Use A Fishing Resume When You Don’t Know The Target Company

Dec 7 2010 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

job search information, job search advice, job search help, job search tips, career advice

In many other articles, I recommend using a Fishing Resume when you don’t have information about your recipient (the target company).

Fishing resumes can help candidates who reply to blind ads, send resumes to recruiters (without knowledge of the hiring company), or send to their network (without having a specific company as the target).

What is a Fishing Resume?

A fishing resume is basically unchanged, because the candidate doesn’t know much (or anything) about the employer or hiring manager. It’s a static resume a candidate uses to respond to a blind ad, to a recruiter, or to a networking contact (if the candidate isn’t asking to gain inroads into a specific target company). It’s a fishing resume because the candidate doesn’t know who the employer is – so there’s no way to tailor it.

It should be your goal to send as few fishing resumes as possible – you’ll get more interviews from highly customized and targeted Response Resumes, tailored to a specific company and a specific opportunity. The odds are much lower that you’ll get interviews from sending blind resumes, because you don’t have access to company information needed to customize.

However, there will be situations where sending a blind resume is unavoidable – an effective fishing resume strategy can help you raise the lower odds.

In addition, a well written fishing resume can be used as a template for later customization – it can be the base template for future response resumes.

What’s An Effective Fishing Resume Strategy?

There are a number of aspects to a strong fishing resume strategy, including optimum number of versions, clarity, information placement, format, audience focus, and sections. I’ll explain each one more fully, and include links to past articles for even greater detail:

  1. How Many? 2 versions is ideal. If you can’t choose just 2, then absolutely no more than 3. Separate versions can communicate specific subject matter expertise, industry expertise, or job function. Today’s job search is most effective when highly focused – this applies to all levels of experience and most every job function (while there are some exceptions, they are few and far between). Using more than 3 versions spreads a candidate too thin, causing candidates to communicate they are all things to all people – rarely attractive to most employers.
  2. Clear Intent: An effective fishing resume tells the reader, in a crystal clear and extremely concise manner, the job function sought and why the candidate is superior to hundreds (or thousands) of competitors. The best resumes do this in a single headline underneath the contact header, called a personal branding statement. See “How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers“ (
  3. Resume Real Estate: Since Hiring managers/Recruiters/HR reps spend an average 15 seconds determining if you’ll be interviewed or not, you’ve got to make a great first impression … very quickly. In 15 seconds, your first impression is made on the top ½ of your first page – your most valuable resume real estate. In order to maximize the impact of your resume real estate, it’s important to get information the the screener/sourcer/HR rep and the Hiring manager is looking for, with the key words they are looking in the top ½ of your first page … because resume readers often don’t go any further. Read more about effective resume real estate tactics at ”10 Ways To Manage Your Resume Real Estate” (
  4. Format: Format should also recognize the principles of resume real estate. In addition, resumes should be in MS Word .doc (97-2003 compatibility mode) format, not .pdf, not .docx, not .dot formats. Recruiters, employers and HR reps overwhelmingly prefer .doc formats, but there are a few notable exceptions. Learn more about why your audience wants to see your resume in .doc format and what typical exceptions exist at ”.doc vs .pdf – What Resume format do HR departments & recruiters prefer?” (

    Also, resume fonts should be simple for most job functions. Using a single font in your resume assures that it won’t look sloppy – most resumes with multiple fonts are confusing to the human eye. Unless you are in advertising or in graphic arts, use a simple font. I recommend Times New Roman for Finance, legal, management and technology positions, Ariel for creative positions or for senior candidates who want to appear younger. If you want to look really old and out of date, use courier. For more information on fonsts, see ”What Font Type And Size Should I Use For My Resume? Job search question of the week” (

  5. WIFT: WIFT stands for What’s In it For Them – In respect to resumes, WIFT refers to emphasising what the employer will feel is important. This is opposed to WIFM (What’s In it For Me) – What you are most proud of. WIFT is helping to make the employer money, solve their problems and break through roadblocks. An employer doesn’t care about your past responsibilities, descriptions of your past companies or listings of past job descriptions – that’s all WIFM. Your next employer won’t care about these statements because they fail to describe how you provided value for your past employer – used as a proxy for how you’ll provide value to your next employer. See Job Seekers – Tell your readers WIFT (What’s In it For Them)” (
  6. Objective: Objective statements may be a traditional part of resumes, but they don’t solve employer information needs. As much as you might like to think otherwise, employers don’t really care what your objective is – they care about how much value you’ll provide to the company. Objective statements are WIFM, so why take up your most valuable resume real estate talking about what you want? Why not instead use a personal branding statement to tell the employer how you provide what they want?
  7. Summary Section: Summary sections are also a traditional part of resumes that don’t work well today. Summary sections are WIFM and employers view them as “seller’s fluff” – Employers believe what they see within the bullet points under each employer’s work experience. Summary sections don’t show recency – it makes a big difference to an employer if you’ve accomplished something within the past year, or 20 years ago. Worst yet, summary sections take up most of your most valuable resume real estate.

I recommend that fishing resumes have the following components to increase their effectiveness.

Components of a Fishing Resume:

  • Personal branding statement: A personal branding statement is a clear concise statement describing the anticipated job function you seek, and one or two subject matter expertises to demonstrate the problems you are best at solving. Your personal branding statement should tell the reader why you are superior to the hundreds (or thousands) of other candidates … all within a single line headline for your resume. More details about how to construct personal branding statements can be found at “How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers“ (
  • Paragraphs vs. Bulletpoints: Short bulletpoints win – paragraphs just aren’t effective in a resume. The human eye just doesn’t pick up details from paragraphs well during a 15 second scan. I advise my clients to break up paragraphs into bulletpoints that are no more than 2 lines in length – Any longer and your reader won’t see the detail you want them to see. Learn more about why bullets work best at ”Which Are More Effective In A Resume? Paragraphs vs Bullets” (
  • Employer Value Statements: Use bulletpoints that demonstrate the value you’ve provided to prior employers. Listing responsibilities demonstrates how you spent your time, but is your next employer really interested in a time sheet? You’ll find that most employers are more interested in gaining an understanding if you’re likely to make the employer money, increase revenues, cut costs, increase profits, or solve pain. Examples of how you’ve provided value to prior employers is the best indication to your prospective employer that you’ll provide value to them. Learn more about employer value statements at ”Employer Value Statements Make Your Resume Sizzle” (
  • Industry Keywords: Even though you don’t know the target company when you send a fishing resume, you can still increase your interview chances by including industry keywords. While this isn’t as effective as customized keywords for a specific employer or opportunity, it beats not considering keywords at all. Your fishing resume keywords can be found by combining the responsibilities/criteria/qualifications sections of 10 job descriptions (all close to the type of jobs you’re applying to), then running this combined document through a word cloud tool.

    The result will show which are the most important words in that document – the ones most likely to be keywords for this type of job. Make sure your resume includes the most important 10-20 keywords, with as many of these keywords above the fold as possible. See the profile section of ”How Are Profile Keywords Different Than Resume Keywords?” (

  • Selective Bolding: Be careful what you bold – most resumes over-bold and generate resumes with much lower bolding effectiveness than what’s optimal. When bolding is done well, it pulls the reader’s eye to specific words, the words you want your reader to see in a quick 15 second scan. To learn more about effective and non-effective bolding techniques, see ”Is Your Resume Over-Bold?” (
  • Education: What’s more important to your employer, your education or your experience? Whichever is more important should be listed first.

    If you’ve just earned your undergrad, your education is more important – list your education at the top. If you graduated from school more than 2 years ago, your experience is more important – in this case, list your education near the end. If you just graduated from graduate school – your education might be more important if you’re changing careers or if you went to a top school … otherwise, your experience is more important.

  • Skills Inventory: At the very end of the resume, as an addendum, include a skills inventory. A skills inventory is a listing of 30-50 skills (50+ skills for tech professionals). I recommend listing skills as 3 word “sound bytes” and using a 3 column format. A skills inventory helps a candidate match the requirements that never made the job descriptions, the changed criteria, and the “nice to haves”. Include technology skills, functional skills, industry skills, management/leadership skills, and soft skills. To get more details on constructing a great skills inventory, see ”Resume Ideas – Add A Skills Inventory To Get Noticed For More Jobs” (
  • So how will you reconstruct your fishing resume?


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