This Resume Is Just for You:
Target a Resume
© 2002 Gail Frank
In today's economy, workers have many different jobs and even different
careers in a lifetime. Therefore, job seekers are often confused about whether
to focus/target their resume or leave it to broadly cover all their experience
in the hope of appealing to many different employers.
Smart job seekers understand that effective resumes are actually job
proposals for a single job; they are not meant to cover multiple positions. The
secret is in changing your resume development focus from being the job seeker to
evaluating the résumé's ability to convince a single employer of the specific
reasons why you can and want to do that particular job.
The result of reading the resume next to the list of desired qualifications
should be that the reader concludes that the applicant is the PERFECT fit for
the job, not "well, it looks like they could do this." Take action now to target
your resume before sending it to prospective employers.
1. Companies Want to Hire an Expert Versus a Dabbler
If a company is going to shell out significant dollars in salary, benefits and
training of a new employee, they want to hire an expert in that position.
Whether the challenge is in growth of a business, or merging employees into
functional groups, or introducing new products into a mature market, the hiring
employer is seeking a specific answer to their staffing problem.
Focus on a specific job target is especially critical if you have bounced
around from company to company, job to job. You will be marked as a dabbler,
someone who doesn't have a clear goal or focus. Upon seeing your resume, the
obvious question an employer will ask is, "How long will this person stay with
US?" Your resume now has the doubly hard task of being laser-focused on the type
of work you are applying for in order to allay this employer's fear before it
becomes an issue.
2. You Need a Competitive Advantage Versus a Me Too Strategy
When composing a resume, create a mental picture of a desk piled high with
dozens or hundreds of resumes next to your resume. These resumes are of people
who also want this job and are as qualified as you. Keeping this image forefront
is critical to your success in creating a resume. It will force you to focus on
development of your Unique Proposition.
A Unique Proposition is part of developing a story about yourself: why YOU
are different from all the other people applying for the same job. Ask yourself
these questions: How am I different from these people? Is it your background,
education, training, specific experience or personal qualities? These elements
are the things you need to highlight and emphasize, not only in your resume and
cover letter, but also in interviews. Answer the question: What makes you
Erin, a Director of Product Marketing, had at first an unfocused resume that
simply listed her experience as a Director at well-known IT companies. Through
some intense questioning she was able to identify her Unique Proposition versus
other Directors of Product Marketing. First, she had an MBA from a reputable
school. Second, unlike many others, she had spent time in both product
management and product marketing, so she knew both sides of the fence. Lastly,
in a jargon-filled world, she excelled at translating technical terminology into
consumer-friendly language that enhanced the sales process and brought customers
into the franchise.
Erin used these unique elements to position her resume and cover letter so
that an employer looking for those unique skills could easily pick her resume
out of the pile of other Directors of Product Marketing, all of whom listed
essentially the same skills and types of experience. Erin's resume now shows
that she is different and that is her competitive advantage.
3. Companies Want To Hire People with Passion, Not Complacency
Having passion for your work makes the hiring professional's job an easy one.
Conveying passion can be construed as "I am the BEST at something and LOVE it!,
versus "Yes, I can do that well." It is a SHOUT versus a whisper. It is the
sharing of energy, excitement, knowledge, commitment and interest in a confident
way. You can be very quiet and still communicate passion; it is an attitude and
Francis, a bond market expert, secured an interview from a manager who told
him in their initial phone call that he loved the cover letter line about why
Francis wanted this job. It said, "…working for XX Company will combine my
passion for investing with…" That simple word, passion, was able to convey
Francis' love for what he did. The hiring manager picked up on it right away. If
you owned a company, wouldn't you want all your employees to have passion?
4. The Idea of "Open to Many Types of Positions" Translates into "So, You
Don't Know What You Want to Do?"
Lori, a manager from a payroll processing company who was recently laid off,
wanted a resume that left her options open while capturing her management
experience in the credit department (accounts receivable and collections), a
stint in marketing, and a few years in customer service. She had a slight
preference for customer service, "but really was O.K. with the other departments
too. I don't want to rule anything out."
Lori applied for many different jobs with her resume, including several as a
Customer Service Manager. Discouraged by the lack of interest, she got up the
courage to request some feedback from a manager at a company where she had
applied for one of the jobs. She was told that the person who was ultimately
hired sent in a resume and cover letter that presented them as a "Customer
Service Manager" and was very focused on their experience in customer service
issues and problem solving.
When Lori saw the winner's resume next to her own, a light bulb clicked in
her head. She went home and created two different resumes: one as a Customer
Service Manager, and one as a Credit & Collections Manager. Both shared her
multi-department experience, but each focused on making a case for extensive
experience in a field. In a period of several weeks she started getting
interviews for positions where she could directly contribute her expertise.
5. Companies Want Employees Who Are Focused and Decisive, Not Fuzzy
You are being hired to be decisive. How you manage your own career and goals is
an example of how you think and behave in business situations. The challenge of
business leadership is to make choices, cut through the clutter, and articulate
your rationale. It is not to stay open to all possibilities, be unclear about
the tradeoffs, or try to do too many things all at once.
The successful job seeker has a clear focus and can implement a plan to find
the right employer for them. They have made clear choices about strategy and
tactics. They are not tentative or vague about what they want to do. For
example, they clearly know whether or not their desired job involves directly
managing people. They don't say, "it doesn't matter." They can articulate
whether they a) ARE GOOD AT managing people and b) if they WANT to manage
people. They might want to manage people but know that they may not be very good
at it. Or, they may be an excellent manager but simply don't enjoy it. The point
is that they are clear on their preferences and abilities and can clearly state
them in the resume.
6. Companies Are Not Mind Readers; All Job Titles Do Not Cover the Same
In resume writing, vague phrases and terms are your enemy. In writing resumes,
many employees cannot even articulate their job responsibilities; never mind
what the result to the company is of doing those duties. The underlying
assumption many people make in error is that if you are a sales manager that the
reader will "know" what kinds of things you did. The reality is that a "Sale
Manager" job is not a concrete position; it differs based on the industry,
company size, and experience of the manager. It is the job seekers responsibly
to clearly explain that job and how the company benefited from the job seeker's
Being specific is also important when stating a profile, objective or title
on the resume and cover letter. Be as specific as you can. Everything that
follows in the resume should support the premise that you have the experience to
do the job you are applying for. Be as detailed as possible in both the
"industry/field" and in the "job/title."
For example, Lisa is looking for a new job and is creating her resume. She is
trying to decide how specific to be about the type of new position she wants:
Vague: Marketing/Sales professional
Specific: Product Marketing
Very targeted: Product Manager
Specific: Food Manufacturing
Very targeted: Business-to Business Snack Food Manufacturing
Obviously, stating she wants to be a "Product Manager for a
business-to-business snack food manufacturing company" is the most specific and
direct choice. Any employer she sends her resume to looking for that position
will know that she is a perfect fit. Conversely, stating her desire to work as a
"marketing/sales professional in a manufacturing company" is much broader and
may be too general versus other resumes the company will receive. Lisa will have
to weigh the pros and cons and develop a level of specificity that is right for
7. "But don't employers want a well-rounded employee who has lots of
experience in many areas?"
Well, yes and no. A well-rounded employee brings many benefits to a company.
Typically they are able to a) build strong relationships between different
departments, b) bring a broader perspective to problem solving and customer
needs, c) learn new things quickly.
When you look at it from an employer's perspective though, a company full of
well-rounded employees could have disadvantages: no one is a true expert in
their functional areas. If the leader of manufacturing has worked in human
resources, customer service and marketing they might not be expertly qualified
in manufacturing. The goal in targeting the resume is to show expertise in a
specific area while balancing and displaying other areas of knowledge that
enhance that expertise.
Copyright 2002 Frankly Speaking: Resumes that Work! All Rights Reserved
Gail Frank is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and
Certified Job Coach who offers outplacement workshops, resume writing and
interview training for small companies and individuals. She is a Harvard
graduate with a background in Brand Management and Marketing with Fortune 500
companies, and as a trainer and consultant for top outplacement firm Drake Beam
Morin. See her website: