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Target Your Resume

Generic Resumes Don’t Work Well

As a resume writer and HR professional, not targeting your resume is one of the number one mistakes I see often made.  When I say targeting, I mean tailoring your resume to speak to the employers requirements.  A well-written resume is one that at a glance speaks to the job requirements, and the ideal candidate.  Despite this, I see many resumes that contain tons of information that has absolutely nothing to do with the job or what the employers looking for.

Tossing Your Name In the Hat

When a hiring manager comes across an resume that is not tailored, the impression is that the candidate is not serious about the opportunity.  A good resume writer creates the impression that the candidate is focused in their career.  Hiring managers can spot when the applicant took the old, “throw your name in the hat” approach.

It takes a lot more work to tailor and to customize your resume to the specific job requirements, but the effort can be well worth it.  It could mean the difference between landing your dream job for getting bypassed.  I know it’s a lot less effort to write a generic resume, and then far them out. But let me tell you something when you take this approach, it’s obvious that it does not impress.

Doesn’t Have to Be Pulling Teeth

While it looks labor-intensive to customize your resume for each job application, it doesn’t have to be.  Even small changes to customize can make a huge difference to your chances of getting a job interview.  And it doesn’t matter what level or what industry you’re in, resume tailoring can help.  We have worked with entry-level management to CFOs, and the concept still holds.  Even for those who are just entering the workforce need to customize their resume speak to the job requirements.  By doing so, you will be communicating to the employer that you are serious about the job application, and that you are the person that they need to call in for an interview.

To illustrate, let me give you an example that at even the lowest level tailoring makes a difference.  My niece, is looking for a summer job in retail.  She went malls and shopping centers, and completed job applications and handed to resume out.  A few weeks had gone by and she did not get any calls.  When I looked at her resume, it was a classic situation of a resume that was not tailored and did not sell all of her wonderful qualities.

I’m not just saying this because I’m a proud uncle, but she really is an outstanding young person.  She’s the oldest of three sisters entering grade 10 and she’s very bright.  She’s an honor roll student who achieved all A’s except for one B on her report card.  She’s on various sports teams and is pretty good at all of them.  Most importantly, she competes with wonderful sportsmanship (while I can take credit for her jump shot, unfortunately, I cannot take credit for the sportsmanship award).  She won an award for best school citizen in elementary school.  And when she is not studying at practice she volunteers with veterans and seniors.  Okay, my point is not to brag about her accomplishments (well, just a bit) but my point is to show you an excellent candidate who got bypassed because of a poor resume.  I see this all the time, whether or hiring for an Project manager, a programmer, or a customer service manager – people undersell themselves with a poor resume.

So how did our resume writer help this talented young job seeker, my niece, who was entering the workforce?  Her competition was other high school students students, her own age with no experience.  She also competed with older students, who perhaps has had their first job.  So in a labor pool that appears homogeneous, with an applicant that has no work experience, what could she do with her resume to help her stand out from the crowd?

In other words, how can I customize her resume to make it unique, to make it stand out from the crowd, and get her an interview?

Although covering the entire resume, let me demonstrate how making even a small change to tailor your resume to make a difference.  I inserted a resume summary or profile as the first paragraph on the first page and highlighted her achievements.  Here’s how it looked before and after:

Before:  The first half of the first page


2006-2008    Willow Secondary School·

  • Grade 9 Completion: June 2008·
  • Straight A Student·
  • Principal’s Honour Roll: 2007 and 2008·
  • Work Habits Honour Roll: 2007 and 2008.


2007 – Current:             ABC Pizza, Kingsway, Burnaby BC·

  • Cashier·
  • Food preparation·
  • Clean up·
  • Provide outstanding customer service.

After:  The first half of the first page


Responsible and hardworking student with work experience in hospitality.  Experience includes cashier, food preparation and customer service.  Proven ability to learn quickly, take direction, work efficiently in a fast-paced environment.  Customer service focused, energetic, good communicator, flexible to work mall hours, enjoys working in team environment, neat and punctual.

“Her maturity, her enthusiasm to learn, her ability to get along well with others and work independently are all qualities that I expect from an older student.  Emily is clearly the type of student that in everything that she tries.”

Jane Smith, High School Teacher, Willow Secondary

Education and Achievements

  • Willow Secondary School – Currently completing Grade 9.
  • Girls Volleyball Team City Finalist (some team sport).
  • Outstanding School Citizen Award 2003/2004 – Little River Elementary School.
  • Achieved all A’s on report card.
  • Principal’s Honour Roll and Work Habits Honor Roll: 2007 and 2008.

So what I did there was simply paint a picture of a young and talented student, who is hardworking and a high achiever.  Someone who does well at whatever she tries not for extrinsic reasons for is internally motivated.  But even making small changes like flexible to work mall hours, the resume now speaks to her target job of retail mall position.

What I showed you, the principles apply whether you are a CFO or looking for your first retail mall job.  Create a resume as unique as you and speak to the job and employer’s requirements and you will have success more times than not.

Until next post, we wish you much luck and success with your career.