You just decided to enter the job market. Should you have multiple resumes? The answer is most likely yes, but let’s see:
1. Was your last job as an individual contributor in a fungible (i.e. “the job is similar across many different companies”) discipline?
2. Were you a specialist (focused deeply on one sub-domain)?
3. Do you want to stay in that discipline as a specialist-individual contributor?
If you answer yes to all three of the above, then you can probably keep to one resume. If you can’t answer yes to all or are uncertain, you should prepare to draft multiple resumes.
My first piece of advice is to create a Master Resume. It is good practice to keep any resume you send to a company to two pages (unless you are a Ph.D. and in an academic field), but your master resume should have N pages. It should be comprehensive. It should detail everything from what clubs you belonged to in college to your first achievement in the work place. It should be exhaustive. While it can be a hard practice to maintain, if you can update your master resume every 6-12 months, regardless of your job search cycle, that will help you maintain a complete work record.
First create your master resume. Once you have made a dump of your career history, it is time to identify what it is you want to do next.
This can be a daunting question and I find it helps to do a cursory perusal of the job market to get an idea of the universe of possibility. Previously, I wrote about using Pinterest for this purpose, which is a good place to start. Once you have an idea of what is out there, put the opportunities into discrete buckets. Each bucket will have a resume so keep in mind that you will want as few buckets as necessary.
Figuring out your buckets can be a little challenging – it is very subjective. But I find it helpful to understand that the more desirable an opportunity is the more work you should be willing to exert to land that opportunity. For instance, if you are aSoftware Engineer looking to move into product then you should have more PM buckets than Software Engineering buckets. You should be more granular to get where you want to go vs where you are currently.
Once you have your buckets, you will then build a resume foreach bucket. Start with your MasterResume and then edit it down to 2-pages with one of your buckets in mind. Resume writing is really story telling through editing your career history. You should focus on telling a cohesive story as to why you are qualified for the opportunity through the removal of material from your Master Resume.
Once you have the resume paired down, take a look at the headings and titles in your resume. Perhaps there are ways to better communicate your past roles in a way that will resonate better with the intended audience?
For instance, I was Head of Marketplace at Hired, which is a title that doesn’t make any sense externally. When I was applying for Sales focused roles, Head of Marketplace became Head of Revenue. When I was applying for a product role, it became General Manager. All of this is truthful in terms of job description, but each title signals something slightly different based on who the hiring party is. Your cursory job perusal should inform you have the common job titles of the opportunities you are most interested in. Use that as your inspiration.
Furthermore, your titles can help or hinder you based on the job level. If you are a manager who wants to go back to an IC role, accentuate the IC work you did in the body and mute your titles (like going from VP of Product to Head PM). Many recruiters and hiring managers will make an assumption that you will want a similar title to what you had at your last job. By muting your titles, you signal to the other party that you have thought about the implications of taking a non-management role in the organization and are amenable.
Once you are done with one resume, you will need to do this same process for each bucket.
I had three core buckets I made resumes for – Talent (Head of Talent), Operations (COO/VP), and Product (PM). I received at least a 100% increase in interviews from my tailored resumes vs a generic resume that just played what I call “my hits” (my greatest achievements regardless of discipline). While an independent observer might have thought my generic resume was the most impressive, the hiring managers at the companies I wanted to work at would have seen too many flags to warrant even a first screen. You are trying to eliminate those flags so that you can make your case to the hiring manager in a first phone call.
The key here is editing. It doesn’t help you to lie or mischaracterize your achievements. Everything you write on your resume has to be true and backed up by your colleagues and professional references, but how and what you communicate from your past achievements can be the difference between silence and a first conversation.
Finally, make sure to iterate. Each resume should be adapted based on feedback.
Do the extra work to tailor your resume, your career will thank you.