|You can tailor your resume to a job opening|
in 15 minutes.
Customizing a resume means you are tailoring it to match the job’s required skills, responsibilities, experience, knowledge, and education. It does not mean you are starting your resume from scratch. Instead, you are making small changes, substitutions, additions, and deletions to the words and phrases on your resume. In addition, you may be moving words and phrases to emphasize certain parts of your background.
Of course the thought of fiddling with your resume every time you apply for a job is not appealing, especially given the time-consuming nature of online job applications. It’s much quicker and easier to use the same resume for every job opening. But by taking a few minutes to adapt your resume to the opening, you increase your chances of getting a job interview.
Here’s another important reason why tailoring your resume is critical: With the online job application process, an electronic applicant tracking system (ATS) will “read” your resume and attempt to match it to certain keywords, such as required skills, knowledge, experience, and job duties. If your resume does not contain the right words, the electronic system screens it from human eyes. Only the resumes that pass this test will be forwarded to human resources or a hiring manager.
Then, if your resume gets forwarded to a person, it must pass another test: Based on your resume, does the employer think you could be a good fit for the job? Based on your resume, are you worth a job interview? Employers scan resumes quickly and will decide within seconds whether to give yours a longer look and more consideration.
So you can see why it’s important to make your qualifications stand out. If you are not getting results from your resume, or if you want to be a top candidate for a job opening, you need to take a few minutes to better match your resume to each job’s requirements. To stay motivated for resume customization, I suggest you limit the amount of time you spend on it. If you take too much time, you will stop doing it. So take just 15 minutes or so to do the resume tailoring for each job opening. Remember, you are not rewriting your resume.
Here are some pointers for 15-minute resume customization:
- Review the help-wanted ad carefully. Some ads are well-written and detailed. Others are poorly done and skimpy on details. Regardless, treat the ad like gold. Spend a few minutes reading and rereading it, noting the job’s duties, responsibilities, and skill and education requirements. Ask yourself which words and phrases are key in describing the job. Read between the lines to identify pain points the employer may have experienced with past workers and want to avoid with a new employee. Such pain points are often identified by the word “must,” as in the ideal candidate must know certain software, must have certain experience and knowledge, must have a certain trait, or must be willing to work certain hours.
- Add the keywords you’ve identified in the ad to your resume. Next, add the keywords from the job opening ad to your resume. For example, if a job requires experience in using Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for business, and you have this experience, don’t just say “social media” on your resume. Be sure to add the relevant types of social media. Another example: If the job mandates experience in Adobe InDesign CC, don’t just say “desktop publishing” on your resume. The same is true for specific coursework, specific job tasks, specific tools, specific work settings, specific customer types, and so on. Besides adding keywords, you may need to delete words, modify words, and move words to make your changes sound right. Warning: Add keywords that are honestly part of your experience and background; do not insert keywords for experience or skills you do not possess just to get your resume read. In addition, be sure the job seems like a good fit before you start modifying your resume. Otherwise you are wasting your time and the employer’s time. If you are truly qualified for the job, most of your resume should be suitable and need changes that take less than 15 minutes to make.
- Enhance your professional summary. Many resumes include a summary of your background and skills at the top. This summary is an important place for tailoring a resume to the job. For example, when I was applying for a communications job, the company wanted someone who could “write pamphlets” as a key job responsibility. My current resume mentioned writing brochures and flyers but not pamphlets, which I had created in the past. It was an easy fix to add “pamphlets” to my professional summary.
- Resave your resume. Be sure to resave your modified resume under a new name, perhaps with the company name. For example, you could call the resume “Jane Doe Resume for Springer, Inc.” This step will help you stay organized and look professional to employers as an attachment or an upload.
- Proof carefully. Any time you start changing and moving words in a document, you may inadvertently create errors. Be sure to carefully proofread your customized resume more than once.
- Don’t forget your cover letter. A cover letter is another great place for showing the employer you are right for the job. Tailor your cover letter to each job in the same way you customize your resume. See my blog posts here and here on appealing to employer needs in your cover letter.