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Tailoring Your Resume for Every Opportunity

November 5, 2015

So you’re in the thick of job hunting, and you’re scouring job boards and LinkedIn for openings, and you’re trying to do everything you possibly can to stand out and get that job. It’s a scenario we know all too well. We want to help you out, so we’re going to give you a huge piece of advice here: tailor your resume for each and every job you apply for.

I know, it sounds a little extreme at first. You’re applying to tons of jobs and that really just sounds like extra work. The thing is though, it pays off. We’ve heard from our HR experts time and time again that the applicants who really revamp their resumes specifically for the job they apply for stand out more than the applicants who don’t.

You want to get that job, right? This will help.

First, start with the bare essentials. John from Textron Inc. gives this advice: “Write down your educational background, your past work experiences, core competencies and skills you possess. Don’t worry about the length of the resume. This is going to be your working document for your tailored resumes.” Once you have the basics written down, save this document as reference for yourself. You’ll use this one to start the tailored version for each job you apply for, so all adjusting and editing will come after that. This is just your starting point!

The best resource for you in the resume tailoring process is with the job posting itself. Look at the language they use, the skills they’re looking for, the responsibilities of the role, etc. These are the things that will help you tailor your basic resume to really shine and grab the attention of the company you’re applying with. If you have the specific skills they mention in the posting, be sure to highlight them on your resume! “Be sure to use keywords that are also listed in the job description,” Stephanie from Asurion says. Never lie about your skills or experience, however. Be honest about everything you include on your resume, no matter how badly you might want the job.

Start your resume strong with a summary or objective section. “On my resume,” ADP hiring expert Courtney says, “I use the term "Summary" for a short paragraph that highlights what I would like a particular employer to learn about me first.  This is a great way to tailor your resume to the exact job for which you are applying (Ex: sales vs marketing vs advertising).  I would focus on action words - specifically how a proven track record will allow you to make an impact at a new organization.” Use this section to make a bold first impression and make it clear to any hiring managers or recruiters who you are and what you bring to the table for this position. Make sure this section (if you choose to include it) is well-written with no typos or grammatical errors. Use it as a simple way to draw attention, not the place to mention every detail about yourself. Keep it short (one or two sentences) as if it were the written version of your “elevator speech.”

Include all jobs, internships, and experiences that are relevant to the new opening. If you’ve had a mix of part-time jobs throughout high school and college, it isn’t necessary to include every single one on your resume. Steve, hiring expert at Caterpillar Inc., says: “In other words, tailor your resume to each position and include only those past positions where the skills and/or work performed would be transferable to that job.“ Think back on the different aspects of those jobs and make note of the key skills and abilities you acquired through them on your resume.

If you are trying to switch careers or change fields, adjust your language accordingly. For example, one job seeker asked our experts about how she could tailor her resume for training and development roles after a 20-year career in education. “I suggest that in addition to your work experience, you create a section on your resume specific to your training and development experience,” Stephanie from Asurion said. “Here, you can list the different opportunities you've engaged in that have allowed you to exercise and improve your training and development skill set.” They also advised that she make sure to focus on the transferable skills she gained while she was a teacher. “You should focus your resume more on these responsibilities than on non-relatable duties,” Ashley from Cardinal Health said. “Pull keywords from the job descriptions for the positions you are applying to. If you have any certifications or other experience that could relate to training and development, be sure to include those as well.”

Lastly, be absolutely sure that you read and review your resume before sending it off. Several of our experts mentioned they have received applications and resumes that have the name of another company or organization, which does not give them a great impression of you! Make sure if you mention the company’s name or the name of a specific individual that it is changed for each and every version you create.

While it might add a few extra minutes to your job hunt, tailoring your resume is a key way to show employers that you are serious about your work and that you have what it takes to do the job well. Go the extra mile! It’s worth it, trust us.

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