Resume of a Generalist

Many job seekers highlight the breadth of experiences and skills they possess. A diverse background offers multiple perspectives on problems and strategies, and can be valuable to an employer.

Despite the benefits of wide range of skills, focusing your sales pitch on your diverse background can be a mistake.

The problem with this approach lies in how different experiences are presented. You should emphasize the elements of your background that directly related to the position, showing your strongest skills and abilities prominently.

When a person highlights a wide range of skills and experiences, it becomes very difficult to assess which elements are strongest. When a large number of skills are put on equal footing, a hiring manager will often conclude the job seeker is average at each skill. Average will not get someone excited to hire you.

You need to show how you are exceptional. The initial focus of your resume should be on the aspects of the job you are seeking. You need to demonstrate how you will be success in the core functions of the job.  This targeted approach will make a strong impression and give you the opportunity interview.  Early in the hiring process, companies typically have dozens if not hundreds of candidates to consider and need to screen a large percentage.  Focusing on the core skills of a position and screening out candidates without exceptional experience with these skills is a common approach.

As you progress through the hiring process, the diversity of your experiences can then help you get hired.  A breadth of experiences is a benefit to an employer.  This background can be the deciding factor when a company is comparing to equally qualified candidates.  The additional experiences you possess can be the selling point that gives you an edge to get hired.

Let’s look at an example – this candidate is Vice President of Supply Chain for a manufacturing firm. The company is looking for someone that can lead their supply chain function and is most concerned with reducing costs through better vendor management with Asian suppliers.

The candidate has five years of experience sourcing in Asia, ten years of supply chain management, 5 years as a manufacturing manager and 3 years as a quality engineer.

General Presentation: Successful supply chain executive with experience managing purchasing, logistics and scheduling. Excellent manufacturing management track record, with significant quality engineering experience.

Focused Approached: Successful supply chain executive, specializing in purchasing and vendor management of off-shore suppliers, with extensive experience sourcing in Asia. Experienced with logistics, scheduling, manufacturing management and quality engineering, allowing effective anticipation of problems from vendors that will affect downstream customers.

The difference between these two presentations is small. Most resumes I read are similar to the general presentation. All of the skills and experiences are put on equal footing and none standout as a result. This presentation requires the hiring manager to connect the dots and recognize the value of the different experiences.

The second presentation positions the candidate much clearer.  It is targeted to show the supply chain experience, and more specifically, the experience sourcing in Asia.  The addition experiences are still presented, but are placed in a secondary, supporting context to the supply chain and sourcing experience.


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