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Should you target your resume for every job opening?

Is it a good idea to target your resume for each job you apply to?

Targeting a resume means editing or even rewriting it to better fit a specific job opening. Should you do this every time? The answer is: it depends.

Can you target the resume without errors, every time?

The first thing it depends on is whether you can rework the resume without introducing any errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, word repetition (e.g., “of of”), word omission, or formatting. Every single time. Or spend $10-15 dollars per page to hire a professional proofreader, every time.

It may actually be possible to target your resume without causing errors, especially if you’re only changing a few words. So go ahead, change your headline from “Learning & Development” to “Training & Development” to match the keyword used by the company. Just do it very, very carefully. A CareerBuilder study found that 58% of resumes contained spelling errors–and that’s only one type of error–while other studies have found that up to 79% of hiring managers consider such errors to be a deal-breaker.

Can you create multiple resume versions instead, and reuse them?

For many job seekers the best method is to keep several versions of your resume on hand. For example, you might have one version for sales manager positions and another for business development roles. You might split each of those into two versions, one emphasizing your startup experience and another focused on your experience in large companies, so that you have four versions in total. Doing this would minimize the need to do further targeting as you go along.

How much of your job search time are you spending tweaking your resume?

Ever get the feeling that applying to job openings online isn’t the best way to get a job? If so, your hunch is correct. Given that about three quarters of hires involve some sort of personal connection or referral, most job seekers would be better off spending most of their time developing such connections, for example through informational meetings.

Are you pursuing too wide a range of jobs?

If you’re spending many hours a week targeting resumes, is it because you’re applying to too many different types of jobs?

Beware of the “buckshot” approach. Recruiters and hiring managers want candidates who are passionately committed to a particular career path. If your resume versions are aimed at entirely different occupations, what will you focus on in your LinkedIn profile? (And getting rid of your profile is definitely not a good answer.) What will you tell people in your networking conversations? Your search could become too complicated.

Consider narrowing down your goal to a specific job title, or at most, two or three closely related ones. You’ll have a more focused search–and probably a shorter one.

Target your resume well the first time.

Write your resume (or have it written) based on analysis of several job postings that are very typical of the position you want. Identify the keywords that represent the most important qualifications for the role, and include those. That way the resume is likely to work well for various job openings without major tweaking.

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