Tailor Your Résumé: It’s Not a Swiss Army Knife

Recently a jobseeker in my Résumé Writing workshop surprised me with an explosion of frustration. It bordered on anger. He certainly was incensed. I was talking about the importance of writing a tailored-made résumé for each job. He said, “You mean we have to write a separate résumé for every job? You can’t be serious.”

This was a moment for pause—pause is good when you want to make a point. “Why yes,” I said to him. “Because here’s the thing. Employer A has different needs than employer B, and employer C, and D, and E, and so on.” Your résumé needs to talk to the needs of each and every employer or it’s really doing you no good.

Whatever you to call it: “Cookie Cutter,” “Résumé in a Box,” “One-Fits-All,” this lack of concerted effort demonstrates to the employer that she’s not special. You fail to highlight the outstanding accomplishments related to the job she’s offering. Sure, you list some outstanding accomplishments, but you’re making her hunt for them, making her work.

Martin Yate says it nicely in his blog . “Have you ever looked at a Swiss army knife? It’s got knife blades, bottle openers, screwdrivers…it does practically everything. But companies aren’t hiring human Swiss army knives. They are hiring human lasers, with exceptional skills focused in a specific area.”

Some jobseekers believe that employers want to see everything they’ve done in their many years of work, when in fact employers are more interesting in knowing that you can meet their specific needs, address their specific problems.

The only way to offer them a human laser rather than a Swiss Army knife is by understanding the nature of the job and the nuances of the company. This will require thinking like the employer, who when writing the job ad has some very important requirements in mind for the next candidate she hires.” This will require you to carefully dissect the ad and decipher the accomplishments.

Make the effort. Yate states that your résumé is your most important financial document. It determines the rest of your life.


4 thoughts on “Tailor Your Résumé: It’s Not a Swiss Army Knife

  1. Laura Smith-Proulx

    Bob (and Martin),

    Great analogy. This post illuminates the problem that I call job-seeker perspective (“employers will look at all my skills and find a job that fits me”)–which results in a frustrating job search.

    Candidates who realize what employer-side perspective looks like (“we have a tremendous workload in accounting with the new merger coming up”) are in a better position! Using their time to research these employer pain points, they can create a pitch (targeted cover letter with resume) that conveys their fitness as a solution.

    And, as you say, it has to be a specific solution.



    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Yes, I see it too often when a jobseeker wants to submit the same resume and hope the employer sees the value in it, regardless if it hits the mark. I also like the Swiss Army knife analogy. Thanks for you comment, Laura.


  2. Martin yate

    Hi Bob,

    Glad you liked the Swiss army knife analogy. So many job seekers don’t take the time to target their materials. It’s one reason I think there are so many frustrated job seekers out there! Everyone has to take responsibility for the success of their professional life, sadly it doesn’t come with a guarantee along with that college diploma anymore.


  3. Things Career Related Post author


    The Swiss Army knife analogy is right on. When I think of needing a knife to cut steak or a heavy-duty screwdriver or a pair of scissors to cut fabric, the last thing I think about is an all-purpose tool. I need specific tools for specific needs. Yours was a great article.




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