Hitting the Moving Target: How Many Versions of Your Résumé Do You Need?

A lot of times, job seekers will contact me with help on their career document, then start rattling off a whole list of COMPLETELY different functions that they want to cover in the résumé.   One recent client was hoping to try and cover human resources, event planning, and communications all in one document.

Unfortunately, in today’s brave new world of applications, one size does not fit all.

But does that mean everyone needs to be constantly chasing after a moving target, always changing the document to meet each job posting?

Nope. You have to rethink your strategy completely and start seeing your résumé as a themed asset.

Here’s why:

As we go through our careers, our background evolves into probably at least three or more different thematic areas.  In my lifetime, I’ve been a meeting planner, television producer, tourism manager, educator, and résumé writer, to name a few.

Can I pull all of these areas under one roof / one résumé?

Not a chance. No one could possibly digest it all- there is too much stuff “muddying” the waters if, say, I were to apply to be a faculty member in a post-secondary school.

The trick to hitting those moving target is to get grounded first.

Take a deep breath and think about what area you are actually going to have the highest degree of job search success.  Then focus your efforts on that area.  I would suggest one, two, but no more than three major areas. Then create a separate document for EACH of those themes.

Create a section header entitled “RELEVANT HISTORY” then list the job records that are most relevant to the position to which you are applying first, then summarize (if necessary) any non-relevant ones to avoid distracting the reader. That way, you can account for any holes that open up in your work experience caused by moving non-relevant history into an “Additional Background” header.

What you are saying to the potential employer is this:

“Here’s the information that is RELEVANT to what you are hiring for… and oh, by the way, you’ll probably notice there are some holes in the work history, so down here, here’s some additional background that summarizes those non-relevant jobs. Want more info? Just ask me.”

Keeping your document themed is critical to keeping your sanity and your job search in check. You need to be focused and centered on your core areas that will yield the highest level of job search success.


Because if you get spread out too thin, you’ll be too far and too wide in your job search efforts, and never get the vertical depth required to find employment success. You’ve heard of the “shotgun approach” to job seeking?  When you are so scattered that you end up running around all the time and not experiencing any traction, then you’ve slipped into that mode. Not a good place to be.

Employers can smell desperation, and if they sense a lot of shape-shifting in your résumé to try and make yourself more than what you really are to “fit” into a particular job mold, they will drop you like a hot potato. They are more interested in the highly qualified candidates than the “sorta” qualified ones.

Instead, BE THE MOLD. Think thematic approaches in your document on your core strengths, experience, and expertise. Be centered on what you feel is your best “bet” (to borrow a poker euphemism) in finding a job.  Then create a separate thematic résumé in that area. This allows you to concentrate your experience, keywords, relevant involvement and professional development in that theme.

The end result is that you get a specific version of your résumé in the proverbial can that is about 90% of the way there.  Then, when you find a job posting that matches your target career goal, you’ll definitely need to do some tweaking to make sure your résumé terminology matches the position announcement.

That ensures that your keyword “hit” ratio is as optimized as possible before you submit your résumé as an application.

But you won’t have to reinvent the wheel and start all over to create a new document.

Job seekers simply cannot be constantly morphing document into something that someone else wants. You need to be grounded in what it is that you offer in a specific field, then tweak the résumé to match and make sure the terms mirror one another.

You’ll have better control over your search, yield better results, and not have the feeling that you are constantly chasing ghosts.