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Note: I am speaking from the perspective of a recent college graduate applying to firms with graduate programs/schemes. I don't know if this makes a difference or not!

There are many, different, online sources which explicitly state that no, this is a very bad idea.

Yet, in this economic climate and with a record number of graduates failing to find work and forcing them to leave the workforce, what choice do they have?

I have noticed that almost all of my classmates, some from different universities, have engaged in 'resume bombing' and applied to at least 5 different firms using the same CV and cover letter sans a few alterations on the cover letter to mention things which differ in each company (such as CSR projects). And all of them have a job at least somewhere.

In a question I posed yesterday I received a clear consensus from many who seem to be hiring managers/HR personnel. What was also clear is that different hiring managers/HR personnel will be valuing different things on the candidate.

Therefore, what is the point of tailoring your CV and cover letter to a specific company when genericness to a certain extent is more beneficial anyway?

Why create new cover letters for each company when your generic template with some few enhancements to the company can do the job and with less risk?

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    What is the risk associated with tailoring your cover letter to the target company? I understand how this is more work, but I don't see the additional risk. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Mar 26 '14 at 10:45
  • "all of them have a job at least somewhere". But was it from the companies they resume bombed? – DJClayworth Mar 26 '14 at 13:25
  • I guess the risk would be typos, incorrect grammar, poor readability etc, which would be reduced if you had one solid, proofread letter – Fiona - myaccessible.website Mar 26 '14 at 13:35
  • @DJClayworth yes they do. RE: risk; so you have time to do more applications elsewhere rather than spend an entire day trying to think up of a cover letter, amending your CV, proofreading your edits for 1 company when you could do 1 and edit it abit and apply to 5 – Evil Washing Machine Mar 26 '14 at 13:50
  • If the resumes are relatively factual there shouldn't be risk in having tailored ones. If you're just outright making stuff up, keeping the lies straight might become an issue. For example, if you claimed you were doing <A> at a previous job in one resume, and had another where you claimed to be doing <B> during the same time frame. – Spehro Pefhany Mar 26 '14 at 14:14
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I think you're seeing a false dichotomy. There is a middle ground between 'resume bombing', which is sending an generic resume and resume to a job prospect, and completely rewriting your resume and cover letter for each job prospect.

Most people have a master template for at least their resume. It can be modified somewhat, moving items that are in the job description to the top, making sure the keywords are there so it isn't automatically rejected. But your experience and education are what you have, so it is just tailoring, not a ground-up rewrite.

The cover letter should not be a boring template. If you've written a really good cover letter, you certainly can use that as your own starting place for each one, but the standard

Dear -company-, I'd like to apply for -job-, my resume is attached. I'd be great. Sincerely, me

cover letter is not going to get your resume looked at any more than any of the others. You need to write something that makes them do more than just glance at your resume and makes them want to interview you. You want them to know that you're someone who wants to work for them, not just someone who wants any job.

You're talking about risk, but you should be looking more at reward. What action is more likely to result in an interview? Resume bombing can increase the likelihood that your resume will be randomly selected from the huge pile. A researched and thoughtful tailored resume and cover letter to companies that you want to work for can result in more interviews per application. And those interviews can lead to jobs you'd more likely prefer to have.

  • I always say. You are both salesman and product, the company you are applying to is your potential customer. Convince me I want to buy (hire) you. – RualStorge Jul 3 '14 at 18:05
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tl;dr: there's nothing wrong with generic cover letters/resumes, assuming they contain the information the hiring manager/HR want for each job posting

And all of them have a job atleast somewhere.

The point of CVs and resumes is not to get you a job. It's to get you an interview. You then can sell yourself in the interview and get yourself a job offer.

The reason I point this out is sending out lots of resumes doesn't get you a job, it might increase your chances of getting an interview.

Parallel example

Therefore, what is the point of tailoring your CV and cover letter to a specific company when genericness to a certain extent is more beneficial anyway?

Consider this example. Imagine, instead of typing a somewhat personalized answer directly referencing your post, I just copied text from one of those posts you link and put it as an answer. You'd probably sigh, go "great this isn't overly helpful" and ignore most of this answer. However, if those references you listed were good enough and stand alone, I could just quote large portions of them and affirm them. This would more represent having a great, generic resume.

Same thing is true of boilerplate resumes/cover letters. If you don't have enough interesting skills or experiences to make your resume or cover letter generically great, you're going to need to tailor it specifically. You might even need to do this if you have a lot of experience due to being later in your career.

Incidentally this is the point of Stack Exchange to some extent, providing good, boilerplate answers which comprehensively address questions.

If your resume or cover letter is good enough, then you can use it as such.

But what was also clear is that different hiring managers/HR personnel will be valuing different things on the candidate.

This is a good part of the answer too. A hiring manager is looking for a specific person with a specific set of skills. This will vary somewhat from job posting to job posting.

Other considerations

Keep in mind most interviewers who have copies of your resume will have the version you initially submitted.

If you want to highlight certain things about yourself for that company, having your resume naturally read as such is very beneficial. You can simply talk about whatever is on the resume naturally.

This is considerably easier if one of the following is the case:

  1. Your resume is awesome in a generic format
  2. Your resume is tailored to the company you applied for

On a personal note, what I've done before is to keep a "master" version of my resume, which has more detail/information than is necessary. I can then remove irrelevant information to specific job postings easily.

  • 1
    Agreed on having a version that you can trim down as appropriate. It hugely reduces the amount of time you spend writing each cover letter. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Mar 26 '14 at 13:34
  • I have a master version of my resume and cover letter just like you and I tailor it to the company I am applying for. The thing is, I never spend more than 30 minutes doing this tailoring and in an hour I would apply to about 3 different companies. My concern is that sources from elsewhere in the web seem to suggest that you should be redesigning your CV/cover letter from the ground up for every company, which I think is so pointless – Evil Washing Machine Mar 26 '14 at 13:55
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    @EvilWashingMachine - ok, that is pointless. Because your experience (or lack of it) doesn't change from application to application. You do want to tailor the resume and cover letter to what you know about the job you're applying for, but you're still starting from the same foundation. – thursdaysgeek Mar 26 '14 at 15:55
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I can sympathise with your situation. A lot of advice on resumes is written for experienced programmers looking for a better job. In that case, you really need to target your resume, as senior engineers earn a lot, and companies are very picky about who they hire.

So while targeting your resume maybe good advice in the general case, it may not work in your specific case. The reason being that for new graduates / people with little experience, companies know that they will have no experience, and will have to be trained/mentored anyway. So they just look at rough details on your resume.

It has been a long time since my first job, but I remember the fact that since I was going to be paid a lot less than experienced programmers, my resume didn't matter that much. The interviewer looked at it, but spent most of the time talking about what subjects I took, and asking me questions on those.

So in your case, just sending a generic resume maybe good enough. My advice is: For jobs you really want, like the Googles/Facebooks of the world, make sure you target your resume. For all other jobs, just send a bland resume. The sad truth of the matter is, it is a probability game. Even excellent programmers get rejected for minor things, and all you can do is keep applying.

  • 1
    The sad truth of the matter is, it is a probability game <-- I love this answer because it means people like me who don't treat it as a probability game have a much higher chance of success. My first interview for full-time work out of college involved a tailored cover letter and tailored resume, which let me have a phenomenal on-site interview because all I had to do was walk down my resume to talk about exactly why I would make a great candidate. – enderland Mar 26 '14 at 14:04
  • I try to show in the cover letter that I have read the job spec and looked at their website. At the top of my CV is a list of skills, I may change the order of these. – Ian Mar 26 '14 at 16:27
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    @enderland I don't treat as a probability game either. But I accept I live in the real world where people don't always write tests before coding, we don't exercise daily, politics plays a bigger role in promotion than talent, and yes, sometimes getting a new job is just a probability game. That's why I said that for jobs you really love, you should spend time tailoring the CV. But to please the rent man, also send some generic CVs – Shantnu Tiwari Mar 26 '14 at 16:44
  • @ShantnuTiwari ...people write tests before coding? – Evil Washing Machine Mar 27 '14 at 9:33
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As part of the recruitment screening process, I'd much prefer to invite a candidate to interview if they have showed an element or personalisation and research into the company for which they're applying for a position at.

Generic and templated cover letters are often quite easy to spot as an employer and if they haven't shown any element of research or interest into the company then it doesn't set a great example of how they may be as an employee.

This is ultimately one of the main reasons it is considered bad practice. I'd certainly expect the application success rate to be lower using a generic cover letter used to apply for multiple positions in multiple companies with just the odd word changed here and there.

With so many out of work and scrambling for any vacancies that arise now, it is more important then ever to 'stand out from the crowd' and take that extra bit of time researching and perfecting your cover letter. Those that cannot be bothered will not be rewarded in most cases.

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Resumes are a marketing tool, nothing more. You have to plan your market campaign based on what you are selling. In many ways, what to do is a cost-benefit analysis. If by customizing I can only apply to 10 companies instead of 100 in a week, am I going to generate enough interviews to make that time worth while and are those interviews going to be ones I am more likely to succeed at? If you do the 100 generic ones and get typically 4 interviews of which only 1 is really interesting and by customizing you might get 6 out of ten comapnies to interview you and 4 of thehm are really interesting, then it is worth the effort. But if you get 30 interviews for your 100 and 20 of them are interesting and 15 of them are ones you would be likely to get offers you want from, then customizing does nto make sense.

So before you can determine if you should customize your resume, you have to determine what are the key things that would make you stand out from the competition. This list might be differnt at every stage of your career and what is on the list may dictate whether you need to customize or not. If you only have one or two selling points (as you might have at the entry level) and what you have to offer is not significantly differnt for the types of jobs you are applying for, then you might be best served spending the majority of your time on the generic resume and making sure it is something that will catch the attention of the people screening it to determine who to interview.

I will also point out that a badly customized resume may work against you. Do you really have the marketing skills right now to truly customize your resume?

However, the well-crafted custom resume that pinpoints the needs of the specific company you are looking at may be the one thing that distinguises you from a sea of entry-level recent grads who all have similar qualifications. Only you can make the choice of which is likely to be better based on your own particular circumstances. A well-done customization can make the hiring offical see you as someone who understands the business and not just the technical end and that will give you an edge. At the entry level point, we are mainly hiring on personality fit as very few entry level people have significantly better technical qualifications than the others.

As you move up though, you will have more things that could go in your resume and now you have the opposite problem. Instead of trying to figure out how to customize when you have very little actual experience, you now are almost forced to customize so that the hiring offical will see the parts of your experince that are most pertinent to the new postion. It is also harder to get through the screening for more senior postions, so you really have to make sure you hit the keywords. Further, you are much more picky about what jobs you would consider (most of us learn this one the hard way) and so you need to do the research before applying in any event.

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Tailoring your cover letter to a specific company shows that you actually read their ad and are interested enough in the job to go to a little extra effort.

You mentioned that a lot of your friends resume bomb every company in the area. Companies know that people do this. If you were the company, which would you be more inclined to hire: Someone who sent you his resume because your company name starts with a "B" and he's up to "B" in his resume-bombing campaign? Or somebody who knows something about your company or carefully studied an ad and said, "Hey, that sounds like some place where I would really fit in and could make a contribution"? Even if right now you would take almost anything just to get a paycheck coming in or some experience under your belt, you don't want to tell them that.

A distant second reason is to highlight relevant experience from your resume. If you are applying for a job doing X, and on your resume you list experience doing W, X, Y, and Z, you don't want to make a potential employer search your resume to see if X is on there somewhere, and then maybe wonder how much of X you really did. Tell them, "Hey, I spent 3 years doing X and here are a couple of examples of things I did" in the cover letter. Or if you're a recent grad, highlight relevant classes you have taken or projects you have done. Employers routinely get many resumes from people with no relevant experience, and they have to sort through them to find the ones that show any hope of being worth interviewing.

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