I’ll give you the bottom line right now: The perfect résumé or CV doesn’t exist. Sorry about that.
Why would this be?
Because your resume is the beginning of a conversation between you and another person. Sure, you might start most of your conversations with “hello,” but do you always say the same thing after that?
What you’re trying to do is to plant an image in someone’s brain about who you are and why they might be interested to talk to you. And you need to create that first impression in just seconds, so that they’ll bother reading further than the second paragraph.
Here’s the problem: Everybody has a different image of what they like. I’m not just talking about the job responsibilities – even more important are those less tangible character attributes such as:
- Takes initiative
- Creative thinker
I hope you get the sense that these are dependent on the particular job you’re applying for, the hiring company’s culture, and the specific people who are evaluating you. “Outgoing” might be critical in some jobs and companies, while that might be relatively unimportant elsewhere.
This sounds like an impossible task, doesn’t it? How on earth could you create a totally different and customized résumé for each person that might see it? And what happened to the idea that a résumé should be about accurately reflecting who you are, rather than just telling the reader what he or she wants to hear?
Fortunately, we don’t have to go that far. It would be impossible anyway, and potentially quite dishonest to represent yourself as a totally different person to each individual you talk to.
This is the compromise: You develop a “master résumé” which is perhaps twice as long as what you would show to anybody.
It contains a lot of phrases and descriptions that really do reflect who you are. The way to test that is to imagine yourself being asked to explain and given an example of any statement on the page, and you’re able to give an honest and useful response.
Then, when you apply for a particular job or approach a particular company, you select the statements which best create the image of what they’re looking for, and you prioritize what they want to hear about near the top of every list. You create the summary paragraph at the top which highlights how your skills could best be applied in that target situation.
And that’s it. Only spend an amount of time on it that’s justified by how bad you want that job relative to others you’re applying for.
In my experience and others I’ve coached, it’s not unusual to end up with 2 or 3 or 4 versions of the résumé that are targeted at particular job types or industries, and you may only end up writing one new sentence and moving a couple of bullet points around when you submit it for a particular job opening. It’s not like you have to do this from scratch every time.
But please, save yourself a copy of the version that you submitted for each job. You don’t want to be caught trying to answer questions about a version that you’re not looking at.
Carl Dierschow is a certified Small Fish Business Coach and author of the career management guide, Mondays Stink! 23 Secrets to Rediscover Delight and Fulfillment in Your Work. He is a career coach for those going through interesting transitions, and works with small business owners who seek to create amazing businesses. Find out more at www.Dierschow.com and www.SmallFish.us.