Journal journeys: Day 18, Objecting to objectives

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Objective: To write an informative and perhaps somewhat humorous blog entry for the Sceptical Chymist about ‘Objective’ statements that appear at the top of CVs and resumes – without sounding like I’m ranting too much.

As I discussed last week, the habit of including on your CV the fact that you have a driving licence seems a little redundant for certain jobs – such as scientific editors. Sure, if you’re applying to become the next Lewis Hamilton, however, go right ahead, you may even want to put it near the top of your CV – and in bold.

Another observation I would now like to make is that, depending upon the circumstances of your job search, putting an objective statement at the top of your CV could be, for want of a better word, pointless.

First however, here are the situations in which an objective statement is a good and possibly useful feature: (1) you are posting your CV to an online careers site where it may be viewed by all manner of different potential employers, or (2) you are attending a career fair and handing out your CV to a number of different, but I assume related, companies. In these cases, having a generic objective statement that tells people what you are looking for is a good thing, i.e., something along the lines of, ‘…to obtain an R&D position in the pharmaceutical industry that…’.

Now, let’s consider the job applicant who is applying for a specific job – such as that of an associate editor at Nature Chemistry for example. I would assume that because the candidate is applying for that particular job, their objective would be, ‘to obtain a position as an associate editor of Nature Chemistry’. Now, if you ask me, putting that at the top of your CV is pointless, because I assume that if you didn’t want the job, you wouldn’t have applied. It could be argued that this enables the candidate to succinctly sum up their career aspirations – but I think the cover letter is the most appropriate place for that.

The other option is that an applicant sends in a standard CV that has an objective that is not even closely related to the job they’re applying for – such as mentioning something about R&D when applying for an editing job for example. This, to me at least, suggests a lack of attention to detail and hints that the application is somewhat speculative in nature.

So, the best you can hope for by including an objective statement on your CV when applying for a specific job, is that you’ve stated the obvious. The worst, is that the statement bears no relation to the job in question – which doesn’t look good.

In summary, I hope that my blog post meets with your approval and I will follow up with you in a couple of weeks to discuss it with you further.*

Yours sincerely


*Every careers-related seminar I went to in the US told me to include a sentence like this at the end of my cover letter, but it just seems a little too earnest to me. If a company really wants to talk to you about your application, trust me, they’ll be in touch…

**I feel I should add a similar disclaimer to that I put in the driving licence post, in that no one will be denied — or indeed selected for — an interview for Nature Chemistry based on whether an objective statement was included on their CV or not.

Stuart Cantrill (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)

Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature