Your resume is your resume, right?
You may think that once you’ve edited and tweaked your resume to get the best possible finished product, you’re done. Just add a nifty cover letter and ship it out to all those prospective jobs and wait for the interview requests to start rolling in.
But then they don’t. Your resume is solid. What’s the problem?
While your resume may be smartly put together, it doesn’t speak to any one specific job. Consider how many applicants each job gets on a daily basis. How does your resume stand out from the crowd?
It may seem like a lot of extra work, but taking the time and effort to customize your resume for each job that you apply for is well worth your time and effort. [TWEET] Here’s 5 simple steps to customizing a resume and making it jump out of the slush pile for your dream job.
1. Don’t lie.
Let’s establish this right off the bat. Customizing a resume for a job isn’t the same as “embellishing” your credentials. If the job posting says they’re looking for a person with expert level skills in Microsoft Photoshop and you don’t really use that program, don’t add it to your resume. More often than not, lying or embellishing your resume in such a manner leads to disaster. Think about it. If you get hired based on skills you don’t actually have to perform tasks you probably don’t know how to do, how is that going to work out?
Instead, customizing your resume is about really looking at the job you want and emphasizing your skills that best fit what they’re looking for in an applicant and downplaying those things that may not be as relevant.
Tip: Think of customizing a resume as dressing up your resume for an interview. You want to wear the right clothes that display you fit with the company, not a wig because you think they want a redhead.
2. Optimize for keywords.
It may be less common than it was a few years ago, but many companies still use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes for keywords. This system is a way for companies to weed through the large quantity of applicants by triggering certain keywords or traits they’re looking for in their next hire. The downside to this practice is that excellent candidates can get missed because they used slightly different terminology.
How do you avoid being weeded out when you’re a great fit for the job? Easy. Look closely at the job posting that intrigued you in the first place. Notice the verbiage they use throughout. Then, go over your resume and see where you may be able to tailor your resume to insert a few of those keywords into your job history.
For instance, if a Public Relations job is looking for people with “innovative ideas for marketing and media relations” and your resume talks about the way you created a “new system for integrating social media with existing marketing efforts,” you have an easy swap. Take out “a new” and put in “an innovative.” Even if the hiring company doesn’t use an ATS to screen resumes, they’ll be tuned into those keywords that they advertised in the job posting.
Tip: Don’t go overboard. If your resume looks like a mirrored response to the job posting, it’s too obvious. You’re trying to highlight your best qualifications. Too many matches and they’ll think you’re embellishing.
3. Update that objective statement.
The objective statement is a thing of the past. Instead, swap it for a professional summary that isn’t about what you want in your career, but instead about what you can bring to the job. It’s smart to update this part for each job because in some cases, it may be the only thing they read. If you can’t capture their interest in your professional summary, they may not bother with the rest of your resume. It’s like reading the back cover of a book to see if you’d like it.
Again, you don’t want to lie and say you’re looking for career that will allow you to travel the world if you really would prefer to stay close to home. That leads to a bad fit down the road. Think about what it was in their job posting that intrigued you the most. Is it the job title or the chance for advancement? Be realistic about how this job would fit your career goals and then highlight those goals in your newly customized value statement.
Tip: Make sure that your professional summary discusses goals beyond just the current position. Most employers want to see candidates that have a career path in mind.
4. De-clutter your resume.
If your overall objective is to highlight the career moves and accomplishments on your resume that best fit the position you are applying for, it makes sense to clear away some of the clutter right? Eliminate or minimize older jobs that may have little to no relevance for the desired position. Even on more recent jobs, keep the parts you want them to see and trim away some of the rest.
You want your resume to be clear and concise and customized beautifully for the hiring manager who sees it. That means that clearing away the non-important features (that may be very valid for your next job application) need to clear the way so your main accomplishments can really shine.
Tip: Keep your original resume stored and clearly marked somewhere safe. You don’t want to lose valuable information during this process. Think of it as your starting canvas.
5. Go beyond the job description.
Once you’ve captured the job description and the verbiage they like to use, head to the company website to get a feel for the company as a whole. Are there certain types of projects they focus on more than others? Do they heavily support any charities or local community events? Look for reasons why you might be a good fit with this company beyond the job description and work it into your resume if possible.
Again, don’t pretend to embrace a charity just because they do. That’s not cool. But, if they sponsor Breast Cancer Awareness events and you’ve participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk, add that in your resume. If you see that they’ve worked closely with local kids’ sports and you’ve coached or volunteered, get it in there. Not only could this help your customized resume rise to the top of the pile, it’s great conversation fodder for that interview.
Tip: Remember, sometimes there are reasons why you’d be a good fit for a company and position that have nothing to do with your previous work experience. Volunteering, parenting, and hobbies create valuable experiences.
Why go through all of this work when you already have a resume? You don’t have to if you don’t want to. If you’re happy throwing one resume at 20 different jobs, that’s fine. But, by finding three or four jobs that you really want and customizing your resume for each one, you maximize your chances of landing at least an interview. In the end, it’s all about a great combination of you, your abilities, a great position, and a company that you’ll enjoy working for every day. That’s worth a little extra effort.
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