission-driven fields).

What Can You Do?

We understand sorting through all the conflicting job search advice (and, hell, even the sheer amount of advice) can be overwhelming. That’s why we try to boil everything down to specific, actionable tips for your resume and back up everything we can with real-world data and concrete examples [*].

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On average, job applicants whose resume included an explicit objective or professional summary were ~30% less hireable than those who didn’t.

Resume Tip: Barring a few exceptions (less than 8 months of work experience, the list of industries above), you should delete your objective ASAP. [+30% HIREABILITY BOOST]

[* If they’re mining your data to sell you crap you don’t need, why not mine their data to help you get a job instead? That’s what we think at least.]

Even so, in just this post itself, we suggested 4 new resume tips. In total, across our six The Science of the Job Search posts this year, we’ve suggested a total 39+ real-world resume & job search tips. (I stopped counting after awhile.) They’re all highly actionable, data-driven tips but honestly, it’s just hard to keep track of it all after awhile.

If you’re looking for a job, you might be interested in signing up for TalentWorks. Among other things:

  • Our AI-driven ApplicationAssistant automatically pre-fills personalized cover letters for you from a template so you don’t have to worry about writing nice things for each of the 100+ job applications you’ll have to submit.
  • Our ResumeOptimizer will instantly scan your resume for all of 39+ tips we’ve written about to date, including optimizing your objective section.

For most things job search, we can just take care of it for you. And if not, one our wonderful TalentAdvocates can help you.


Methodology

First, we took a random sample of 6,231 recent job applications, applicants and outcomes across 681 cities and 116 roles and industries from recent activity on TalentWorks.

For each resume and job, we respectively calculated the MAP global parse tree using a custom, dynamic-vocabulary PCFG (our ResumeParser) and extracted the objective subtree if present and extracted the MAP job role along with 10 other bits of metadata from our index of ~91 million job postings. Finally, we independently regressed hireability for each sub-population with a blended constant-Matern kernel using a Gaussian process.

We did all of the analysis with in-house algorithms and sklearn/scipy in python. All plots were generated with Bokeh in python.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by ~5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

Here’s A Trick That Will Instantly Make Your Resume Better

Looking for help in the job search can be nearly as overwhelming as the search itself. There are a million different articles full of billions of tips and tricks that will help push your resume to the top of the pile (and we’re just as guilty in creating the clutter).

There’s checklists, templates and run-downs of Never-Ever-Evers. There’s recommendations on everything from how to format a resume on down to file type and font. It’s a lot to take in. So, knowing that you have a few more tabs open to look at, we’re here to offer one simple piece of advice. No top 5, no samples to download, just one tip that will get your resume noticed.

Use task/result sentences.

That’s really it. Fix your sentence formatting in your resume and your callbacks will increase. Hiring managers are looking for people who get results and this one trick of sentence structure will make you that person.

How it works:

A resume is a list of work you’ve done. Because of that, it lends itself to rote listing of your duties and responsibilities in the past. Even if your resume is impressive, laying out your daily to-do list to a stranger is bound to make their eyes gloss over.

Task/result sentences avoid this trap by telling the manager what the outcome of your work was and the ways in which you helped the company. Rather than telling them what you did, you’re telling them how the company fared because of your work. That’s bound to stick out in a sea of drab responsibility-listing.

Any examples?

The way you’re probably writing your resume currently looks something like this:

JOB A

  • Ran the Etcetera, Etcetera Campaign
  • Handled social media outreach
  • Organized the office space

But with task/result sentences, it can look like this:

JOB A

  • Launched a fundraising campaign that raised $10,000 in 8 weeks which extended runway for X months
  • Created a social media influencer outreach campaign that led to 10K new Twitter followers and 11% increase in monthly revenue
  • Led a space planning and reorganization workshop that freed up 160 square feet of office space for the company
    Here’s an additional job search tip. Always use numbers where you can. Quantifiable impacts are much-loved by hiring managers. It makes it that much easier to pitch your worth to the people in the company.

Of course, there’s more than just sentence structure to the job search. That’s where we can help. Our ResumeOptimizer and fully automated job search suite is only $10 and guarantees that you’ll hear back from a job you want.

What To Know On The Day Of Your Job Interview

Every job interview is going to be slightly different. But there are a few key ways in which they will always be the same. We’ve already gone over common questions that you should have a solid answer to before any interview, but don’t forget that an interview is a face-to-face interaction.

Getting wrapped up in your rote answers isn’t the way to go. The interviewer is there to have a conversation with another person and see if they’re a fit for the job, not listen to a series of monologues. Basically, you need to remember that the person on the other side of the desk is just that, a person. Treat them the way you’d expect to be treated and try and talk to them as naturally as possible.

Not to worry, though. If rote memorization is more your style, we have a handy checklist of day-of interview tips for you to run through.

Arrive On Time

You don’t want to start off with the person in charge of hiring you thinking you don’t value their time. If you arrive late and throw off their schedule for the rest of the day, they probably aren’t going to leave the interview with the most glowing portrait of you as a candidate. Plot your route and give yourself plenty of time to get there.

Good enough, Smart Enough and, Gosh darn it…

…people want to hire you. Don’t psych yourself out. If you weren’t qualified enough to catch their eye, they wouldn’t have called you at all. Keep it in mind to keep your confidence up throughout the interview.

Mirror, Mirror

If your interviewer is curt and formal, be curt and formal. If your interviewer is casual, be loose. If your interviewer sits backwards in their chair, they’re probably going to tell you about avoiding drugs. Let them and meet them where they are.

Be Polite

Please and thank you. Yes, sir and no, ma’am. Hold doors and shake hands firmly. Tell people it’s nice to meet them. If it helps, pretend your grandparents are in the room.

Remember Names and Follow Up

People like when you remember their names. People like when you express interest. Do both. Show that you’re committed to the job by asking after it and thanking them for talking to you.

You Gotta Get There First

To wow them, first you need to get in the room. That’s our specialty. We can optimize your resume and send it to the jobs you want for you. For just $10, we’ll turn the scrap parts of your application into a well-oiled machine, get it up and humming and let it generate results.

How To Research A Company Before A Job Interview

We know that the job hunt can be exhausting. All the digging, applying and letter-writing can really take a toll. But that doesn’t excuse shoddy research. If you’ve done enough to wow the hiring managers into calling you up to talk about the position, be sure that you at least sound like you know what you’re talking about. Nothing kills a job interview faster than not knowing about the company you’re trying to join.

Beyond the fact that it demonstrates basic competency and it’s just good manners, you definitely should do a little looking around to get a feel for a company before you’re standing in front of a recruiter’s desk. They can tell when you haven’t prepared and it’s a red flag for them that signals you might not be taking the position seriously.

Of course, if you don’t come from a research-heavy background, knowing how to find the information you need to effectively stunt on an interviewer can be tough. What questions should you even be asking? Luckily, as with all things job-search-related, we’re pros and we’ve got your back.

What To Ask

You can’t find the right answers without asking the right questions. So, here’s a few stock queries that you’ll want to know before any interview.

  • How did their company mission come to be, and does the press around the company support it?
  • What’s their primary product, and who is their customer?
  • Who are their direct (and indirect) competitors?

How To Find It

The company mission is almost always a simple find. Take a look around the website with an eye toward an “About” section. These typically include not only a plain statement of their company’s core values and what they wish to be, they also tend to feature biographical information that will let you know why they felt the need to start the company in the first place.

The primary product can typically be discerned via similar methods. Just look around their online presence to see what it is they are selling. Read over the copy to try and get an idea of who they are talking to if their customers aren’t immediately apparent.

Competitors can be found via a quirk of Google. Type in the name of the company followed by “vs.” and the search will auto-populate with companies that people are considering as an alternative to whatever Company X is offering.

For a deeper dive, search the news for stories about the company to see if it’s fulfilling its core mission or has made any big moves in the recent past. Beyond that, scanning the company’s profile on Crunchbase can give you crucial info about who is supporting the company and who works within it.

How To Use It

Try and incorporate your knowledge of the company into the discussion at an interview. Mention that you saw their most recent positive news in an answer. Ask what they’re doing to fight Competitor Y and offer a few ways that you could join in that scuffle. Talk about the ways that you find their product or mission useful.

If you appear to be engaged with the company, recruiters can’t help but notice.

Of course, you can’t wow a recruiter if you never get in the room with them. That’s where we come in. We can optimize your resume to guarantee that it catches the eye of potential employer and automatically send it to jobs matching your skill set. For just $10, we guarantee that you’ll get your shot to knock off some HR socks.

The Three Job Interview Questions You Should Have Down Pat

Preparing your resume for a new job is difficult, but not impossible. You have the benefit of time — no one is going to burst into the room and demand to look at your CV before you send it — and the comfort of multiple edits to help you feel alright about the part of your history you’re showing to the world.

Interviews are an entirely different beast. You only get one shot one opportunity to look great and whether or not you do is entirely based on your ability to improvise around an interviewer’s pet questions.

Here’s a sampling of a few odd questions I’ve personally been asked:

  • Can you fold a fitted sheet?
  • How do you feel about your name?
  • What kind of animal would you want to reincarnate as?
  • Thoughts on karaoke?
  • (In a windowless room) Which way is north?

These questions are meant to startle, to get you thinking creatively or to get a sense of your priorities without asking about them directly. And because they are so rare they can be hard to prepare for, leading to the dreaded moment of actually having to sit and think about your words before you say them (a big no-no in the job hunting world and nowhere else).

But you can smooth over any potential speed bumps by preparing yourself with a few solid answers to questions you know are going to be asked. I know we just said that interviewers are trying to rattle you with let-field queries, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few questions that almost every recruiter is going to ask.

Tell Me About Yourself

This is the opener for 99% of interviews for obvious reasons. It’s a good, open-ended way to get started talking about the subject at hand, allowing multiple jumping-off points for the interviewer to move forward with the conversation. Or, at least, it will if you don’t completely bungle it.

Knowing that this question is coming is half the battle, as a long-forgotten war hero said. And since you can almost guarantee that this question will kick off any interview, there’s no excuse for flubbing it.

The interviewer wants you to recap your experience in your own words, hopefully leading up to the point that you’re clearly qualified for this gig and ending in an explanation of why you decided to apply.

Job Search Tip: Write out your response, going through your history chronologically and run through it a few times until it feels natural.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This question is truly tough. It flies in the face of a lifetime of home training, asking you to talk bluntly about things you’re good at. It’s akin to straight-up bragging, but within limits.

Both knowing how to brag on yourself and knowing when to stop are difficult, but that can be fixed if you think of it in terms of resume bullet points. What they want to hear is your most relevant skill backed by an example of you using that skill in the past. “I’m really good at X and I got that way doing Y.” Keep this formulation in mind when practicing for your next interview.

Weaknesses can be even trickier. You don’t want to share anything that might disqualify you, but you don’t want to give a non-answer that will leave the interviewer rolling their eyes. Be honest here and share something that you have struggled with in the past, but follow that up with an explanation of the steps you took or are taking to change that. They want to know that you’re self-aware and adaptable.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is a great one for all the dungeon masters out there, because it’s plotting out a bit of a fantasy. Imagine a magical land where job security is assured and you’ve found a job you like doing. Might as well throw in some orcs at that point, right?

What the interviewer wants to hear from you here is how you plan to grow at the company. What do you see yourself doing when you outgrow the position they have offered? What skills will you have honed by that time? And what passions will the job be fulfilling for you? You need to show that there’s something about the job that interests you and that you’ll be willing to grab that part of the gig and run with it.

Job Search Tip: Plot out several trajectories based on the requirements of the job at hand and try and use the one that you feel will resonate the best with the interviewer. If you need to know which skills they are looking for, look out for the points where they ask follow-up questions.

To even get to these questions, though, you have to leap some pretty big hurdles. That’s where we can help. Allow us to optimize your resume and automate your job search to ensure that you’re sweating over interview questions quicker. For just $10, we guarantee that we can land you the interviews you’ve been after.