If you’re applying to jobs but not getting the offers you want, there’s a good chance you’re neglecting or missing an essential part of the process of preparing your resume.
Most people have one resume that they send out over and over again, regardless of the position they’re applying for. But if you want to score an interview when competing against dozens or hundreds of other qualified applicants, you need to make a few tweaks to ensure that your resume is tailored to the job.
But what does that actually mean? And why does it matter? That’s what this post is here to answer.
What Does Tailoring a Resume Mean?
Tailoring your resume to fit the job description means taking the time to read the job posting carefully and making sure that your resume shows evidence of all the key qualifications that the employer is looking for. It means adjusting the accomplishments, language, and even the layout of your resume to show the recruiter as clearly and quickly as possible that you have what they need for this job (since that always differs at least a little bit from job to job.)
It may seem like a small thing, but making sure your resume is an excellent match for the position you’re applying to can make all the difference in whether or not you get your foot in the door.
Why Does Tailoring Your Resume Matter?
With so many resumes flooding recruiters’ inboxes, it can be tough to make yours stand out. But if you have a resume tailored to the job, it’ll be easier for recruiters to quickly scan and see that you have the qualifications they’re looking for instead of spending their valuable time searching through a generic document.
Not to mention, you’ll be leaving a much better impression on the recruiter if you take the time to personalize your resume for the job. It shows that you’re serious about the position and have done your research.
Apart from that, you should also consider Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
Most mid- to large-size organizations use these systems to help recruiters sort and search through the hundreds of applications they often receive. These systems parse the text on your resume to create a searchable file in a database that allows recruiters to search for qualified applicants using keywords related to the job description. If your resume doesn’t include those keywords (which are always found in the job posting), it’s possible your resume won’t come up in a recruiter’s search results, and you could get passed over.
How to Tailor Your Resume
Tailoring your resume is actually not as difficult as it may seem. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Scan the Job Description for Keywords
The first step is to carefully read the job description for keywords related to the position, including the core skills, degrees or certifications, and location. Remember what we were saying about Applicant Tracking Systems? Well, keywords are a crucial part of that – they make it easier for the recruiter to quickly find what they want when reading too. Naturally include as many of them as you can in your resume without sounding too robotic.
The phrasing of the keywords is also important, so make sure to use them in context and exactly as they are spelled in the job description. Good places to integrate keywords in your resume include:
- Your headline
- The summary section
- Your skills section
- Throughout the bullets in your professional experience section
- Your education section
For instance, if you’re applying for a job as an accountant, some keywords you might find in the job description include: accountancy, bookkeeping, budgeting, financial statements, and taxation.
When you’re done, you can use a keyword-rating tool like Jobscan to check if your resume is ATS-friendly and compatible. You should aim for around 80% – remember that every ATS is different and this is not an exact rating of how likely a recruiter is to read your resume or how likely you are to get an interview!
2. Customize the Key Sections of Your Resume
Next, you’ll want to take a closer look at the critical sections of your resume and see how you can tailor them to fit the job you’re applying for. Some sections you’ll want to pay special attention to are:
When it comes to your summary you’ll want to make sure it’s short, sweet, and to the point. This isn’t the time to be vague or wishy-washy about your goals. The goal here is to let the employer know exactly why you’re the right person for the job. Mention your 3-5 most relevant qualifications for the job in a paragraph, bullet points, or both. (If you have a good deal of experience, you might want to consider adding a Key Achievements section as part of this section too.)
When it comes to your experience section, you’ll want to focus on writing bullet points about the results you achieved in each, rather than your day-to-day responsibilities. When choosing which accomplishments to include from each job, keep the specific qualifications from the job posting in mind. For example, if you’re applying to a Copywriter job after a role as a Social Media Manager, you probably don’t need to include as much detail or as many bullets about making videos for Instagram in your entry for that job, but you should instead focus on the clear and concise copywriting you did for each social post.
Being strategic about which experiences you choose to include and how you describe them will keep your resume as effective as possible.
Your skills section is a great place to showcase your qualifications for the job and use keyword phrases. But don’t just list out your skills without explaining how you acquired them or demonstrating how you’ve put them to use in the past. Remember, the most relevant skills you want to emphasize should also be found with evidence in your other sections.
Finally, when it comes to your education section, you’ll want to list the degrees and certifications you have that are most relevant to the job. You don’t need to include everything, so be selective and think about what will be most appealing to the employer. For instance, your real estate license isn’t necessary to include if you’re applying to a UX job.
3. Shorten/Lengthen Your Resume as Necessary
Now, this final step is optional, but it’s something you may want to consider if you’re having a hard time fitting all of your information onto one or two pages (which, again, depends on the job!)
If you have a lot of experience and education, you may need to shorten your resume by cutting it down to only the most relevant information. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a marketing coordinator, you would want to make sure to emphasize your relevant experience in marketing, which might mean cutting out info from some sales jobs you’ve held in the past.
Trimming your resume might mean cutting out irrelevant jobs entirely if they’re older than 10-15 years (only at the beginning of your listed experience though – you don’t want to leave career gaps.) Or, if you can’t remove a job in the middle of your experience or it’s still partially relevant, just remove a few of the least relevant bullet points.
Conversely, if you’re just starting out in your career, you may want to fill out your one-page resume by including more details about your experiences and skills, as long as they’re still relevant to the job.
And if you have a hard time determining what to keep and what to cut, the Highlighter Method can be of great help.
You’re All Set!
Tailoring your resume is vital in landing an interview, and following these simple steps will make it a lot easier. Remember to be strategic about which keywords you choose to include and how you present your qualifications. By taking the time to customize your resume, you’ll be sure to stand out from the rest of the applicants.
About the Author
Chris Villanueva, CPRW is the founder and CEO of the award-winning resume service Let’s Eat, Grandma (because proper writing is important enough to save a life!) With a highly trained team of writers and a focus on customization to each client, Let’s Eat, Grandma has helped thousands of professionals get closer to their dream job with better resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles.