Targeted Resumes – To Tweak or Not to Tweak

The following article from had a good discussion on the advantages and pitfalls of customizing your resume for each job you apply for. Ultimately you should still customize each resume to some extent, but be aware of the considerations mentioned below:


Should you create a special “targeted” version of your resume for each job? The answer is: it depends.

Pros and Cons of Targeting

The advantage of targeting your resume is obvious: it can help an employer see that you’re a great “fit” for their open position. For example, if your resume highlights your experience in the healthcare field, but the position you’re applying for is in high tech, you could edit out some of the healthcare references and add some information more relevant to tech. With these changes, the employer is more likely to see you being qualified for, and interested in, a job in their company.

One disadvantage, or cost, is that every time you edit your resume you run the risk of introducing errors. Most people overestimate their own writing and proofreading skills. Ask any editor; they know that even professional journalists’ and authors’ writing needs a lot of correcting. Inaccuracy with spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or words that sound similar but aren’t – these are errors that can knock a resume right out of the running. You cannot depend on the spelling and grammar checker in your word processing software to catch all errors. You may also need to ask for help from a friend – you know, the one who always got A’s in English and corrects your grammar all the time – or hire a professional resume writer or editor.

Another cost to consider is the time you’re spending targeting your resume again and again – time that you could be spending on other job search activities, like networking. Research shows that about three-quarters of jobs are obtained by someone who was known to the employer already: someone they had personally met, or whom they knew by reputation or referral. Most job seekers would increase their odds of success by spending more time networking and making themselves known to potential employers, and less time responding to online job postings.

As you add up the pro’s and con’s to make your own decision about targeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have exceptional editing/proofreading skills? (If you got A’s in English, this may be true.) If not, how will I ensure my targeted resumes are error-free?
  • Am I just changing a word or two, or doing a more challenging revision?
  • Should I have a revised version professionally prepared instead of just adjusting it on my own?
  • Is this change really necessary, or am I just endlessly tinkering with the resume because I don’t feel confident with it?
  • If I am drastically revising my resume on multiple occasions, is it possible my career goal is unclear, and that I’m spreading my job search too thin?

A Word about Multiple Resumes

It’s fine to have two or three different versions of your resume. For example, if you would be equally happy being an individual contributor such as an engineer, or being a manager of others doing that work, then it might be a good idea to have two slightly different resumes. But if you have five substantially different resumes, you may need to clarify your job objective. Without a clear goal it will be hard to focus your job search efforts, and you won’t be putting out a consistent message about yourself when you network.

It’s an Art, Not a Science

A simple answer like “always target your resume” or “never target your resume” might sound reassuring – but job search is an art, not a science. The pointers above can help you decide what role targeted resumes will play in your own job search, what you can do on your own, and when you might want to consider working with a professional resume writing service.

For more info on resume writing, visit our resume writing tips and resume examples.   Or get started using a free online resume builder.

Article by Thea Kelley

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