Customize your résumé 

It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t know what you want. For instance, a job seeker who recently contacted Robert Half opened his cover letter with an odd request: “Please read this letter and then let me know where I would fit in best in your organization.”

How many hiring managers will have the time or inclination to do this applicant’s work for him? I suspect none.

It’s your responsibility as the applicant to target a specific job and explain why your skills and experience make you ideally suited for that particular role with that particular company. Customizing your résumé to each opportunity you pursue takes more time, but it’s well worth the effort.

  • OBJECTIVE: “I am primarily seeking a job either in business or criminal justice. I am also open to any other career ideas or suggestions.” Sure. Let’s have a brainstorm.
  • COVER LETTER: “My goal is to get my foot in the door of a company. Can you let me know if I seem good at anything?”We can tell you what you’re not good at.
  • QUALIFICATIONS: “I am a great employee for any position. If you want, I could bore you with 10 more generic adjectives.” No employer is looking for generic.
  • OBJECTIVE: “I am looking for something specific or not very specific at all.” It’s good to keep your options open, but not to this extreme.
  • COVER LETTER: “Attached is my résumé. Take the time to read it all before trying to give me a job that is outside my field.” We’ve read all we need to.

Max Messmer is CEO of Robert Half International, a specialized staffing firm. Send examples to Resumania, c/o Robert Half International, 2884 Sand Hill Road, Suite 200, Menlo Park 94025. Or, visit

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