CV Writing, Part 2: the Objective and Skills Summary

Last week, we talked about how to layout your CV and what to include in it. Today, I’d like to talk about writing the Objective and Summary.

CV is short for curriculum vitae, which literally means “the course of my life.”  It’s a story.  The Objective introduces the main character (you) and the Summary tells you what the story is about.  It makes the reader want to find out more.

If you are going to post your CV to job websites like Indeed or Monster, you can write an Objective and Summary based on skills generally required for the position you are seeking.

But, if you are responding to an advert or job posting, you should write the Objective and Summary based on that specific job description.

Let’s break these down.

The Objective

Without a specific job ad

 If you are posting your CV on a job board like Indeed or Monster, you have to tell the reader three things:

  1. What you do
  2. Your level of experience
  3. What you are you looking for

Now, let’s put that together.   Here are a few examples.

  • I am an experienced Events Manager looking for a full-time position within the pharmaceutical industry.
  • I am a new graduate with a degree in Events Management looking for an entry-level position in the pharmaceutical industry.

The examples above are pretty straightforward.  However, if you are trying to change careers, you might want to add a little more information

  • I am an experienced sale representative looking to use my recent experience managing large events to transition into a career in Corporate Events Management.

You have probably noticed that my way of writing an Objective runs contrary[1] to much of the advice online.  This is how one such website thinks you should write your Objective:

A forward thinking and much experienced administrator, possessing the required drive and ambition to succeed. Having a broad knowledge of organizing and supporting the required daily activities in a busy office environment. Flexible with strong team-working skills, as well as being able to able to work individually on projects. Currently involved in a wide variety of tasks in areas such as admissions, reception work and also general office duties. Presently looking for a suitable administrators position with a reputable academic organization.

I don’t like this example at all.  Remember, a recruiter will spend less than a minute scanning your CV to see if they should look at it any further.  The above example has too many words.

Instead, I would prefer to see something like this:

I am an experienced academic administrator with a wide range of skills to keep a busy office organized.  I am looking for a full-time position within a university setting.

So, why do I think the shorter one is better?

  • The first one didn’t specifically say that he/she was an academic administrator. I only figured it out when I saw the word “admissions,” which is a department within a university.  Being an administrator at a university is very different from one working in the corporate world – so it’s important to make it clear that’s what they do.
  • He/she also uses the adjectives driven and ambitious. Those are words I don’t usually associate with an administrative position, particularly at a university.  So, the words mean nothing.
  • He/she also describes themselves as flexible, saying they can work in teams and alone. Guess what?  Everyone says that.
  • Finally, he/she says they are looking for a position within a reputable[2] academic organisation. Is he/she saying that some academic organisations aren’t reputable?  It doesn’t give a very good first impression.

I guess what I’m saying is: keep it short and simple.  All the rest is noise.

Writing an Objective for a specific job

When writing your Objective for a specific job posting, use words similar to the ones in the ad.

For example, here is a job ad I found online:  a luxury fashion house is looking for a Visual Merchandiser for their store in Frankfurt.  Some of the adjectives they use in the ad to describe their ideal candidate are strong, creative, and driven.

In this case, your Objective might sound like this:

I am an ambitious, creative visual merchandiser with experience in luxury brands looking for a full-time position in Frankfurt.

Again, this introduces who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for – and that you match their description of the perfect person.

Now that we have your Objective written, let’s move to the Summary section.

Summary of skills

The Summary shows the reader that you can do what they need you to do.  If you don’t have a specific ad, highlight the skills needed for a typical position in your field.  Look through the job ads online to see what employers are looking for.  For example, for the university administrator posting his/her CV online, the skills section might look like this:

  • Experience in reception, team administration, and admissions
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, Blackboard, and database management
  • Calendar management for entire teams
  • Excellent telephone and customer service skills

If you do have a job description, start by looking at their key requirements.   If we go back to the ad for the Visual Merchandiser, they are looking for:

  • 2-3 years of experience in a similar role
  • A creative person who is ambitious and driven
  • Someone who can communicate key ideas across all levels of the business
  • Must know Microsoft Office; Photoshop would be a plus.
  • Fluent in English; any other languages would be a plus

Using these requirements, your skills section could read:

  • 5+ years visual merchandising experience
  • Excellent communicator who is driven to see the company succeed
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, Illustrator, and Photoshop
  • Languages: English (C1), Spanish (native speaker), and German (B2)

This pulls the reader in.  They know that you could be what they are looking for.  It makes them want to continue into the Professional Experience section of your CV.  This is where you expand on what you’ve written in the Summary section to show them that you are the perfect candidate.

And we will discuss the Professional Experience section of your CV in more detail next week. 🙂

Do you need help getting your CV together?  If so, you are in luck as I now offer CV review and interview help in English. If you’re interested, leave me a message on my website. I’d be happy to speak to you about it. Also, feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

 As always, have a great week and stay safe wherever you are!


[1] Runs contrary to (v):  disagrees with

[2] Reputable (adj): respected and trusted by most people, having a good reputation