At what point do you have too many resumes? I recently received a call from a job seeker who has 14 resumes who wants to network. I am already confused before I even have a chance to meet him.

I decided to reach out to a few recruiters in the business and ask them what they think about a candidate having multiple resumes.

Is There Such A Thing As Too Many?

Vickie Day, partner at Search Ventures, Inc. believes, “that 14 versions is excessive, but if the result is what it takes to land something in this economy, I am not going to criticize the candidate. I am not sure whether the 14 versions are due to specific targeted jobs, or poor advice.”

Cynthia K. Wade, an executive recruiter at Management Recruiters of St. Charles and professional resume writer says “especially in this economy, resumes should always be individualized to target a specific position in a specific industry, even company if possible.”

“We see candidates that have various different versions to choose from depending on the type of position that they are applying for. Matching your resume to the job description is one way to get added bounce for your resume. Fourteen seems a bit excessive, but without seeing them, I can’t say for sure.”

President at JWN Recruit, Natalie Washington’s first reaction is – “14 resumes, really? I feel it is a bit excessive. Without knowing too much about this individual or reviewing the 14 resumes I feel that you are looking at more of a “Jack of all trades and a master of none” rather than a Generalist. Using the word Generalist typically applies to a person within a specific industry not being a person of every industry.”

It is commonplace for someone to have more than one resume. If you have experience in multiple disciplines such as marketing, operations, human resources or finance, which area do you choose? What about career transitions into different industries or changes in professional focus? Often, these situations lead to many versions. Is that a good decision?

“Graduates through their Career Services Departments at Colleges and Universities receive this advice,” says Ms, Washington, “particularly for students who are returning to school after being out in the workforce for sometime. The student may be studying with the intent of changing careers. Therefore, once they receive their degree they may not have the work experience in the industry or specific field that they received a degree for.”

Understandable, but what about the rest of us?

What Is Really Important

It starts with knowing what you want to do and finding a way to communicate it effectively to your audience.

“The more important thing to consider is that each individual resume should be clearly targeted to a specific goal. Within that individual resume, a candidate needs to project confidence about what their abilities are and how they can most successfully apply them. Any doubts about what they want to do should not be communicated to the client” says Ms. Wade.

Building your resume takes some hard work. “Re-evaluate the main objective and review the resume(s) to determine what skill sets, training and educations are reoccurring and create/develop no more than 3 versions of your resume” says Ms. Washington. “This will help eliminate the risk of all of those different versions of your resume getting into too many hands and becoming ineffective.”

If employers suspect desperation, they tend to shy away from choosing that candidate for the job even if they have the skill set to perform the job responsibilities requested.

N. Washington

Personally, I believe it is hard to find someone who is a specialist in many areas. At some point, the experiences are not deep enough to be a specialist and you are just covering up that you are really a generalist.

It’s good news for the job seekers with unique or deep skill sets, “in this market most clients are looking for specialists, not generalists. A resume should reflect that,” says Ms. Wade.

Sometimes, when the resume doesn’t tell the right story, the recruiter intervenes. If they believe there is a good match, but the resume needs a little tweaking, the candidate may receive some valuable tips.

An approach Ms. Day has used in the past is “When I am certain a candidate’s profile fits a search I am working on, I sometimes forward the client corporation’s position description and ask candidates to include some of the key responsibilities, measures of performance, principal accountabilities, relationships, background or skills that may not be clearly stated in their resume. This is to ensure my client will clearly see the value of scheduling an interview coupled with my written candidate profile/comments.”

It Gets Complicated

I have always operated by the keep it simple philosophy, maybe because I learned a lesson early on in my career.

In my 20’s, it was time for a career change. I was unsure what I wanted to do. My interests were to work in Human Resources or Marketing, so I created two resumes. I sent out the appropriate resume to companies based on the job I was applying for…or so I thought.

One day, I receive a call from a major company, located in the next town. The interview was going well; I was connecting with the hiring manager for the human resources position.

Then I was hit with the following question, “We are interviewing you for the Human Resources position, but your resume says you want a marketing position. Which do you prefer?” Oops, they had the wrong resume!

Thankfully, I recovered from the question and they hired me. Later, I asked my new boss why they had even called me in. He said he saw past my blunder in my resume; focusing more on key accomplishments. He was hiring for potential vs. skill. Not every organization or hiring manager is going to take that approach.

With the advances in technology, recruiting is more internet driven and the job hunter may find themselves caught in a trap.

Ms. Washington puts the issue on the table, “having more than 3 different versions of your resume can get very complicated for the job seeker and can cause question to credibility and professionalism within their job search efforts. With e-communications, today the job seeker runs the risk of any one employer being exposed to many different versions of their resume.”

“From the employer perspective the person may come off being indecisive, unprofessional and for lack of a better word a flake; more appropriately, someone that lacks common sense – which can lead to all kinds of problems for the job seeker.” Natalie continues, “Being perceived as a person that lacks common sense will likely eliminate you as a potential employee for most opportunities.”

It begs the question; do you know where your resume is going once it leaves your computer? Is there the potential for a resume collision?

“Remember in the game of finding a job and the game of life it is all about balance.” So eloquently put by Ms. Washington.