“I’d like you to write me a kind of generic resume so I can apply for a variety of jobs.” I hear this request at least once a week, which means the job seeker is stuck listening to me rant for 15 minutes about why a generic resume is a complete and total waste of your money.
And what do these folks mean by “a generic resume?” Are they asking me to write about their careers in generic terms? Should the resume itself be generic? The word “generic,” after all, means “non-specific.” Why do people think that non-specificity is the way to attract employers?
Hint: it’s not.
Let’s say this generic person has a job. If someone at the company asked him or her, “so, what do you do?” would the answer be, “nothing in particular?”
Listen, I understand what job seekers are getting at. They want to be considered for a number of positions, so they don’t want their resume to commit them to a narrow definition of what they do. Maybe they do lots of different things – maybe they are in a marketing role, but they also do some IT (and they wouldn’t mind being more involved in IT in their next job), or maybe they have some finance chops, so maybe a generic resume – one that doesn’t focus on the fact that their current job is in marketing sounds like a reasonable strategy.
Hint: it’s not.
Here’s a new mantra I want you to repeat as you consider your resume: “I am the sum total of all my experiences. I am who I am; I am a unique entity.”
Your resume needs to briefly tell your story. Think about Christina – she’s an attorney with a small private practice, so she does a little of everything. Hearing from a friend that her county’s Juvenile Court is looking for a magistrate judge, she wanted her resume re-written to focus primarily on her domestic law experience. “But,” she mused, “if I’m not hired for that job, there are some other opportunities in other fields of law that I’d want to apply for, so I think the best bet is to have a generic resume, and then I can focus the cover letter for specific jobs.”
I sighed. “What if no one reads your cover letter?” I pointed out. “The odds of that happening are very high. And then your generic resume doesn’t point to anything in particular.”
“Well,” Christina demanded, “what would you do?”
The approach I recommended isn’t too radical. I wrote Christina’s resume as a value proposition that clearly explained that as a solo practitioner, she is experienced with myriad legal issues, which I detailed in her Summary of Qualifications. Then I featured several specific cases she’d won that demonstrated how good she is with each of those issues.
When job seekers get specific about what they do, rather than try to sound generic, they attract the attention of recruiters and employers because the very specificity tells them that the candidate has been successful at what they claim to do.
So, please, don’t pay me or any other resume writer to write a generic resume. Be specific, and sell yourself. This article features another career expert explaining why generic resumes are bad.
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