Tips for Customizing Your Resume to a Job Ad’s Needs
Creating a strong resume can be stressful. Once it's done, however, you can simply cast it out into the world in the hope that a recruiter will take the bait, right?
Having a solid resume is an excellent starting point, but customizing it to every job ad is now non-negotiable. With large applicant pools, companies leveraging technology to streamline the hiring process and recruiters spending under 10 seconds assessing potential candidates, it's difficult to stand out.
Don't panic, though: Customizing your resume doesn't mean you'll need to rewrite it every time you apply for a job. It involves having a master resume and tweaking it for each position. This will help you to do two things: pass the filtering stage and impress the recruiter. If you haven't started on a new resume, you can make use of one of our Resume Templates. If you're ready to start customizing your existing resume, here are five simple tips.
Dissect the job ad
The first step to customizing your resume is ensuring you understand the job description. Take time to read through it carefully and use make a list of the most important skills and responsibilities listed. Only once you fully understand the job description — and have determined that you're a good fit — can you tailor your resume appropriately.
Use keywords and include only relevant details
It's common practice these days for companies to make use of applicant tracking systems (ATSs) — in fact, 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies do. Aside from keeping your resume's design simple and ensuring there are no spelling or grammatical errors, one of the best ways to pass this test is to include the main keywords you identified in the job description — ideally, more than once. For example, if the ad says the company is looking for a Senior Copywriter, make sure your resume includes that exact phrase and not an alternative title, such as Senior Content Creator. The right keywords signal to the ATS that you're a fit for the job and prevent your resume from disappearing into a job seeker black hole.
Customizing your resume goes beyond incorporating relevant keywords, however. Brian Porrell, a recruiter at WinterWyman, says, "Your resume is only a snapshot of your work experience — the last thing you want to do is obscure the most critical job duties you've performed in a sea of less significant information."
Porrell believes that keeping a resume focused and 100 percent relevant to the job at hand is amongst the most important factors when creating one. He explains: "In a business world that moves ever faster, it has become even more critical to deliver a clear, concise message. That message should cover the most important work you've done in your past jobs."
Porrell's colleague, James Doherty, adds, "Experiences that are irrelevant to the position you're applying for should be left off your resume. Emphasize that you have the right qualifications for the job, and communicate the skills and experience that'll make you stand out as a fit for the opportunity."
Put vital information towards the top
While including keywords throughout your resume is crucial to passing the ATS phase, many, including Porrell and Doherty, believe that the most important information should be placed in the top third of your resume to catch a recruiter's eye. You need to communicate your most pertinent experience, skills and accomplishments immediately to ensure the information is seen by a recruiter scanning the document.
There's a difference between customizing your resume and lying. The former emphasizes that you're a good fit for the position by highlighting what you're genuinely capable of, while diverting attention away from your less relevant attributes. That's entirely different from making up information or stretching the truth.
"Candidates will try to make themselves as competitive as possible, which is understandable, but you need to paint an honest picture of your experience," explains Amy Finn, another recruiter from WinterWyman.
Finn believes that lying on your resume means setting yourself up for disaster. "There'll be long-term issues with a company if you pretend to have experience or an educational background that you don't."
While there are degrees of severity — from white lies about having advanced software skills when your competencies are fairly average, to lying about possessing a degree that you don't — you're bound to be exposed. Finn asks, "Do you want to risk a potential fall-out with an employer to get a job that you're not qualified for?"
Ask for input
If you want to check if you're on the right track with your resume customization, you can make use of online resume scanning tools or ask someone you trust to review your document. If you opt for the latter, ask the person in question what skills and responsibilities stand out and what job they think you're applying for. If you're not satisfied with their answer, your resume still needs work.
These tips should help you navigate the initial stages of the job application process, but customizing your resume has another added benefit: it shows hiring managers you're serious about the job and understand what the role and company require. This should stand you in good stead for making it through to the interview stage.
Looking for more valuable insights on creating a strong resume? Then consult Resume-Now's tips and make use of our samples, templates and our free Resume Builder. Resume writing has never been easier.