Why a Universal Resume Won’t Work


Back in the day, there was a standard formula for assembling a standard resume with basic information, one intended to provide an overview of one’s professional persona to any employer, in any field, that might be on the lookout. 

Those so-called “one-size-fits-all” or the universal resume, might’ve neatly summarized the job hunter’s background. They lacked the strategy needed in today’s world to efficiently and effectively gain the attention of time-starved employers.  In trying to be all things to all recruiters, those streamlined CVs often fail to stand out to companies seeking candidates with very specific skills, abilities and experiences. In fact, one survey found that 18% of hiring managers automatically rule out candidates who supply generic resumes. 

Unfortunately, some job-hunters are still stuck in that one-size-fits-all rut. They don’t realize their generic resumes, often, aren’t even being seen by human eyes.  In this digital age, employers no longer mull over each resume that crosses their paths. Instead, they take full advantage of sophisticated technology that combs through copious online data on their behalf to find viable candidates. 

What does that mean for you? It’s imperative that you take the extra time, energy and thought needed to create several highly customized resumes. Ensuring each one is curated with the right info and keywords to attract companies hiring for your target jobs. Otherwise, you are left wondering why you’re not getting responses to your resume. Even if you’re a highly-skilled, highly qualified candidate whose seemingly done everything right in your career. 

Getting Started

Before you get started crafting your resumes, begin with a list of job titles that align with the next steps you’d like to take in your career. Then you can research the education, background, skills, abilities and experiences associated with each job title. This way, you establish each of your resumes accordingly. As you pursue specific jobs, start with your most applicable resume and fine-tune it even further to match the job requirements or employer preferences.

“It may seem like a lot of work to customize your resume to each opportunity you apply to,” notes Emily Moore on Glassdoor.com.  “But the job search is all about quality, not quantity. If you send a hyper-customized resume to five different employers, your odds are almost certainly better than if you sent out a generic resume to 10. And ultimately, that small amount of effort you put into catering your resume to each job description can end up significantly cutting down the time you spend looking for a job.”

Three key reasons why a universal resume no longer works: 

1. Not optimized for auto employer searches

For better or worse, employers are increasingly deploying applicant tracking systems – a software program that scans the internet and collects human data they can access to narrow down their best possible candidates for given roles.  

A recent Capterra study shows 75% of recruiters and talent managers now use recruiting or applicant tracking software. And 94% say it’s improved their processes. Vox recently ran an article about how easy it is for employers to draw conclusions about your candidacy from information and photos that appear or are posted online. 

It’s highly likely that once your resume is posted somewhere on the internet, bots will comb through it at some point to draw information about you.

While that can feel a little creepy, it means you should do everything in your power to:

  1. Clean up your online persona to minimize any potentially negative information
  2. Ensure your resumes are infused with the relevant keywords that match your specific career goals.  

If you want your name to make it through that initial non-human screening, ditch the all-purpose resume and craft several well-worded resumes. Each one designed to align with the exact assets employers are seeking for your target job.

2. The one resume approach will rule out other job possibilities 

If you post and/or submit a universal resume, you are not unlikely to draw the attention of employers that have similar, but slightly different jobs available. Conversely, creating several CVs that describe what you bring to the table for each job will make you more marketable. While making it easier for different bots and search engines to find you. Furthermore, employers like to believe they’re hiring people who have a specific interest in the job opening at hand. A specialized resume tells employers the job they’re trying to fill aligns perfectly with your career goals. 

3. The one resume approach can’t highlight your full range of skills 

If you make a universal resume, you’ll only have enough space to feature the skills and experiences you believe will make you most marketable across the board. As a result, you’ll have to leave out mention of accomplishments that may be of value to a potential employer, depending on the job it’s trying to fill. 

Conversely, if you make several targeted resumes, you can omit aspects that may be irrelevant to other employers and do a deep dive into those most likely to appeal to your target base. You can call attention to key highlights demonstrating how and why you will excel in your target position, making it easier for the employer to understand your potential and envision you in the role. 

In short, you’re likely wasting your time and failing to fully empower your job search if you limit yourself to one resume that doesn’t account for all your career possibilities. Go the extra mile to make sure you’re telling key employers what they need to know to consider you as a strong candidate. 

“Job hunting can be a daunting task,” notes Gianna Cary on Medium.com.  “Opportunities don’t just fall into our lap, we have to work for them. If you keep your mindset focused and don’t give up, you’ll be investing in your future and giving yourself the best chance at getting hired.” 

Bottom line: Crafting several job-targeted resumes takes extra time, but it’s key to getting your candidacy past bots and in front of the human beings who will do the hiring.

For more resume tips visit our blog or start your job search success with LeadUp’s Resume Toolkit.