February 4, 2015

Could a Need to Tailor Your Resume Be a Sign of an Unsuitable Job?

TailorI’d like to turn the resume-tailoring paradigm on its head a little. We all know that employers are turned off by generic resumes that don’t appear to be specific to the company or post to which a candidate is applying. Employers see these resumes as signs that a candidate has put no thought into their application.

This is why it has pretty much become required practice for job seekers to tailor their resumes to accentuate all the most relevant aspects of their work experiences and skill sets. For example, if the job in question prioritizes communication and collaboration skills, a job seeker would highlight specific projects they worked on that required these skills; if the job posting or company culture emphasizes long hours, a job seeker might highlight examples of times when they burned the candle at both ends to get the job done.

Resume-tailoring isn’t out-and-out lying — it’s much more nuanced than that. A job seeker can take one of several subtly different potential perspectives on their work history when applying to a job; resume-tailoring simply means presenting the most relevant perspective to each specific employer.

However, there is a risk to this kind of resume-tailoring: a job seeker may not be lying, but they are misrepresenting themselves to a certain extent by deemphasizing certain pieces of information and emphasizing others. In essence, a job seeker is using subtle emphasis and deemphasis to make it seem like they are a 90 percent fit for a role when in reality they are more like a 60 percent fit.

The intentions behind resume-tailoring are understandable — i.e., people want to do whatever they have to do in order to get a job — but the practice itself may ultimately be misguided. Job seekers end up in roles they are not wholly suited to. This could lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement, neither of which will benefit the job seeker or their employer. Studies tells us that the main reason that new hires fail in jobs is a lack of personality or cultural fit. If a job seeker misrepresents themselves to land a role, they may be setting themselves up to fail.

A little bit of tailoring here and there may be beneficial, but if a job seeker finds themselves tailoring to such an extent that they feel they are misrepresenting themselves, could it be that the job and company are actually wrong for them? Does it not make more sense to go back to the job market and find jobs for which they only need to do minimal resume-tailoring?

Any job seeker is more likely to be successful in the hiring process — and in the subsequent job — if they follow this strategy of seeking jobs that match their experiences and skill sets on paper.

Read more in Resume

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.