Dear Sam: I am writing my resume and am receiving conflicting advice on what to include. I am reading through job postings and the requirements for positions and attempting to ensure I include all of the requirements pertinent to my background. When a posting calls for a college degree—which I do not have—should I list my high school diploma? Also, I do not possess all the technical skills required for some of the roles, but I am sure I can learn them quickly; what do I list in those instances? — Joe

Dear Joe: When reading through a job posting, be sure you are scanning the “requirements” but paying most attention to the actual description of the role. That section of the posting will represent the “language” you need to speak on your resume. The requirements are just that: requirements. It is expected that a “qualified” candidate will possess those requirements, so if that is indeed the case, you and your qualified competitors will be competing based on the uniqueness of your experience. That is the case 99% of the time, Joe. Requirements are what I call “check the box” qualifications—you have them, or you do not. Your candidacy should be built on the uniqueness of your experiences, presenting those experiences in a “language” that closely mimics the job posting of interest or the theme of positions you are applying for.

Lastly, some additional food for thought. You mentioned technical skills; sometimes, including what you do possess tells what you do not possess. If your technical skills are lackluster, then omit them entirely to at least leave the question open as to whether or not you possess those skills. Likewise, with your education, communicating your high school diploma does not say “I graduated from high school”; it actually says, “I did not attend college.” Be strategic in your inclusion of and selective omission of stated requirements to ensure you are not disqualifying your candidacy.

Dear Sam: I am within my first five years post-undergrad. I am an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves and a civilian employee with the government. I am contemplating moving to the civilian sector; however, my combined military service and civilian occupations span many specialties. As an officer, I have worked in logistics and public relations—in leadership roles—both stateside and in combat. As a civilian, I work in human resources and pay administration in a non-supervisory position. How and what should I include in my resume? – Laura

Dear Laura: Wow, that is quite a diverse background! First, thank you for your service to our country. Now, to answer your question. What you should include versus omit depends entirely on what you want to pursue next. You will, of course, want to include all of your positions, but you can strategically tailor the content in the way in which it best supports your candidacy today. A resume is a picture of your background written in a way that positions you best for what you want to do next. So, if the logistics aspects of your experience do not support your current career target(s), you can certainly put those on the back burner or omit them entirely. What I imagine will need to happen, Laura, is that you will have to develop two or perhaps three versions of your resume. The first might be more operationally focused, the second in the PR and communications arena, and the third presenting your human resources skill set. You could develop one primary resume—with each area of your experience introduced with a functional subheading—and then reprioritize content based on the type of role you are applying for. In each resume, you would also want to build a targeted qualifications summary. This approach will allow you to present the targeted picture critical to success in today’s job market while keeping your options as open as possible. Best of luck.