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  • Nigel Nolan

The Need to Focus Your Résumé

People spend a lot of time and effort in crafting their résumé. The general thinking is that the more effort they put in, the better the résumé will be (provided they know what they are doing and adhere to the basic principles). However, this should not be the end product they send out when applying for jobs – at this stage it is but a generic résumé. Using this to apply for jobs will have a very low success rate

To understand why such a generic resume might have such a low success rate, you need to understand what happens to a résumé when it is received. Whether it is in an online application or a hard-copy sent through the post, each résumé is screened by a ‘gatekeeper’. This gatekeeper can be either a software package for online résumés, or a human being sorting through the hard copies. The software package version searches for specific keywords – usually these are to be found in the requirements for the position, or more specifically, where given, in the selection criteria. The human version is basically the same process usually performed by a junior employee from the HR department or the hiring manager’s office, and this person is told to screen by a given set of criteria. It is reported that this process takes less than 30 seconds per résumé.

To be successful, a résumé must help and facilitate this process.

So, avoid sending out a doomed generic résumé. Rather, you should look at your completed generic résumé as a ‘master copy’ – this ‘master copy’ forms the basis of a focused version but needs to be specifically aimed at the particular job being applied for. Find out the specific requirements for the job – even for the same type of job, these requirements will probably differ in some ways from company to company. Your ‘focused’ résumé must show how you match these requirements.

To take it a step further, focus your resume on the selection criteria for the position. Even where these are not supplied (you can try asking the HR department for them – there is nothing to be lost by asking!), you can spend some time in creating what they might be. Review the job description and job requirements – what skills are required? What type of attitude is required for the job? What knowledge or qualifications are needed to do that job? In short, what type of person is needed to do this job? The answers to these questions will provide the selection criteria.

The generic version of your résumé is not focused on these requirements or selection criteria – that is why it would probably end up in the trash can or recycle bin. To have a better chance of success, for each separate job you apply for, and for the same type of job but in different companies, spend time focusing your résumé on the specific requirements and selection criteria for that position in that particular company. Doing so will give you a better chance of getting that interview.


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