How to Tailor Your Resume for Jobs

Make These Tweaks So Your Resume Is a Good Fit for the Job

Resumes
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Writing a resume involves tons of decisions, from choosing a font, to deciding if your resume should be chronological or functional, to describing jobs from years ago. Once your resume is proofread and finalized, it's tempting to hit save, print several copies, and resolve to never, ever alter a word on the document again.

Resist this, and hit cancel on your print job: Your resume is never truly complete.

It's a living document. Not only will your resume change with each position you hold, but it should also evolve in response to the jobs you apply for. A targeted resume leads to a more successful job application.

How to Tailor Your Resume for Jobs

Here's the good news: You don't need to update your entire resume with each position you apply for. A full overhaul would take too much time — and would increase the likelihood of introducing a typo or small error. Instead, a few nips and tucks will do. Here are tips and recommendations for how to update your resume for a particular job.

Review the Job Description

It all starts with the job description: In order for your resume to be a good match for the job, it's important to know the employer's wants and requirements for the position. Jot down a list of major keywords as you read through. Or, highlight key phrases on a printed out copy of the resume.

Next, Read Your Resume

Now that you have a sense of what skills and abilities the position calls for, read your resume. Do you have this experience listed?

In a general resume, you may try to draw attention to all sorts of positive aspects of your experience, from your leadership abilities to your project management to your skills with metrics or your ability to please clients.

But with a job description available, you can sharpen your resume's focus. Rather than a scattershot approach, you can narrow in on what the employee wants.

It's not only a matter of if you have the key qualifications listed, but where. Hiring managers and interviews have a tendency to scan quickly, and not read thoroughly, so make sure important details are listed on the top half of the page, and not the bottom (or second page).

Here's information on how to match your qualifications to a job description.

Update These Key Sections

It's not worth the time to update your entire resume or restructure it completely with each job you apply for. Instead, target key areas for updates:

  • Summary: If you have this section on your resume, update it so that it's clear how you're a good match for this position. Showcase your most relevant accomplishments and abilities here. For instance, if the posting calls for an "independent worker and self-starter," you may describe yourself as being "Always willing to take the initiative on large and small projects."
  • Experience: For some positions, and depending on your background, it may make sense to break out your experience into sections. Let's say the job calls for a strong salesperson, and you've worked in sales, but not in many years. You could break your experience into two sections: Sales Experience and Other Work Experience. This won't necessarily require much work other than adding the extra heading, but it'll serve to highlight your relevant background.
  • Job descriptions: In some cases, the organization of your experience is just right as-is, but it's important for you to emphasize different facets of your responsibilities. List the most relevant details toward the top of each job description, so that readers are sure to catch them.   

Verify Important Keywords Are Listed

Remember, as well as demonstrating to interviewers and hiring manager that you're a good match, you may also have to satisfy machines. If you suspect that your resume will be going through a program that will do keyword scanning, make sure it contains relevant keywords, which you will determine from the job description.

Proof and Save Your Updated Resume

Ideally, you haven't introduced a single error with these tweaks. Still, before sending off your document, do a final proofread for grammatical mistakes or typos.

(Here is a checklist for proofreading your resume.)

Save your document. This can be more complicated than it seems: After all, if you tweak your resume every time you apply to a job, you'll wind up with many versions, and can have trouble keeping the files organized.

Here's my recommendation: Create a sub-folder on your computer for each version of your resume. Depending on your situation, you might name these folders by company (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube, Netflix) or by skill (e.g. Sales, Marketing, Communications). That way, you'll just have to browse through folders to find the right resume to print or attach.

Avoid using the document's file name for your own personal organization, since people other than you — such as hiring managers — will also see the file name. See more recommendations for choosing a resume file name.

More Tips to Help Tailor Your Resume