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Resumes: The Value of Customization

As a recruiter, there is one word that I use in every single conversation with someone looking for resume advice:


If you send a company a generic resume with a generic cover letter, a few things can potentially be interpreted by this…

  • You don’t care about working for OUR company. If you did, you wouldn’t start your cover letter out with “Dear Employer” or similar, making no reference of why you want to work for us in particular (or just as bad, talking about how we’ll benefit You rather than how you think you could contribute to Us).  If someone called you Employee every day instead of by your name, you probably wouldn’t feel especially valued…

  • You’re not qualified.   If you were, you would make sure your resume showed your qualifications clearly matching to how they match the position you’re applying for, and, hopefully, would also summarize this in your cover letter.  

  • You’re lazy, inattentive to detail &/or can’t follow instructions.   If you weren’t, you’d follow the instructions on the job posting when there are specific questions they want answered. You’d fill out all of the requested areas on an application.

  • You don’t really care if you get the job. If you did, you’d take the time.  Period.

So, yes this could sound snarky to some.  But here’s the deal:  a lot of folks are out there looking for jobs.  And recruiters are incredibly busy.

You don’t stand out with fancy fonts, or by talking about your winning personality, or putting a sales “pitch” in your cover letter.

You don’t stand out by talking about what we can do for your career, or how lucky you think we’d be to have you, or by telling us you are the absolute best.

You stand out by clearly telling us why you want to work for US, that you know a bit about us, that you want to help US be successful.

You stand out by ensuring the recruiter and hiring manager can easily scan through your resume and see that you have the skills we’ve said we’re looking for, and summarize this in your cover letter as well.

You stand out by telling your story truthfully, yet emphasizing your experience and skills we are looking for, and de-emphasizing (not omitting) the areas that are not relevant.

Now this doesn’t mean you need twenty-five resume templates.  Keep two or three versions max – by industry, by job type, or by job level, perhaps – and you should be able to easily customize for that particular employer and position.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Share ’em.  Ask ’em.


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