DiceTV: Tailoring Your Resume Isn’t Cheating

Do you ever feel pigeonholed when you’re looking for a job? Well, make sure it’s not you who’s doing the pigeonholing. Some job-seekers paint their skills and experiences in identical language whenever they send out a resume or go to an interview. That’s a mistake.

You absolutely have to re-position yourself for each opportunity. Ask yourself, “What would be of most interest to this employer?” Then you have to answer with the things that are most important to them.

Is it dishonest to play up those parts of your background that relate to the role you seek? No. We’re not talking about mis-stating facts or lying – which you obviously should never do. We’re talking about positioning yourself so the first thing a potential employer sees is how well you can fit with their organization.

It’s perfectly legitimate to rephrase past job titles, as long as your wording reflects either the actual function you performed or your level of responsibility.

It’s also legitimate to modify job descriptions, moving to the top those achievements or activities that relate most closely to the specific role you’re applying for.

For example, maybe you’re a programmer. But you’ve demonstrated exceptional interpersonal skills, suitable for a marketing or sales role. Techies have made moves like that based on how well they’ve managed internal relationships. In that case, the thing to do is emphasize your communications ability.

Another example: If you’ve got tons of international experience but all the jobs you’re applying for are domestic, remove the word “international” from your resume where you can. Your accomplishments are still valid without it, and you’ll have put yourself into the context of the jobs you see posted.

Comments

21 Responses to “DiceTV: Tailoring Your Resume Isn’t Cheating”

August 26, 2009 at 3:58 am, Drew Bartlett said:

Hmmm… you have to be so very very careful with this one. Modifying job titles is a big red flag so you better be very very very clear to the reader that the title listed on the resume is an indication of your function at that job NOT a misrepresentation of your actual title. Especially if its upgrading your early work history. If you were a tech support rep and you call yourself a developer because you may have done some development to serve the customer, you are probably going to get nabbed. With experienced hard skills folks (programmers, sys admins, DBAs, etc.) the skills will tell the tale anyway. In a resume I would handle that by stating your title as something like “Tech Support Rep – Developer” so the true title is represented in there somewhere and the interviewer doesn’t feel deceived. I had a similar instance where an interviewer felt I lied to him because HE didn’t read my resume close enough. He thought I went to Harvard Business School (of which he was an alum) when really I took some online courses through Harvard Business School Publishing (and that was clearly indicated on my resume)… BIG difference and as soon as I noted it for him, he tuned me out completely… so like I said, be very careful with this one.

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September 02, 2009 at 1:36 am, MattyMat said:

Keep wearing the bathing suits, Cat— let the puritan quakers go to church and pray for our souls.

Hey idiots– look down at the 30lbs of Mickey D’s your packin’ and do something about it!!!!

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September 02, 2009 at 2:30 am, Neil said:

“The Pool, the Bird, and the Bathing Suit.” This could be a promo for her first novel. Watch without the sound first. Notwithstanding, this is good advice. Modification without exaggeration is the key to remaining a player in this economy. Take off the hard hat if you are no longer in a construction zone. However, I am still curious about the contents of that Dice flask.

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September 02, 2009 at 3:27 am, Jason said:

This was boring Cat – not your best work. I found myself looking at the bird more than anything. Please get down to the bikini to keep distracted enough from my daily grind. You are very attractive and the bathing suit is a wonderful marketing ploy. I love it. Let the Puritans and Jihadists cover their women if they want…ironically, I bet they tune in each time and watch the full video…then have the audacity to complain AFTER watching 🙂

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September 02, 2009 at 6:34 am, John McDonald said:

Her suggestion regarding placing the most relevant experience up front doesn’t work for independent contractors. Agencies/clients want to see your experience listed chronologically. This has long been a dilemma for me, as I have worked on multiple contracts (many a year or less), so the relevant skill-set many times shows up way down in the resume. I try to bring the salient points out in the cover letter, but most often clients concentrate on the resume. Would appreciate any suggestions on how to deal with this issue in the resume. Thank you.

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September 02, 2009 at 6:59 am, Paul said:

This one is bad advice. Very bad advice. Slightly modifying the resume in terms of stating things that you ACTUALLY DID is one thing, but changing titles and deliberately fibbing—like the removing “international” from your job duties detail—is not going to cut it. What I did was move my writing experience to the top for writer jobs and my testing experience to the top for testing, analyst and programmer jobs. Or you can try this: only apply to jobs that you truly are a match for. If I had reworded my resume for every single job I applied to I would not be working now. I only applied to jobs that I thought I could actually walk into the office and do on day one. That’s probably because I have been asked to walk into an office and work on day one.

And another thing: Cat does need to put some clothes on AND get away from the pool. Sitting by the pool does not make anybody look professional, I don’t care who they are.

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September 02, 2009 at 7:52 am, Ruth Bowser said:

Arghh…the information from Cat is helpful at times, but I find it unprofessional and distracting with the bathing suit get-up. Put some clothes on! We are looking for job advice; not photo ops for our next cruise!

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September 02, 2009 at 8:08 am, Thomas Hansford said:

Although this information is helpful, the reader should beware. Anything on your resume that seems like an exaggeration or any form of deceit will almost always illiminate an applicant from the running. I would say that the applicant should highlight his or her true skills for the position at hand. In other words make the required skills stick out on the Resume or include actual skills that are sought after by the employer only if you truly have them. With technical interviews there is almost always a technical screening process. There is nothing more ambarrassing and humiliating than to have a tech screen that shows that you know nothing about some of the things listed on your resume. It just makes you look like a liar. So I concur with the previous comment…”be careful with this one”

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September 02, 2009 at 9:05 am, Rita said:

I agree with Ruth. The clothes and setting do not provide a good representation of professionalism and for the most part her delivery is distracting. I personally don’t normally watch these videos for that very reason.

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September 02, 2009 at 9:16 am, Anna Dean said:

I agree you should be honest but highlighting/emphasizing what an employer is seeking, provided that you have those qualifications there’s nothing wrong with that. As far as the “bathing suit” comment – let’s not be catty!

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September 02, 2009 at 9:32 am, Jim Kaupanger said:

I agree that resumes need to be tailored to the opportunity (honestly, of course). For example, resumes get too long as it is, so we have to leave some experience out. One time a recruiter said it was too bad I hadn’t done data conversions. Well, I’ve done over a hundred data conversions, but I had to leave some stuff out. Now that the recruiter was telling more about the position, I tailored my resume and added info about data conversions.

Here’s my question–what about when the only resume the HR people see is the ONE on Dice? You don’t know they’re looking so you don’t know what they need so you can’t tailor.

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September 02, 2009 at 9:33 am, mike klimkosky said:

I do not recommend ever changing job titles on one’s resume. It is misleading, erroneous and leads to a bigger issue of trust, which is really what you should be trying to build during an interview. Most employer’s know that job titles don’t mean that much anyway or reflect the value that one brings to an organization. That said, modifying the language to focus and emphasize areas of expertise that are most pertinent to an employer’s needs should always be done.

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September 02, 2009 at 9:34 am, Linda said:

Adjusting your resume is a good idea; however, do so with caution. I am a self-employed programmer/analyst (Associates Degree). I applied for a position as administrative assistant with a local insurance company. I felt that I was over-qualified for a position, and wanted to tone down my resume a little by removing irrevelant programming language skills such as C#, and VB. I tailored my resume to the job description and focused on my office skills/experience instead of software development. I got an interview. I was in a suit; the owner wore a T-shirt and jeans. The owner had not read the resume before our meeting. A week later, the company sent me a letter stating that they were looking for someone with more computer experience. I sent a thank you letter, and asked if she could send me suggestions on how I could improve my computer skills to match their needs if they had an opening in the future.

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September 02, 2009 at 9:40 am, Walter said:

Statements like “It’s perfectly legitimate to rephrase past job titles”, “It’s also legitimate to modify job descriptions” should not be treated as an OK to go that way. I think legitimacy is decided by the employer and that may vary widely. It is very easy nowdays to conduct a background check on person. Any discrepancies found may interpreted as you are a liar.
Famous expression “Don’t lie, but stretch the truth” has to be applied very carefully.

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September 02, 2009 at 9:56 am, Ted said:

Sometimes old job titles don’t necessarily reflect the main responsibilities of the job. Over 25 years ago I was called Data Processing Mgr because it was a small service bureau and I was in charge of everything related to the computer. My main responsibility was programming so I change my title to Programming or Development manager when I feel it may be more appropriate to the job I’m applying for.

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September 02, 2009 at 10:25 am, Jaki said:

I think you can incorporate the actual job title and clarify the role.

For instance, for one job my resume reads “As ‘Administrative Secretary’, I fulfulled the role of Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director by….”

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September 02, 2009 at 11:57 am, Ted G said:

This is an interesting conversation. As a professional resume writer, I am always looking for different aspects of a person’s career to bring out and showcase. These are sometimes known as “transferrable skills.” They can show a person’s versatility in all the aspects of any position.
I agree that you do not lie, nor should you alter your job title. But a little “truthful hyperbole” can always be used.

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September 06, 2009 at 2:14 am, Michael said:

Don’t lie on your resume. Changing/ renaming/ rephrasing job titles is deceptive. The prospective employer will likely view you as a liar… Not good! By the way, why is it that the only people complaining about the bathing suit are women? Put your claws away felines and take notes. Maybe you aren’t landing your jobs because you can’t wear a bathing suit. I say, You go girl! Wear a thong next time.

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September 07, 2009 at 12:16 am, Ray said:

You are supposed to see the person and listen to what they are saying, good training for an interview. If you can’t get past the bathing suit there is a problem waiting to happen right there. Its not much different than a designer top.

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September 10, 2009 at 7:11 am, F. Ballard said:

I have a lead-in “Summary” section where I can rework the emphasis to match the position requirements. I also have a Master Resume that contains everything significant about every position I ever had and I take it and throw out what doesn’t seem to apply. I will wordsmith things to ensure that a strong connection is obvious between my experience and position requirements and I leave things in that may not be directly relevant but support professional or personal traits that I want to emphasize: no sense getting hooked up with a total mismatch. As for the high-def tweaking, without a solid read on the mindset of the people who will see it (there are many and that’s the difficulty) I’m not sure it helps and may even be counterproductive. I prefer to speak with an authentic voice if for no other reason than it’s easier to defend my claims.

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September 10, 2009 at 7:52 am, Mamadou Aliou Bah said:

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