A targeted résumé is the result of the job applicant tailoring their résumé to present nothing more or less than what the job posting asks for. An employer’s job posting is a wish-list of all the skills and qualifications that would set up the applicant for success in the position advertised. It also informs the selection criteria the employer applies to every job application. This way, every application is measured objectively for how well it reflects what the job posting asked for, as well as how current and well-presented it is. The employer expects that each section will prove that the applicant is perfect for the job, as well as meet general expectations for quality of writing—clarity, conciseness, correctness, and accuracy—as well as document readability and organization.
You have three options for types of résumé based on your situation and what the employer wants, each defined by how they organize the content:
1. Reverse-chronological résumé: For each experience section (Education, Employment, and Related Activities), this résumé lists your professional activities starting with the present or latest (most recent) at the top and your first (oldest) at the bottom. A key feature is a column with date ranges in months and years beside each educational program, job, and relevant activity you have done. This presents the hiring manager with a snapshot of where you are at right now in your professional development, how you got there, and where you came from.
Reverse-chronological résumés can be revealing in ways that might not cast you in an entirely positive light. Exclusively short-term employment and significant gaps in your work and educational history will be questioned (Vandegriend, 2017). These will make the reader wonder (1) why you are not able to keep a job for long (are you chronically unsatisfied in your work? incompetent? unlikeable?) and (2) what you were doing in those gaps? Unfortnatley, employers might make incorrect or disparaging assumptions about gaps. Were you in jail? Unemployed and playing video games in your parents’ basement all day? Ill? Your gaps may be easily explained in an interview, but to get you there, we can consider some alternative ways of organizing a résumé.
2. Functional (a.k.a. competency- or skills-based) résumé: Rather than organize the résumé around experience sections measured out in months and years, the functional résumé makes important skills the subheadings. The bullet points that follow explain in more detail what each skill entails, how it was acquired through training or education, and how it was practiced and applied professionally. The functional résumé is ideal if you have questionable gaps or durations in your employment or educational history because it omits or de-emphasizes date ranges.
3. Combination functional and reverse-chronological résumé: This is the most popular form of resume and the basis for the guide on targeted résumé parts given below. It uses the reverse-chronological format for the standard experience sections showcasing the applicant’s educational and employment history but adds a Skills and Qualifications Summary at the beginning to highlight the applicant’s abilities and credentials that match what the job posting asked for.
Some employers have strong preferences for one résumé type. Helpful employers will specify which they prefer in the job posting. If not, however, your only recourse is to contact the company and ask what their preferences are. This shows that you care enough about meeting employer expectations to be proactive on the communication front. Employers hope you will do the same as an employee—as opposed to guessing at expectations and potentially wasting your time and effort, as well as company money, doing something no one wants. Let us look in detail at how you can make your résumé meet common (but not necessarily all) employer expectations in all parts of a combination reverse-chronological/functional targeted résumé.
- Objective Statement
- Personal Information Header
- Skills and Qualifications Summary
- Employment Experience
- Related Experience
The personal information header appears at the top of the document because its most important piece, your name, is your document’s title, not “Résumé.” Use your full legal name so that, if you are the leading candidate, it will make the employer’s job of due-diligence background checks (e.g., police record checks, checking academic transcripts for proof of credentials, etc.) easier. (If you go by a nickname, you can certainly state your preferences after you get the job.) Also use a larger font size, bold typeface, and even color to make your name stand out from the rest of the text. Do not make it so large that it overwhelms the page, however; a 15-point font, compared with the 11- or 12-point font you use for the rest of the text, is perfect.
Figure 3.5.1: Sample Personal Information Header
Below or beside your name, add your contact information, including your physical mailing address, phone number, and email address. If you have multiple addresses and phone numbers, use only those that the employer can best reach you with.
Fully spell out the street type rather than abbreviate it (e.g., Avenue, not Ave.) to strike a formal tone. Whatever phone number you give, ensure that the personalized message that a caller hears if they are sent to voicemail is a professional one.
Use a standard email address like firstname.lastname@example.org or your college email address to prove you went to the school given in your résumé’s Education section. Do not use an unprofessional email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; those email addresses are fine for use with close friends who share your sense of humor but not with an employer. Also, do not use your work email address unless your current employer is okay with you using it to look for work elsewhere since they will have access to those emails. Finally, space permitting, include a personal website such as a link to your LinkedIn profile and/or online portfolio. Make it easy for hiring managers to find whatever else you want them to see of you online besides what they search out themselves.
Do not overload your personal information header with inappropriate or too much information, however. To avoid inviting various types of bias into the selection process or information that might be exploited, never include the following details:
- Your Social Security Number (SSN): Give this to the employer only when you have accepted a job offer and they require your SSN for payroll processing.
- Your age: Do not give employers a reason to make biased assumptions about the quality of work you will do based on your age. Some employers consider employees who are too young or too old to be liabilities. You want to at least tout your qualifications in an interview rather than be discriminated against during application selection.
- Your ethnicity or place of origin: The employer will inevitably make certain assumptions—positive or negative—based on what your full name says about your ethnicity, but the personal information header is not the place for you to say anything about it either way. Many organizations have legal policies that allow them to give special consideration to applicants who are from traditionally underrepresented groups. Only indicate your ethnicity if an online application questionnaire asks if you identify as a particular ethnicity.
- Your sexual orientation: If this matters at all (99.9% of the time it does not), it is something you can discuss during the interview if you want.
- Any disability: To prevent inviting ability bias into the employer’s assessment of your employability, leave out any mention of disabilities or health conditions.
- Your picture: Unless it is an industry expectation, such as in the entertainment business, your physical appearance should not matter at this stage—only your words. Avoid inviting lookism bias into the selection process. The employer can always look you up on social media; otherwise, they will see you at the interview.
Putting it all together, your personal information header should be only two-to-three lines on the page and placed in the document header so that it goes automatically on every page and leaves more room below. Spreading that information out across the header is a more efficient use of space than stacking each piece of information to make a five- or six-line block. To look fresh, some résumé templates place the information in a column in the margin or even near the bottom. This may backfire because, if most employers expect to see that information at the top and do not see it at first glance, they might discard the application thinking the applicant simply forgot to put it there. No matter how good a résumé is, there is no point in reading on if the applicant can not be contacted. Stacking your personal information on the side may be okay for someone with a one-page résumé that lacks depth of experience, but any résumé that goes onto a second page should have that information in the header so it appears uniformly at the top of every page.
Most resumes do not need an Objective Statement. But, when the Objective Statement mentions the company and position in question, it is the first sign confirming to the employer that this résumé is targeted. Like someone on a date who makes the other feel special by saying that they are interested only in them, the Objective Statement signals the employer is the applicant’s priority. Whereas a generic résumé may call this “Career Objective” and declare a long-term career goal, a targeted résumé’s Objective Statement focuses on what exactly the applicant can do for the employer. Convention requires that this be a one-line infinitive-verb statement that helps the employer understand that your priority is to help them achieve their business goals. Not a complete sentence, an infinitive verb phrase begins with “To” and follows with a present-tense first-person verb.
To contribute to an increase in sales at Company XYZ as a top sales representative.
Figure 3.5.2: Sample Objective Statement
The Skills and Qualifications Summary section follows the Objective because of its importance in declaring in one neat package the major skills and qualifications that match those in the job posting. In a combination résumé, it is the feature borrowed from the functional résumé type. If the job ad lists four main skills—let us call them skills “ABCD”—the candidates who list skills ABCD in this section will have the best chance of getting an interview because they frontload their résumé with all the top-priority items the employer seeks. Doing this shows you can follow instructions and says to the employer, “I read your job posting and am confident that I’m what you’re looking for.”
If you have skills ABC and omitted D even though you have that skill, you could lose the competition for interview spots to those who were conscientious enough to add it to the list. If you have skills ABCDEFG, adding EFG will appear to be a résumé-padding distraction. You can put EFG in your CV on LinkedIn but listing only ABCD here makes this a truly targeted résumé. If you have ABC but adding D would be dishonest because you do not have that skill, just go with ABC; do not let the fact that you do not have everything the employer is looking for stop you from applying. If you shoot yourself down for every job application because you have only about 80% of what they are looking for, you will self-sabotage yourself out of almost every employment opportunity. Apply anyway because the employer may have asked for too much and will find that no applicant has ABCD, which means they will shortlist candidates with three out of four.
Your Skills and Qualifications Summary section helps you pass the filter that many employers use to scan electronically submitted applications to ensure they have used enough of the job posting’s keywords. Filtering out applicants merely taking shots in the dark gives the busy hiring manager more time to focus on those who truly qualify. Do not worry about this being plagiarism. If your application fails to mirror exactly the key terms listed throughout the job posting, the employer might not even see yours.
Dividing the Skills and Qualifications Summary into sub-lists related to categories of the job will increase your chances of meeting the employer’s approval. To use this highly prized real estate on the page effectively, consider arranging the sub-lists in three columns; a couple could be for job-specific technical skill sets, another for transferrable soft skills. Make a three-cell, single-row, borderless table from MS Word’s Insert menu with a centered bold heading and a bulleted list of skills in each cell. Only do this, however, if you are sure that your application formatting will not be electronically filtered out. Some of the online application services offered through job search engines such as Indeed will convert résumés into scannable formats, often scrambling text into an unreadable mess. Converters are the bane of applicants who spend time carefully formatting for readability and space efficiency (TERRIBLE Resume Converter, n.d.).
Begin with a short paragraph of noun phrases (not complete sentences) profiling where you are in your career with relevant credentials.
SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS SUMMARY
A recent graduate of information networking and telecommunications at Fort Hays State University. A software developer specializing in programming and project management but with additional proficiencies in level design and asset modeling, as well as competence in user interface design.
Figure 3.5.3: Sample Skills and Qualifications Summary
List your education in reverse-chronological order with the program title and credential type as your bold subheading followed by the institution and its location in plain style either on the same line or on the line below. The program title precedes the institution because it is more relevant in proving that you have trained for the job at hand. Give the date near the margin. If you are still in the program, put “Present” or your expected graduation date—e.g., “April 2020 (expected).”
|Bachelor of Science in Information Networking and Telecommunications
Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas
- Overall GPA of 3.97 in courses including Programming Fundamentals, Game Algorithms, Graphics Computations, Assets, Level Design, Scripting, Project Management, and Communications
- Gameplay programming in C++, C#, Java, OpenGL, Unity, and Unreal
- Asset design and animation using 3ds Max, Substance Painter, and Photoshop
- Collaborated in the production of a fully functioning FPS video game
Figure 3.5.4: Sample Education Section
In the sub-points under the program title subheading, include your overall grade-point average (GPA) if it is above 3.5 on a 4-point scale (high-A average), which proves to employers that you have had a strong work ethic throughout your training when you have more industry-relevant training than work experience. Be honest because the employer may request an official college transcript, and any discrepancy between the numbers there and on your résumé will end your candidacy. Drop the GPA line when you have 3-5 years of successful work experience in the same type of job you apply to.
In the list of subpoints, include course titles that prove how you learned the skills identified in the job posting and in your Summary section. If the titles alone do not have the same wording as those sought-after skills, include further points that do. The wording is vital because your application can be electronically filtered out if it does not contain enough matching key terms in the job posting. Once a human reads the résumé and they are not convinced you have proved where you learned, practiced, and applied the skills they are looking for, they may deprioritize and ultimately reject your application. When you have enough industry-relevant work experience (e.g., 5-10 years) for the jobs you apply to, you can shift the skills learned in your training to go instead under the jobs you have actually done, leaving your Education section as simply a list of credentials.
Omit your high school in the list of educational experiences. Even if you recently graduated, to an employer it is redundant padding because being in a college program proves that you completed high school. Also, showing when you graduated gives away your age, which may introduce some age-based discrimination into the selection process. If you want to list participation in high-school clubs related to your field of study, do it in the Related Experience section.
Add other programs you have completed, even if they are not directly relevant to the job, just to show what you have been doing with your time. If they did not provide you with any skills matching those in the job posting, omit sub-points under them. If you did not finish a program, leave it out. When employers check your LinkedIn profile, they will understand that you omitted an unfinished program from your targeted résumé because it did not relate enough to the job at hand.
The Experience section follows the same format as the Education section, only with the job title as the subheading in bold followed by the company name and location in plain style. List your jobs in reverse-chronological order with your current (or most recent) job first and your earliest last. List the month/year date ranges in the same position as in the Education section. The months are important because a date range such as “2015-2016” is misleading if you worked a few weeks before and after New Year’s, whereas “Dec. 2015 – Jan. 2016” honestly indicates seasonal work.
|Student Support Representative, Student Support Services
TigerTech, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas
|Apr. 2019 – Present|
- Provide effective customer service in supporting student and faculty clientele
- Fostered effective teamwork among staff by role-modeling and conflict resolution
|Sandwich Artist, Person in Charge, Subway
|Jul. 2014 – Apr. 2019|
- Managed staff and conducted quality-control inspections
- Ensured customer service satisfaction through direct interaction and team motivation
Figure 3.5.5: Sample Employment Experience Section
At the beginning of your working life, include whatever jobs you have done (except perhaps newspaper or flyer delivery) but make them relevant by adding transferrable skills as subpoints underneath. While you should omit task-specific skills, definitely list transferrable skills (e.g., teamwork) that match those listed in the job posting. As you can also see in Figure 3.5.5, each bullet-point skill begins with an action verb for consistent parallelism, the verb for the present job is in the present tense, and those for the past job are consistently past-tense verbs. Use clear, high-impact action verbs such as the following:
Fleshed out into bullet-point descriptions of skills in a three-part verb + object + prepositional phrase structure, some of the above action verbs may look like the following:
- Collaborated with team members consistently in working groups improving departmental processes
- Streamlined collaborative report-writing processes by switching to Google Docs
- Organized annual awards dinner celebration for a department of 150 employees
- Designed 13 internal feedback forms in the company intranet for multiple departments
- Secured government program funding successfully for eight departmental initiatives
Notice that the writer focuses on quantifiable achievements with actual numerical figures and places adverbs after the verb rather than begin points with them (e.g., not Consistently collaborated with team members) so that you always lead with verbs (Guffey, Loewy, & Almonte, 2016, p. 387). To make your accomplishments more concrete, Google executive Laszlo Block advises you to structure them according to the following formula:
Accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z
Even if your job is just a grocery store cashier, you can quantify your achievements and put them in perspective. Instead of “Processed customer purchases at the checkout,” saying “Served 85 customers per day with 100% accuracy compared to my peers’ average of 70 customers at 90% accuracy” demonstrates your focus on achieving outstanding excellence with regard to KPIs (key performance indicators), which hiring managers will love (Block, 2014).
As you add more industry-specific work experience throughout your career, you can move those transferrable skills to go under only career-oriented entries in this section and delete non-industry-related work experience. For instance, you would delete food service industry jobs such as Subway if your career is not culinary in nature. A decade or two into your working life, you will have a solid record of only career-oriented work experience in résumés targeted to career employers.
The gold standard of experience that employers want to see in a résumé is that you have previously done the job you are applying for—just for another employer (Vandegriend, 2017). This means that you can carry on in the new position with minimal training. If that is the case, you certainly want to place your Employment Experience section above your Education section. Otherwise, recent college graduates should lead with their more relevant Education section, appealing to employers hiring for potential rather than for experience, until they get that industry work experience.
The Related Experience section gives you a chance to match any of the skills listed in the job posting that you have not yet matched in either of the Education or Employment Experience sections. It also helps prove that you are a well-rounded candidate who has developed the soft skills that employers value. (Merely listing such skills in the Qualifications Summary is suspicious unless you later list experiences that suggest you developed them in a formal way. Without the proof, the employer may just think that you have copied a list of soft skills off a generic résumé model.) The Related Experience section is organized in the same manner as the other two experience sections above it, using subheadings for categories such as the following:
- Volunteer activities
- Unpaid work experience (e.g., co-op)
- Certifications (e.g., First Aid, WHMIS)
- Memberships in professional associations or community organizations
- Honors and awards (for merit, not won by luck)
- Extracurricular activities
Beneath each subheading, list specifics (e.g. First Aid and WHMIS as bullet points under Certifications). Omit mere hobbies and interests but include league sports if the job posting included teamwork skills as a requirement and you match that in the bullet point beneath the entry. Use a single month-year combination for one-time events and date ranges for longer-duration activities. Drop the least relevant from targeted résumés as you gain experience over the years while keeping them in your LinkedIn profile.
References will be submitted in a seperate document with your resume, if requested. In the context of the résumé, references are former employers who can vouch for you as a quality employee when asked by the employer you have applied to. If you are asked to provide references, do so on a separate page. You can include a References section with actual entries when applying to a smaller organization that will likely make quick decisions about hiring but make sure you notify your references that you have applied for a job. In addition, you need to be sure that those you want to list as a reference are still willing to serve as one. In those situations, providing your references’ contact information will allow the employer to call up the people who have agreed to endorse you to do quick background checks before finalizing their decisions. Withholding the references so that they have to call you to ask for them slows down their process. If they are considering you and another leading candidate, the one who provides the References in their application package and gets a solid endorsement looks better than the one who required them to do more work for the same information.
If you include references, put them all on one page at the end of your application document so they can be separated out and shredded at the end of the hiring process.
Three to five references are best, and each must be someone who was in a position of authority over you, such as a manager or supervisor, for at least two years, ideally. The assumption is that less than two years is not enough time to fully assess the consistency of an employee’s work ethic. List your references in order of what you expect to be the most enthusiastic endorsement down to the least. Do not include coworkers, friends, or family members among your references. If your parents or relatives were your employers (e.g., on the family farm), include them as references only if they are your only work experience. As soon as you have enough non-family work experience, drop your parents or relatives from the list. An employer seeing endorsements from people with the same last name might assume that they will be biased to the point of being useless as references.
Each reference must contain the following pieces of information:
- Full name in bold, followed by a comma and the reference’s official job title capitalized (e.g., Manager, Supervisor, CEO, or Franchise Owner)
- Company or organization they represent (or represented when you worked under them, though they have since moved on to another company) in plain style. It is important to give the name of the company so that the reader can connect it to your Employment Experience section. If you worked for a company but do not have a reference for it, the reader might suspect that you did so poorly a job that the employer refused to give you a strong reference. This is why you should always do your best work in any job; even if you don’t enjoy the work, doing your best increases your chances of getting a good reference that you can use as your ticket to a better job.
- Phone number. Employers checking references prefer to call, rather than email, so they can have a quick back-and-forth conversation about the candidate. The caller will rely on important clues such as voice tones for assessing the honesty of the reference’s endorsement, which would not be possible in a non-verbal email.
- Email address. This is only for the potential employer to set up a time for a phone call with the reference or to ask for details in writing if a phone call is somehow difficult or impossible (e.g., time-zone differences or international calling charges). Consider, however, that managers or supervisors might hesitate from endorsing anyone in writing, which is why the telephone is the preferred channel here.
It is very important that you confirm with your references that they will provide you with a strong endorsement (use those words when you ask) if called upon by a potential employer. Do not be afraid to ask. Providing references is part of a manager’s or supervisor’s job. They got to where they are on the strength of their former employers’ references, and there is a “pay it forward” principle motivating them to do the same for the employees under them. If they do not believe in your potential, they will likely be honest in advising you to ask someone else. Bear in mind that some larger corporations have HR policies that prohibit managers from providing references because of myriad legal implications. They may only be allowed to confirm that you worked for them but nothing more. If so, consider asking other managers or supervisors for more helpful references.