How Many Versions of Your Resume Do You Need?

Ronda Suder, Resume Writer

8 min read

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When you’re applying for jobs, your resume needs to communicate your value to each job you apply for. Many job seekers wonder if they need different resume versions for different jobs. The answer is no for most job seekers - but that doesn’t mean you should make the common mistake of sending out the same version of your resume for every job.

Instead, our experts suggest that you should have one version of your resume with a clear career target, and tailor that resume to every job you apply to. The bulk of the information and formatting should remain the same, but your specific skills and experience can change.

In this post, we’ll explain why you most likely only need one version of your resume. We’ll briefly talk about when you may need to have two or more versions of your resume. Finally, we’ll share our top five tips for tailoring your resume to different positions with examples.

So, how many resumes should you have?

Why you only need one version of your resume

For the best results, your job search should be focused on a single career target. When you’ve clearly defined your career goal, your resume will be highly targeted and get you noticed more often. On the other hand, an unfocused or general resume is unlikely to pass an applicant tracking system, or ATS, scan.

Your career goal should specify the industry you’re interested in, the role you want, and the kind of company you want to work for. This goal should not be written anywhere on your resume - just use it as a guideline. Take some time to think about how your education, experience, skill set, and accomplishments support your goal. This is the framework for your single resume.

You can build a flexible resume, or you can make minor changes to your resume as you apply for jobs. In either case, you use the same basic resume with modifications to apply for each job. Your experience should include plenty of hard skills, soft skills, and achievements that will appeal to both a hiring manager and a computer scan.

Take the time to make sure your resume is formatted for ATS success by using an updated word processor, a simple layout, and submit it as a Word doc. Read all our formatting tips here: How To Get Your Resume Past an Applicant Tracking System.

We also offer a free resume review tool so you can see how your resume looks to an ATS.

Why would you need two or more versions of your resume?

When asking the question, “How many resumes should you have,” there are a couple of circumstances where you might need more than one.

For example, you may need multiple resumes if you have multiple career goals. This can happen if you’re interested in switching careers, but not committed to it. You could have one resume for continuing in your industry, and one resume focused on transferable skills for another industry. 

Another example of when you may need two or more resumes is when applying for your first job. You may be interested in multiple positions related to your new degree or interested in the same position in different industries. 

In general, you want to keep your career goals to a minimum. While you can have multiple versions of your resume, you can only have one LinkedIn profile. For both resumes and LinkedIn, the more specific your goals, the better your outcomes.

How to tailor your resume for different jobs

Your resume should be tailored for each job you apply for by including certain keywords. The benefit of applying for similar jobs with the same career goal is that you won’t have to edit the bulk of your resume, which saves you a lot of time. Instead, look for opportunities to quickly switch out keywords that both an ATS and a hiring manager are looking for. We’ve identified five valuable keyword opportunities below.

Top 5 places to tailor your resume

1. Your resume title

Your resume title (highlighted in the example below) is a hugely valuable opportunity for tailoring. You can change it to match the job you’re applying for - even if it isn’t a job title you’ve held before - as long as it’s related to your work experience.

You can follow your resume title with a short phrase that adds additional keyword opportunities and quickly describes your value as an applicant. Consider your specialties, hallmark skills, industry recognitions, key achievements, and other relevant information that help you stand out.

2. Your summary

Located below your job title but above your core competencies section, you have four to six lines of text to answer the job description. The rest of your resume will support your claims. If you say you have 5 years of experience, make sure your resume details five years of experience. 

Your resume summary should include short and concise sentences that incorporate the top skills and accomplishments highlighted in your resume. The summary also provides an opportunity to highlight aspects of your experience and personality that aren’t necessarily incorporated into other sections of your resume.

This is also the place to state that you meet the required education and hard skills exposure you need for this job. You don’t want to be redundant, but you do want to quickly summarize what makes you perfectly qualified for this job.

Be careful to avoid too many of these 15 buzzwords that hiring managers hate.

3. Your core competencies

Our experts recommend a core competencies section on a resume, above a skills section. For highly technical jobs, you may also include a technical skills section. Go for incorporating 10 to 30 core competencies in your list.

For the most part, your core competencies will remain the same on the resumes you submit. However, this is a good place to match keywords from the job description exactly. If a job description asks for experience with Online Media, switch out that term for Digital Media in the example below.

4. Your experience

Don’t rewrite your whole experience section, but compare your resume to the job description. See if there is anything you left out that is relevant to this job.

If a bullet point doesn’t relate to this specific job, you can delete it. Put your most powerful resume bullet point first: that’s where the hiring manager will see it clearly. Adjust the order of your accomplishments as needed.

Also, be sure to start each bullet point with a power verb to emphasize your accomplishments. You also want to include as much relevant quantifiable data as possible to show the hiring team you have what it takes to succeed on the job.

5. Your keywords throughout

Keywords are what will get your resume into the hands of a hiring manager. How you use those keywords will impress the hiring manager and earn you an interview request. Don’t just say you have a certain skill: explain how you’ve used that skill and what result was achieved. Give your skills context to truly stand out.

This is especially important for soft skills. Where hard skills are easily measurable and understood when you list them on your resume, soft skills are generally inferred. For example, it’s clearly understood what is required for a CPA, or certified public accountant, which is considered a technical skill. However, if you have amazing analytical or creativity soft skills, instead of listing them as skills on your resume, they’ll be inferred by resume readers based on the accomplishments you share that require analytical and creative skills.

Additional resume tips

To further support you in tailoring your resume, here are a couple additional tips. 

1. Include additional sections

Depending on the job description and your unique circumstances, you might opt to include additional sections in your resume outside of the standard resume summary, core competencies, work experience, and education sections to tailor your resume. For example, you might include a section focused on volunteer experience if it helps to cover some of the job requirements and experience in the job description that your traditional work experience or education doesn’t. You might also opt for sections focused on technical skills, certifications, projects, awards, and publications if it adds value by better aligning with the job description.

2. Keep track of your applications

Each time you tailor your resume for a new application, save it with a new file name. From there, it can be helpful to create a spreadsheet that captures the jobs you’ve applied to and each resume version you’ve submitted. By taking this approach, you can keep track of your applications and the different resume versions you’ve completed to avoid submitting duplications. You can also more easily refer to a resume for a new application that’s similar to a previous application you’ve submitted.

Tailor your resume to land interviews

Most job seekers don't need different versions of their resume: just a single resume that can be easily tailored to different positions. Remember that your resume needs to contain information that's relevant to the position you're targeting. Finding a job can be challenging in a competitive labor market, especially if you send the same resume to each position you apply to.

You will begin to see those interviews roll in when you take the time out to carefully tailor your resume to each position.

Good luck with your job search!

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Written by

Ronda Suder, Professional Writer

With a drive to foster safety and expand possibilities through writing, performing, and working with others, Ronda brings 25 years of combined experience in HR, recruiting, career advice, communications, mental and behavioral health, and storytelling to her work. She’s a certified career coach and holds a Master’s in Human Resources, a Master’s in Film and Media Production, and a Master’s in Counseling and Development. As a writer, she’s covered topics ranging from finance and rock mining to leadership and internet technology, with a passion for career advice and mental-health-related topics. When she’s not at her computer, Ronda enjoys connecting with others, personal growth and development, spending time with her beloved pooch, and entertainment through movies, television, acting, and other artistic endeavors. You can connect with Ronda on LinkedIn and through her website.

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