Every now and then job seekers write to tell me that, although they read advice (including mine) about targeting their resumes, they still feel like it’s cheating. They think it misleads the employer into thinking that you’re a better match than you really are. Could it be seen as playing loose with the facts?
For anyone who doesn’t already know what a targeted resume is, it’s a resume where you emphasize your experiences and skills that best match the job you are applying for. But you really are telling the potential employer things you actually did and skills you actually have. That’s the key.
Are there times when a targeted resume is deceptive?
As I said, I’m all for targeting resumes. It’s a smart way to help the employer quickly see all the places where you fit the new job. But no way am I suggesting that you concoct a bogus resume page filled with things you did once (or maybe just thought about), making it sound like that’s all you did for your entire career.
It’s important to help the employer see that you can do the job. But you need to be real about the picture you are painting, or you will annoy the heck out of the interviewer who brought you in based on your words. And needless to say, you won’t get the job — or probably any job ever with that company!
For example … if the job you want is 95% Java programming and you once helped out with some java code maintenance at a prior job, a resume listing java programming as a highlighted skill AND a section or two about all the projects you helped on as a code maintenance person (rather than lead programmer), would indeed be deceptive.
So what are valid ways to use resume targeting?
Using the example above, you can definitely mention the ways you worked with Java. It might get you into an interview for a junior programmer, especially if you’ve taken some Java programming courses. But don’t expect it to jump you all the way to a lead programmer job!
Look carefully at the job description (each one you are applying for), and make a list of things they are looking for that you in some way match. You can use things that you spent a lot of time doing, even if it hasn’t always been your primary job responsibility. Or, if it was a primary responsibility at an old job, by all means make sure that’s clear.
But you also need to help them see what else you’ve been doing, so they get a feel for your overall skills. Once again you can target something, but now look for and emphasize transferable skills that the new job requires — things like problem solving, project management, analytic skills, etc. in this case.
This way your resume paints a realistic picture, but you are shaping it to help an employer see how you might step into and handle the job they are recruiting for. This is NOT cheating — just make sure that you use real, solid skills and take the time to put together a resume that points to your new direction, and not just a bunch of random tasks and skills.
Need more help?
=> Tips for Resumes & Cover Letters (with examples targeted to jobs)