The Case for Not Tweaking Your Resume

By Julie Rains on 30 June 2007 (Updated 19 August 2007) 7 comments
Photo: Ron and Nancy

You've written, edited, and polished your resume. It's taken hours, days, or even weeks and now you're ready to start distributing the resume to potential employers. You've also read that you should customize your resume for each position. Hopefully, you've already decided on a next-step focus, defining the field, position type, and working environment that will suit your education, skill sets, and personality. You know, for example, that you want to work in outside sales for an industry leader; handle sourcing for an electronics company; manage a manufacturing plant for a consumer products company; or direct distribution for a regional retailer. Should you still have to spend time analyzing job postings and tweaking your resume for every single job that piques your interest?

Relax. Here's the rationale for not tweaking your resume to match every opening:

1) It's time-consuming. You may want to allocate your resume-editing time to networking, researching companies, preparing for interviews, and writing thank-you notes.

2) Keeping track of numerous resumes is confusing and you may not be able to recall which version you sent to which employer. Sure, you can use a file-naming convention that matches the customized resume with its corresponding position but, after a while, you can create just so many versions of the same information and V5.6 will be very similar to V7.0. You could design a spreadsheet that indicates which employer got which resume but this process is time-consuming (see #1).

3) Resumes that match job postings too closely may seem fishy. Some hiring managers, most likely company owners who are hiring talent over specialized skill sets, may consider candidates with too-customized resumes as lacking credibility.

4) The posting may not be comprehensive. A major project or position accountability from your past that seems irrelevant may be useful for the target position and differentiate you from the competition.

5) Your employer of choice may have a different, better, not-yet-posted position that more closely matches your credentials and career desires.

Save your customization for your letter and your energy for the job search.

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Guest's picture
Erica

I customize my resume pretty heavily when I'm sending it out for a killer job that I really -must- have. That said, I'm not doing the thing a couple of my friends do (where they read the job advertisement or application for requirements and make sure to include keywords that match) - I'm researching the business I might be working for and making sure that both my talent and skills that could be relevant to positions above those I'm applying for are well represented. Particularly in fields like mine (physics) that are highly technical and there's a low density of "manager"-types, people like to work with people who are conversant at a level similar to their own. If I can demonstrate that I'll be able to work effectively with others in my position but also with those above, it's that much more likely that I'll be hired.

At the very least, it's worked well for me. :)

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Barbara

Should be customized heavily, and I think this is where time would be well spent. When I was job hunting, I used the same resume, with a fairly generic objective for my field, and made sure that there were key words in my skills listing. But I've learned that the more important of the two can be your cover letter. If it's not written as well as it could, then some employers won't even look at your resume. And I find this part a hard line to walk. How professional do you have to be? Or how conversational to make you seem like you would be easy to get along with and likeable? So while I think resumés are important, I think the right cover letter targeting the employer/company is vital.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks Erica for your insight into doing serious research about a prospective company. Now that you mention that, I know someone who used vault.com to do research on company cultures and their hiring processes with good success.

And thanks Barbara for reinforcing what I was saying about letters (in my last paragraph, I was thinking mainly of cover letters but also thank you letters), which can often make a big difference in how you are viewed by a company.  

 

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Ben

I always customize a one sentence objective at the top of my resume. I figure this is the first thing the HR person or hiring manager reads so it has to speak to the job requirements and show that hiring me is the solution to their needs.

Skills, experience, and education are pretty standard on every resume so I don't tweak them unless I see an opportunity.

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jos

i customize sometimes, and slightly... but not for ever thing i apply to and or for every position, it is really way to time consuming and difficult to track

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Jill Walser

For some folks I work with, the desire to constantly tweak their resume for each new job posting has become a compulsive habit. Somehow, they think, if they just tweaked this word or added that phrase, they'll get the hiring managers attention. This is crazy making behavior and should be stopped! The "guts" of a solid resume should be suitable for nearly every job one is qualified for in a particular industry. The only two things that should ever change (in my opinion) is the profile section (and then only slightly), and the file name.

One must use keywords effectively. While this should be done throughout the resume (spelling out database administrator AND using the acronym DBA, for example), using the exact job title as in the job posting is especially useful - for both you and the recruiter.

I have dozens of resumes in my inbox at work right this minute (I'm a corporate recruiter as well as a resume writer) that are titled "Resume". The applicants haven't included a personalized objective either, often giving me no idea what to do with it. Non-specific resumes with unclear objectives do NOT get rushed to the hiring manager. As a recruiter, I want to know if the applicant meant to apply for the specific job I posted. I may have ten different IT jobs open. If you say you want a job in technology and don't list the job name, it will take me longer to figure out what to do with it - I may just click on the next one.

On the other hand, waiting for the perfect job to open up with your dream company is not a good approach either. If you love the company and are fishing for an opportunity, show evidence of WHY you want to work there and be clear about the type of job you'll accept. Then the recruiter can be sure your resume makes it into the right hands. Initiative and interest IS rewarded, but be clear about what you want.

Finally, file names. It just takes a second to modify them and the recruiter will be eternally grateful. For each position, do a "save as" and save your resume document as your name, the job name, and the company name (abbreviate if it gets too long). This is to help both you and the recruiter keep track of who you are, what you applied for and where. The document file name will be something like JillWalser-Recruiter-MS.doc. Recruiters with lots of jobs open are busy people, we need all the help we can get to keep applicants straight. For the applicant, keeping sent resumes in a folder with file names indicating the company and job title is a useful way of organizing your job search. Forget when you sent it? Check the Properties section.

Jill Walser
I got the job!
http://www.igotthejob.us

Guest's picture
lazyboy

I never customize my resume. Too much effort. I prefer to wow them at the interview.