Why a one-size-fits-all resume misses the mark

In 2009, I faced my own career transition when my company eliminated my position during a corporate restructuring. My now former company did the honorable thing and hired an outplacement service to assist me (the one takeaway I still remember: employers do not like facial hair. Goodbye, goatee!).

George Clooney could probably get away with facial hair. Not me.

George Clooney could probably get away with a beard.

A week later, I received a box in the mail with 200 finished resumes on nice paper.

I immediately did two things that turned out to be the among the smartest decisions during my career search:

  • I had the outplacement service send me an editable copy of my resume, and
  • I turned the 200 copies into scratch paper.

Quite simply, job seekers who send out the same resume to every employer are doing it wrong.

Successful job seekers cannot have a one-size-fits-all resume, because really, it is one-size-fits-none.

Employers receive, on average, 250 applications/resumes for every open position; many receive two or three times this. They will spend, at most, seven seconds with each resume before deciding to either read further or discard.

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Additionally, two employers in the same industry, hiring for the same type of position, will have different needs.

All this together means that the successful applicant:

  1. is the one who meets and exceeds the needs of the particular employer as specified by that employer, and
  2. who also speaks the employer’s language, and
  3. who conveys their qualifications in the top-third of the first page.

I recommend, instead of an Objective, to have a section for Key Qualifications. Tell the employer why you are qualified, matching their words as much as possible. The Work History section of your resume then supports the Key Qualifications.

For example, both Employer A and Employer B require three years’ experience. The successful applicant will have a bullet point under Key Qualifications that explains she has four years’ experience; the Work History section will show that she has two years with Company X and two years with Company Y.

Employer A also emphasizes the Customer Experience. The successful job seeker will change the “customer service” references on her resume to “customer experience” for Employer A.

Employer B talks about Loss Prevention where Employer A was silent. The successful applicant will add a bullet point under Key Qualifications to explain how he learned to rack merchandise in a way to aid Loss Prevention (he might want to include this in the resume for Employer A, but must include this for Employer B).

Therefore, the successful job seeker will have a separate resume for each position with each company for which they are submitting resumes.

This does not mean that you have to start with a blank page every time; however, the successful job seeker is the one who puts in the effort.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedInand Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!


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