First thing’s first: It’s never okay to lie or “fake it” on your resume! Really, never. You can get in an enormous amount of trouble for that (and likely fired) even years into your employment with a company. So don’t lie.  

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about how to “tailor” or customize a resume to a job. This is something you should always do! Here are five things to consider changing for each job application you send.

Customize your resume

Never Lie About: Your Title

Even if your title doesn’t make sense and doesn’t accurately describe what you do, you still shouldn’t fake it. Employers often do background checks before hiring and they always ask for “title” and “dates employed by company,” among other things. You don’t want the title you’ve provided to not match up in this type of routine check.

Instead, customize: Add a one-line description next to your title. That being said, you want the line where your title is to accurately describe what you do (and not all titles do that). There is nothing wrong with adding a one-line description to supplement your title. An example would be: “Talent Acquisition Associate [that's the title] — Handle recruiting for FT and Internship roles across the company [that's the description].” This will help add a little color and understanding to your current role.

Never Lie About: What You’ve Done

If you haven’t done something, don’t say you have. Anything on your resume is fair game in an interview and you may be expected to talk about it at length. You don’t want to write that you analyzed sales figures on Excel but then not know any of the right terminology when asked about it.

Instead, customize: Only include the things that you’ve done that are relevant to the job. This isn’t lying (in a sense it’s omitting). Chances are, you’ve done a lot of things in your career and past roles. Only include the tasks that are most relevant to the job.  Elaborating a bit more on those will be more beneficial than listing other tasks that don’t match up with the new job you’re applying for. Do this within reason — if a task was 75 percent of your job, always include it.

Never Lie About: The Dates You’ve Been with a Company

This is another big thing that comes up with a background check, so you want to be very honest about the months and years you were with a company. Also be careful about the “job start date — present” area.  You never want this to be on your resume if you’re not currently with a company. This is seen as very dishonest. If you find that someone has an old version of your resume, make sure you correct them about this right away (never let them assume).  I’ve seen people not get jobs based on letting someone assume they were still with a company when they weren’t.

Instead, customize: Reorder your experiences based on importance/relevance and bucket them by category. Of course, you’re not necessarily going to want to show off any really short stints or gigs that don’t fit into your “career story” (at least at the top of your resume).  I often advise people to bucket their experiences into “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience.” This way, the experience most related to the job will rise to the top of your resume and be read first, and the additional experience will just be there to supplement.

Overall, I am a huge supporter in writing your resume in a way that is true to who you are, while also highlighting your best accomplishments that would also make you great in the role you are applying to. Fibbing beyond that can be very risky, and not worth it. You should want to work for companies that want you — exactly as you are!

How do you tailor your resume to each job? Tell us in the comments.

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