Career advice

The simplest way to customize your resume to fit the job you want

Customize your resume to every job you apply for. If you've done any research on how to stand out from a crowd of applicants for a competitive job or how to improve the response rate to your job applications, you've almost certainly heard this piece of advice. That's because it is true. Customizing your resume for the specific job will greatly increase your success rate. 

For example, if you were to write one generic resume that lists your skills, education, and work history, and emailed it out to 100 job openings, you'd be lucky to get a few callbacks. However, if you took the time to tailor your application for each role and applied to 10 jobs with customized resumes, you'd likely land more interviews than in the mass emailing. 

Quality of applications trumps quantity. 

But how do you do it? Your work history doesn't change depending on which job you apply for, and neither does where you went to school or what you studied. So, what's to customize? How can you adapt your resume for a job when the facts don't change? 

You begin at the top of the page and work your way down. 

Job title

Give your resume the title of the job you are applying for. If you are sending in an application for the role of project manager, then your resume title should be 'Project Manager.' This is the case, even if that is not your current job title and even if you've never worked as a project manager before in your life. If you want the job as one, you have to write a resume that says you are a qualified project manager ready to seamlessly step into the role. 

Once you have the title in place, the rest of your resume should be crafted to demonstrate how you are a stand-out candidate for that job. Read the job description carefully. Make note of the skills the employer is looking for and the work that the successful candidate will be responsible for. You will want to ensure that your resume reflects your readiness for these. 

Intro paragraph

Write an opening statement that summarizes your key selling point for the job at hand. What is your greatest past accomplishment, work experience, or other credential that is most relevant to the role you want? This will be one of the first things that the potential employer will read, so you want to start off strong. Think of it as a mini cover letter

Work history 

While the places you have worked in the past don't magically change to align themselves with the job you aspire to, the way you describe them can. Use the summaries of your past work to highlight the skills you used and acquired and the achievements you made that are most relevant to the job you are targeting.

Take your cue from the job posting. How has your previous work prepared you for the role? This is true for every job, even if you are applying for a new position in the field that you currently work in. Each role will have its own unique challenges and focus, and a well-tailored resume will show that you understand these and are prepared for them.

It is even more crucial when you are applying for a job in a new sector altogether. You have to demonstrate how your experience has set you up to be successful in the role. The employer won't do the math for you, and you will likely be competing against candidates who are already in similar roles. 

As in any resume, focus on accomplishments over duties. Employers want to know how you excelled on the job, and what set you apart from other workers. They want to hire the best. Be sure to focus particularly on achievements that are relevant to the job you are applying for. 

Skills match 

Reading the job description carefully will inform you of more than just which skills to focus on. You not only want to make sure that your resume shows that you have the ability to do the job, but you also need to closely match the language the employer uses to describe those skills. This can be important for getting your application seen at all. 

Many companies use software filters that screen resumes for specific keywords and can automatically reject applications that are missing terms or phrases that have been deemed essential. Therefore getting your resume past the Applicant Tracking System and onto the desk of a hiring manager is yet another reason why customization is so important.  

Even human recruiters scan through resumes quickly the first time they read through a pile of applications. The more closely your skills and credentials match with what they are looking for, the greater your chances of being shortlisted for further consideration. 

Customizing your resume isn't about lying in your job application or faking experience that you do not have. It's about understanding the needs of the job and highlighting all of the ways that your experience, education, and skills have prepared you to fulfill these. Focus on the most relevant. It takes a little bit of extra time and effort to craft each application carefully for the specific job, but it will go a long way toward helping you stand out from the sea of generic applications and greatly increase the number of job interviews to which you are invited. 

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