5 rules for defining a career objective
in your CV

After writing up the first paragraph of your CV – which should include your name, your address, your telephone number and your email – the next paragraph should get right to the point by stating your career objective. This will be the first thing a recruiter reads, and will frame your candidacy in the eyes of the reader.

Often, jobseekers will bury their career objective in their CV, mistakenly assuming it is an unnecessary formality. Even worse, some CVs omit a career objective entirely! It’s always a good idea to include a career objective on your CV because it allows the recruiter to quickly determine what position you’re applying for without having to do a detailed evaluation of your CV. (Of course, you should also include the title of the position you’re applying for in the subject line of the email or the body of the application form that you send to the employer.)

A recruiter may find themselves looking at your CV and wondering what position you’ve applied for – a moment of confusion that could lead to your candidacy being passed over.

Here are five tips on how to write a strong career objective.

  1. Omit needless words

Your career objective must be inviting and enjoyable to read, and should be a maximum of three or four sentences long.

Everything at the beginning of your CV must adhere to the strictest standards of quality and brevity – this is your opportunity to make a great first impression! It’s a good idea to discard any long preambles that don’t speak to the point of your candidacy.

For example, a phrase like: “I’m applying for this position because I am currently looking for a professional opportunity with an organization that is active in a variety of sectors…” says nothing to a recruiter. In fact they may be put off by a vague statement like this, and get the impression that you lack the ability to present ideas efficiently and concisely.

Also avoid stating the obvious. A phrase like: “I’m looking for a job that is interesting, and to work with a team in a respectful environment that aligns with my goals and values” is unnecessary because it states what pretty much everybody is looking for in a job. If you want to talk about your personal values, why not take the time to name them explicitly?

  1. Clearly state the position you’re applying for

Be very clear about the position you’re applying for, or at the very least, the kind of tasks you want to work on. Do you want to manage a team? Manage projects? Or take on a specialist role? If your stated objective is too broad, or you include too many different tasks, it won’t really meet the standard of a career objective.

If you’re not certain about what you want to do, or want to leave as many opportunities open as possible, you can always modify the career objective on your CV to align with the requirements of the position you’re applying for. That being said, if you write the exact tasks from a job description into your CV as your career objective, it’ll be obvious to the recruiter that you adapted your text to fit the advertised job.

  1. Indicate the desired context

This may include a sector of activity (counseling, IT, health care, etc.) or a type of business (small to medium sized business, large corporation, etc.) or the stage of a business’ growth (startup, growth stage, facing challenges in innovation, etc.)

You can also specify what type of work you’re looking for (night shift, four days per week, independent contract) or what region you want to work in (Montreal, Quebec City, Lanaudiere).

Some people also mention their career aspirations in their career objective, for example: “I’d like to develop an expertise in X in order to take on a management position in the future.”

This is an option worth considering since it demonstrates an ambitious personality, but you also make it clear that you don’t plan on staying in the same position for a long time. It’s uncertain how a recruiter will respond to this approach, so make sure you don’t project yourself into the step beyond the job you’re applying for too quickly.

  1. Be inspiring

If not crafted carefully, career objectives can come across as dull. For example, “I want to manage a team at a major corporation” gives the impression that you will arrive to work with little passion and only do what’s expected of you.

This same objective can be presented more dynamically by simply changing “manage a team” to “mobilize a team” – making the statement more punchy.

You can also clarify the intentions behind your actions and the way in which you plan to reach your objectives. Doing so provides insight into who you are: “I want to mobilize a team to reach higher performance goals, by taking a participation-driven approach to management.”

Avoid laying it on too thick, however: “I want to dynamically motivate a great group of people who are passionate to achieve some truly incredible results!” is a bit much.

  1. Remember that sometimes, your career objective can work against you

The purpose of including a career objective is to help a recruiter understand quickly whether or not you could be a fit for the position you applied for.

With this in mind, if you present too broad of a career objective, or are too vague in your goals, you risk indicating to the recruiter that you aren’t sure what it is you really want or that you’re just looking for any job at all. This could cause a recruiter to discard your CV.

Ultimately, if you are selected for an interview, it may be because your career objective distinguished you from the pack!

By Mathieu Guénette

Mathieu Guénette

Mathieu Guénette is a self-employed Guidance Counsellor with over 20 years of experience, as well as an author and a lecturer. He has worked with a diverse clientele (teenagers, adults, managers, job hunters). In 2017, he has simultaneously obtained the Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d'orientation du Québec’s Professional Award and the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés’ HR Book of the Year Award for his work Le candidat visceral. He provides services in Montreal, Lanaudière and remotely. His website is full of handy resources for you: Les chercheurs de sens.

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