Dear Sam: I am trying to develop a resume that positions me for accounting and possibly auditing roles. But, if I see a position I want to apply for in another field — I was a nurse earlier in my career and am interested in exploring that again — I don’t want to limit my options. How can I develop a resume that keeps my options open? — Annie

Dear Annie: I hear this question all the time. Job seekers are so afraid to close doors that they often create resumes without targeted content and with very diluted approaches. While keeping your options open may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite.

While I certainly understand the need to not limit options in today’s job market, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely beneficial. Instead, one should really try to identify a primary target, even if this means you have a second or third target requiring modified resumes.

If you try to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades, you suddenly become a master-of-none — clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy. Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective resume. This facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and which keywords to incorporate into your resume. While you may think broadening your resume’s scope would yield more responses, it is likely to do the opposite.

Let’s take a look at your specific situation. When presenting your candidacy for accounting or auditing roles, pull from your recent and relevant experience in those fields. Your language should focus on accounting and auditing keywords — reconciliation, reporting, payables, receivables, general ledger, journal entries, compliance — and use a traditional reverse chronological format.

For this resume, you may omit your nursing experience as it occurred more than 15 years ago and does not enhance your candidacy at this juncture in your career.

Now, if you present this same resume to an employer seeking a clinical professional, the accounting keywords would not resonate at all. It would be akin to doing a Google search for cars and seeing search results for cats … it just would not make sense.

If applying for nursing roles, you would need to turn your candidacy upside down. By this I mean you would likely use a combination-format resume in order to highlight earlier versus recent experience. Your Qualifications Summary should contain completely different content, and your core skills would be night and day to those on your accounting resume.

And, you have to consider if you would be the most qualified candidate for those roles. Sometimes, just because we think we can perform a role does not mean the hiring manager would view our candidacy as strong enough to compete against those with recent relevant experience. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but defining the areas where you would be seen as highly qualified is an important step to ensure you are conducting an effective and rewarding search.

If you want to pursue both career options, you need to develop two different resumes to maximize your response. In this situation, preparing a resume to keep your options open would yield very little if any response, significantly diluting the impact and effectiveness of your search.

You only need one job, so develop the most targeted resume possible so that when you send out a few each week, you actually get a response. It can sound good to keep your options open, however, creating a general resume rarely does.

Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a leading résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at For more about Sam’s résumé-writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.comor call
(614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).