Don’t go after the job of your dreams with a generic resume. In this article, we’ll show you how to effectively tailor your resume for each job, setting you apart from the crowd and increasing your chances of getting the interview!
The whole point of sending a resume is to show the employer why you’re the best candidate for the position, right? So why would you submit a resume that doesn't highlight the skills they're looking for? You wouldn't. The solution is creating a tailored resume for each job you’re applying for. This will help the recruiter in a myriad of ways, including making it very clear why you’re the best person for the job.
In this article, we’ll discuss targeted resumes, including:
What is a targeted resume?
Is it okay to use the same resume for different jobs?
How do I match my resume to a specific job description?
What does a targeted resume look like?
A targeted resume, as the name suggests, is tailored for each specific position you're applying for. That means yes, you have to alter your resume for each job. While it might seem like a lot of effort, it's worth your time. A targeted resume puts you front and center as a top candidate, rather than letting the hiring manager try to figure out how your qualifications match the job (and many don’t take the time to do that).
Additionally, a targeted resume will more effectively position you as a “specialist” for a set of skills or qualifications. Recruiters are often looking for someone who can address a problem the company has. A targeted resume quickly shows them that you’re that person. A targeted resume is also more likely to make it through the ATS system, increasing the chances that recruiters will actually see it.
Finally, a targeted resume will actually help you when you get an interview—if you have a thorough idea of what the employer is looking for, you can better prepare your interview answers.
According to a list compiled by Marketsplash, 54 percent of job seekers don't tailor their resumes for specific jobs, which is a “red flag” for hiring managers.
Look, no one is standing over you demanding that you tailor your resume. And if the jobs you’re applying for requires the same skills in the job description, you could probably get away with submitting the same resume. But in general, targeting your resume will increase your chances of getting an interview. The exception is if you’re new to the workforce and have limited work experience—in this case, a standard resume would probably fit the bill.
It’s fairly simple: it’s all about the keywords. Scan the job listing to find what skills the employer is looking for, and if you have those skills, add them to your resume. That’s the first step, anyway. While you don’t have to do a complete rewrite for each job, there are a few things you can do to customize your resume.
It's helpful to have all of your information in one place, so you'll want to start with a main resume that includes all of your skills, education, and work history, even if it's two to three pages long. Save this document—this is the main source of your tailored resumes.
This is a good place to add those keywords you identified in the job description. A Summary of Qualifications or Career Highlights section at the top, placed before your work history, is another great place to add those keywords.
Take those keywords and add them to the appropriate sections of your current resume. Also consider adding a "headline," which is the job title you're applying for, adjusting your experience section so that it mentions applicable skills you've used previously, and placing any relevant education, certification, or training the employer is looking for in its own section, preferably near the top.
If you’ve been working for a while, you probably have a wealth of experience. That’s great, but when targeting your resume, you’ll want to be a little more selective as to what you include. For example, if you once worked as a barista, but you’re now pursuing graphic designer positions, you might not need to include it. Remember, the whole point of a targeted resume is to show the recruiter—quickly—why you're the top candidate for the job.
Put your newly tailored resume next to the job description. Does your resume complement it? Have you included all relevant requested skills and experience? Does your resume clearly and concisely convey why you’re the best person for the job? If not, consider taking another pass at it.
Let’s say you’re applying for the position of Administrative Assistant, and the job description looks something like this:
Administrative Assistant Job Responsibilities:
Maintains physical and digital filing systems.
Answers phone calls and directs callers to appropriate personnel, schedules appointments, signs for incoming packages, and assists clients and other visitors.
Responds to emails and other digital queries and correspondence.
Manages calendars for senior staff, including making travel arrangements.
Drafts and edits letters, reports, and other documents.
Uses word processing and presentation software to create and edit documents.
Operates and maintains office equipment, including printers, copiers, and fax machines.
Works with maintenance staff and outside vendors to ensure office equipment is in good working order and office supplies are always on hand.
Prepares meeting agendas and takes meeting minutes.
Coordinates logistics for meetings, including room setup and catering.
Degree in Business Administration preferred
Must be detail-oriented
Here is an example of a resume tailored for this position:
Susan Hollingsworth Administrative Assistant [email protected] (555) 664-6171 Anytown, VA
Forward-thinking, detail-oriented Administrative Assistant offering more than 12 years of success overseeing office functions with a focus on customer service and executive support. Level-headed and proactive administrator adept at calendar management, event planning, and phone call routing. Tech-savvy with proficiency in MS Office Suite (including Access) as well as various presentation and word processing software.
Areas of Expertise
General Office Support
Reports & Presentations
Education Associate of Arts in Business Fairview Community College, Anytown, VA
Professional Experience Paper Company, Anytown, VA September 2015 – Present
Administrative Assistant Oversee all aspects of office operations, including analyzing procedures and recommending improvements to company leadership. Helm the reception desk, answer and transfer incoming phone calls, and receive and assist clients, providing an outstanding first impression of the company. Coordinate, sort, and distribute incoming and outgoing mail and sign for incoming packages. Copy and file paperwork from multiple departments. Order and maintain office equipment and physical and digital filing systems. Plan and facilitate company events such as picnics, parties, and departmental meetings with outside vendors.
Resourced a new office supply vendor yielding an annual savings of $5K a year.
Awarded Employee of the Month five times.
Family Insurance Company, Anytown, VA Executive Assistant May 2009 – August 2015
Provided top-level administrative support to six executives, including duties such as calendar management, scheduling, and travel arrangements. Answered phones, took messages, and routed calls. Composed letters and emails and scheduled appointments for management. Organized filing system and compiled reports and presentations. Attended staff meetings and transcribed meeting minutes. Spearheaded special projects and coordinated logistics for company events and client meetings, including contacting vendors, booking venues, and communicating event details to customers.
Directed all logistics for an office move, losing only one business day.
Organized a grand opening party for clients, including publicity, catering, and event logistics.
Need help polishing your resume? Check out Career.io’s Resume Builder tool, which uses expert-tested, proven professional resume templates that align with what employers are looking for.
A targeted resume is tailored for each specific position you’re applying for
You don’t need to write a different resume for each position if the jobs you’re applying for are very similar.
Your first step in tailoring your resume should be to scan the job listing to find what skills the employer is looking for, and if you have those skills, include them in your resume.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.