In some cases, it makes sense to create a more generalized resume than one pointed towards a specific job title. This comes up when you need to position yourself effectively for job opportunities across multiple skill areas and still keep a cohesive story to connect the different pieces of your career.
For example, you might have expertise across different areas of marketing and communications, including promotions, digital marketing, public relations, and event planning. These all go hand-in-hand, but there will be cases where you apply to positions requiring specialization in one of those areas, and less in the others.
A role focusing on creating online marketing strategies for an e-commerce company might have no interest in your expertise in planning corporate marketing events, outside of the diversity of your experience.
So how do you construct a resume that conveys the full range of your expertise, but also gives you the flexibility to position yourself as a subject matter expert?
Create a Strong Basis to Work From
When you create a generalized resume, the idea is that you may need to tailor it moving forward to highlight or remove certain skills or experience that are most/least relevant to the role you’re applying to.
Start with a version that includes:
- A strong general summary statement that highlights your top 3-4 core competencies
- A skills section (if applicable) outlining additional areas where you excel
- A professional experience section that gives a brief description of each of your roles with a couple supporting bullets of primary responsibilities and contributions
- Any additional sections for your education, training, memberships, and affiliations, etc., that may be important to include
This is your foundation resume. It likely contains too much information about everything you’ve done in your career, but it provides a starting framework for you to add and subtract as necessary.
What you leave in and what you take out will depend upon the job description.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind and help you tailor the resume most effectively.
Pay Attention to Job Titles
Job titles are one of the easiest elements of your resume for hiring managers to scan through, and often one of the core criteria upon which they will formulate their decision around your qualifications. You don’t always have the flexibility to change your job title, and it’s important also to be accurate and honest. But sometimes you can make some small modifications that can help get your message across more clearly.
For example, your title is Manager of Marketing and Special Promotions. If you’re going for a marketing job that has less to do with promotions, perhaps it makes sense to shorten it simply to “Marketing Manager”.
Ensure You’re Communicating the Right Level of Expertise
Another example to edit your generalist resume pertains to the level of expertise that you want to convey about yourself. It’s not uncommon for the title and the actual level of the role to be mismatched, which can send the wrong message around your qualifications.
You might have 5 years of marketing experience, but in a small company of only 3 staff, you’ve been granted the title of “VP of Marketing”. In a large firm, however, this title refers to something completely different, and realistically, you’re at the manager, or perhaps even associate level. While again, it’s important to convey accuracy, you have to position yourself in line with the skills and levels of expertise of the roles you’re going after – not necessarily the role you currently have.
While your official title might be “VP of Marketing”, if you’re targeting a more mid-level position with a bigger agency, you might think about modifying that to “Marketing Manager/Director”. This also goes for folks who own their own companies or are self-employed, and refer to their title on papers as “CEO”. Unless you’re aiming for the C-Suite, you’re sending the wrong message.
Create a Summary Statement You Can Tailor as Needed
A summary statement is one of the easiest ways to custom tailor your general resume to fit the needs of a particular role. This is because a strong summary statement gives that initial brief overview of your most relevant skills, strengths, level, and areas of expertise. Plus it helps set the tone for the rest of the resume. You can easily modify this to fit the expectations of your audience (in addition to tweaking the other resume sections as needed).
Think of it as your introduction, and it should be tailored as such. While your job responsibilities may not change extensively, you can give your resume a completely new perspective by changing up the summary language and tone to address the key points of the job description right off the bat.
Evaluate. Edit. Repeat.
Tip! To edit your resume moving forward, look at the job description. Isolate out the top skill and experience requirements, and list them in a separate document. Then go through your resume and identify key areas where you can illustrate your qualifications in those areas, and speak to those skill sets. Make sure you’ve covered as many areas from that list as you can. Also, identify any skill sets, perhaps industry-specific jargon or tasks, that may not be relevant to the role, and which should be omitted.
Use these same strategies to write your cover letter, since you should also be targeting each one you send out to the distinct needs and interests of the role and the organization to which you’re trying to appeal.