by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
There are several keys to producing a successful job-search resume — a resume that will open more doors to you, leading to more job interviews… and, ideally, more job offers. This article focuses on how job-seekers can — and should — tailor resumes to EACH job opportunity, each employer.
By tailoring your resume to each job, each employer, you’ll appear better qualified — and a better fit — than those job-seekers who do not tailor their resumes.
The first step to tailoring your resume is starting with a strong, well-written resume. Thus, before getting to details about tailoring your resume, just a quick note about one of the other keys to writing a successful resume. Your resume must be a collection of accomplishments and achievements from your previous work experiences, volunteering, college/grad school, and the like. If your resume is simply a rehash of job duties and responsibilities, no amount of tailoring is going to help. So, before learning how to tailor your resume, you might want to develop a detailed list of your accomplishments. For more information, read our article, For Job-Hunting Success, Track/Leverage Your Accomplishments.
How to Tailor Your Resume: Step-by-Step
Let’s start with a basic misconception of many job-seekers. Yes, the work you conduct from the tips in this article will result in a new resume for each job opportunity, each employer… BUT, it does not mean you will be creating a new resume from scratch each time. The key is starting with a solid, well-written, accomplishments-driven resume. From there, all you’ll be doing is moving things around, tweaking words and phrases, and adding a focus and dimension to your resume that will make both hiring managers and applicant screening programs take notice.
The end-result of this process should be a resume that illustrates your accomplishments in terms that the employer understands, showing how your achievements and qualifications match directly to the requirements and job description of the job you’re seeking.
Step 1: Search Google, Indeed, and other job sites for job listings for the job you seek. Once you’ve gathered at least five of these job listings, conduct an analysis of the common qualifications each employer seeks. Modify your basic resume with this new information, especially keeping note of keywords and phrases and industry jargon/buzzwords. Also make note if you are missing one or more of those key qualifications; if so, your next step may be gaining the additional skills, experience, or education/training required — or ignoring that qualification on your resume; never lie about a qualification you don’t have.
Step 2: Once you are ready to apply to job postings, review the job descriptions and qualifications and make edits to your resume — including rearranging/modifying your qualifications summary so that your key accomplishments match those required in the job. Next, use the wording the employer uses to describe the ideal candidate to describe your accomplishments. Your end result should be a resume that mirrors the requirements the employer seeks. Another neat trick is using the job title (and number/ID) in the headline of your resume. Save your resume with the employer’s name in the file name, such JaneJobSeekerResume-Apple.
Step 3: Spend some time on each prospective employer’s Website — and/or review any organizational literature. You’ll want to seek out common words the employer uses to describe its culture, organizational philosophy, and employees. Some employers have amazingly rich career/job sections on their corporate Websites that go into great detail about organizational values, culture… and some even include quotes and testimonials from current employees. Take some of the words each employer uses to describe itself and its employees and use those words on your tailored resume. Resave this version.
Step 4: Go to your network and find leads on people who work in the field — and, ideally, people who work in your targeted employers. If possible, schedule informal discussions and/or informational interviews so that you can glean even more insider information — and ideally additional insights and keywords that you can use to again modify and sharpen your tailored resume.
Final Thoughts on Tailoring Your Job-Search Resume
There is no excuse to EVER send a generic, untailored resume to an employer. Not only will it be a great waste of your time, but you’ll continue to be frustrated with your lack of results. Tailoring your resume is as simple as outlined in this article — and the time and effort to conduct the research you need to dramatically improve your resume is minimal when compared to the better results you’ll get.
Always remember that employers do not just want to hire anyone off the streets — they want to believe they have hired the ideal candidate… the perfect fit for the job opening.
If you’re applying to a number of job openings, you’ll end up with a bunch of slightly different resumes — but remember to keep each of them so that when you are invited for the interview, you can review your copy… and print additional versions of it to bring to the interview.
Note: If you’re applying to more than one type of job, then you’ll need to start the tailoring process with what might be several completely different resumes, focused on the skills and experiences needed by each job type.
Finally, remember that you can use this same technique for career and job fairs. Find what employers are attending that you want to meet with and develop tailored resumes for each recruiter.
Learn more depth about resume-writing with these other Quintessential Careers resources:
- FAKTSA: An Easy Acronym for Remembering Key Resume Enhancers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Resumes: The Complete Job-Search Resume FAQ
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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