Dear Sam: I am preparing for a broad search and want hiring managers to know that despite being a round peg, I can fit into a square hole! How should I present my background so they understand I can fit into multiple roles? – Jeena

Dear Jeena: While this may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite. While I understand the need to not limit options in today’s job market, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely, if ever, effective. You see, hiring managers can find those square pegs, so unless there is a compelling reason why, they probably do not need to mold your round peg into a different shape! Now, not to say you can’t present yourself as a competitive candidate, but doing so is going to take some very strategic and targeted content, something you can’t do when trying to develop a resume for anything and everything.

Instead, one should really try to identify a primary target, even if that means you have a second or third target requiring modified resumes and approaches. If you try to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades you suddenly become a master-of-none; clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy. Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective resume, a step that facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and what keywords to incorporate into your resume.

To ensure you are targeting enough in your resume, read job postings of interest and compare and contrast with the language included in your resume. If you feel your resume is addressing the skills, experiences, and requirements for the jobs of interest then you are targeting well. If however you do not see the same elements represented on your resume as are being asked for in the job posting, then it would be time to either retarget your resume or pursue opportunities that may be a better match to your skills. While you may have thought broadening your scope on your resume would yield more responses, it is likely it is doing the opposite.

Let me explain a great exercise to ensure you are actually “targeting” something and not everything.

(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in;
(2) read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper;
(3) cross-reference the list with your qualifications, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper; (4) for items that you “sort of “ have, “move” those to the middle of the page.

This “master list” will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or perhaps address items that remain on the left of the paper or fall in the middle. This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your areas of interest.

As a side note, this exercise will also showcase whether your career targets are too diverse – hence the point of the process. If you find yourself writing furiously by the time you are mapping your sixth or seventh job posting, then perhaps you need to take a closer look at the target of your job search to ensure you are positioning yourself as an expert of something and not everything.

I hope this will help you see how to brand your candidacy and conduct an effective job search. All the best.