Custom Resume, or Generic?

In my last career article, I talked about balancing the truth and salesmanship.  I wanted to try to explain how you can be honest, and at the same time make the case that you should be the one a hiring manager chooses to hire.  Today, I’d like to go back a bit further in the hiring process.

The Resume.

I’ve had great success in tailoring my resume for a specific job posting.  I believe the reason it works well for me is I’ve had a broad range of experiences, and many job postings are looking for a person with a specific skill set.  If I included all my skills, they may get the impression I am unfocused.  Or worse, they may consider my resume to be fake.

When I see a job posting I’m interested in, I pull it up in one window, and my resume in the other.  I look at the job posting, I look that the job description, and figure out what type of person they’re looking for.

Are they looking for a database administrator?

Are they looking for a database developer?

What are they looking for?  Once you’ve figured that out, you can look at your resume and see if there’s and skills you have listed on your resume that don’t apply in any way.  I’ve helped many people tailor a resume for a job and I’ve seen some interesting information to include on a resume.

On one resume for a database administrator role, someone included the types of laptops they had worked on.  You have to ask yourself, would the hiring manager need to know that in order to hire you?  If you can’t argue that they might want to know… remove it.

Next, I’ll look at the specific technologies they’re asking me to have.  They’ll usually mention specific versions of SQL Server, or specific technologies like SSIS, SSRS.  I Look through my  resume and see where I used those technologies.  Every where I can mention the specific version they’re looking for I make sure I mention it by name.

For example, if in my generic resume I have:

  • Developed a solution to move data from one database system to another.

And in the job posting mentions they want someone who has experience with SQL 2000 and 2005, I want to use those terms as much as possible.  In my previous example, I was migrating data from a SQL 2005 to a sql 2008 server.  As a result, I’ve gotten a better response by rewriting my resume to say:

  • Developed a SSIS solution to move data from SQL 2005 to SQL 2008.

By including the specifics in my bullet points, I don’t have to include a technology block at the top of my resume. You know the one I’m talking about, a table of all the technologies you’ve ever touched.  By including the technologies in-line, the hiring manager can see where you’ve used the technology, and they can see how you have the specific technologies that they’re looking for.

Now I’d like to make something completely clear.  I do not advocate including technologies you haven’t used and aren’t familiar with.  But if they are asking for a version you haven’t yet used, let’s say they want 2008R2, and you only have 2008.  Mention the fact you’ve mastered (or nearly mastered) 2008, and in the cover letter discuss the similarities between the version you know, and the version they want you to know.  This is the point where it goes back to salesmanship.

Tailoring your resume for the job can put you over the top.  It can help you by making it quicker for the hiring manager to read your resume.  It can give the hiring manager more useful information about you.  A well customized resume can mean the difference between getting an interview offer, and simply having your resume discarded.  Don’t let your resume stand in your way.  Make it work for you!

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