There are two job search related topics on which people are divided – vehemently so: the demise of cover letters and whether or not resumes should be tweaked for every job you apply to. Back in 2016, I wrote about what I consider to be the silliness of tailoring the resume, so I re-visited the post to see if it is still relevant. I think it is, and you should not tweak your resume. But since there’s a ton of advice out there that insists you’re a fool not to tweak your resume, I’m going to analyze the arguments for doing so.
Natalie Severt, the resume expert on the site Zety, says: “You need to tailor your resume to every job description, and you need to know how to use the right resume keywords.” Her contention is based on the fact that ATS software scans resumes looking for matching keywords, so you should have a version of your resume that contains the identical keywords as what you saw in the job description.
Here are the flaws in this approach. For one, ATS software has gotten better at recognizing keyword synonyms. But relying on the ATS as your only strategy when applying for jobs lowers your chances of your resume being read; many perfectly qualified resumes slip through the ATS. A much better strategy is to leverage your LinkedIn network by asking 2nd degree connections to forward your resume to the hiring manager.
In their otherwise fabulous book, Comeback Careers, Mika Brzezinski and Ginny Brzezinski, are adamant that “your resume….should be tweaked for each job you apply for – really.” They quote an unnamed expert’s rationale that the resume “needs to show your value and fit for that specific job.” Okay, but your value isn’t something tweakable. What needs to be tailored is your list of jobs you’re applying to. If you apply to jobs for which you are a great fit, there’s nothing to tweak.
On Monster.com, I saw this advice, “Before responding to a job posting, review the job description to see what credentials are important.” Whoa. So long as your credentials relate to your field, they are all important. If you have outdated or irrelevant credentials, they don’t belong on your resume. Period.
A few of my clients believe that shuffling bullets around is a good tweaking technique. Their theory is that customizing their resume to feature the bullets most important each job will get them noticed. I disagree. If you’ve done impressive things, employers will respond.
So don’t make yourself crazy by tweaking your resume for each job. Not only will you wind up with an unwieldy library of variations on the same theme, but you run the risk – when a recruiter calls unexpectedly – of not knowing which version you sent.
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