Have you been applying to jobs using the same resume every time? While a resume might seem like a static document, you should update it for each job application. Making these changes will get you the interviews you’ve been hoping for.
If changing your resume for every job sounds impossible, don’t worry: it’s not as hard as it sounds. You can get great results with small strategic changes, and we’re here to show you how to do it. Do this before your next job application, and you’ll be one step closer to hearing those two special words: “You’re hired!”
Why You Need to Tailor Your Resume
When a recruiter looks through resumes, they aren’t looking for someone who’d be good at jobs in general. They’re looking for someone who’s the perfect fit for that particular job—and that’s why you need to tailor your resume each time.
If that recruiter sees exactly the type of skills and experience they’re looking for, they’re much more likely to call you in for an interview. Updating your resume positions your most relevant information strategically so it can shine.
And today, the “recruiter” reading your resume might not even be a real person. Many companies use software to sift through resumes and pull out the ones that fit well. If you update your resume with relevant keywords and phrases for that specific job, the software is much more likely to place your resume at the top of the list.
To find out how to update your resume, start by carefully reading the job description. Pay attention to the job requirements and what they’re looking for in a candidate. Those are the things you’ll want your resume to reflect. You can also check out the company’s website and social media pages. Jot down any keywords or phrases that come up often.
Ideas for Customizing Your Resume
Now, let’s take a look at some specific ways to update your resume for each job.
Order of Information
One of the easiest ways to make your resume stand out is to rearrange the order in which things appear.
Of course, if you have a chronological resume, you don’t want to break up the reverse-chronological order by rearranging it. But you can change the order of things that don’t have dates attached, such as your skills or accomplishments. Put the ones that are most relevant for the job at the top, so they stand out more.
You can even rearrange entire sections of your resume. For example, if you majored in accounting, but all your work experience is in food service, you should put your education section at the top of the resume when applying for accounting jobs. This immediately shows a hiring manager that you have relevant knowledge for the job.
If you have more experience than you can fit on a one-page resume, you can also change the actual information included each time you apply for a new job.
You should always keep a master list of your experience, skills, qualifications, and anything else that could go on your resume. As that list grows, it all eventually won’t fit on a single-page resume. You’ll have to be selective about what to include. This can become an excellent resource for your job applications.
Pick the skills, experience, and other information that fits the job you’re applying for best, and put those on your resume. Cut out the less-relevant details and save them on your master list, since they might be relevant for a different job later. The primary sections of your resume (like “Work History” and “Education”) should usually stay the same, but the exact information in those sections can change to fit each job.
Also, always make sure that anything required for the job is reflected on your resume (as long as it’s honest). For example, if the job description says candidates must be familiar with Adobe InDesign, and you are, double-check that it’s listed on your resume.
Work History Details
In your work history or experience section, you should have details (formatted as short sentences or bullet points) that describe what you did at that job. In addition to selecting the most relevant jobs to include on your resume, you can also tailor how you describe each one.
For example, maybe you worked at a retail job, and one of your bullet points reads, “Opened and closed the store independently.” However, you’re now applying to work at a bank where you’ll never need to open or close. Instead, you could change the bullet point to read “Handled cash, card, and check transactions using POS system.” This shows that you’re able to manage money transactions using software, a detail that’s more relevant to that banking job than opening and closing a retail store.
Use these sections to show the company what you can do for them. If you’re applying for a social media marketing job, you know the company wants more social media followers. Maybe you grew a social media following as part of an old internship, so you can write a bullet point that reads: “Increased Facebook followers by 200 percent.” Just make sure you have evidence to back up your claims.
Adding keywords is another super-easy way to customize a resume. Many job descriptions feature keywords that describe the candidate they’re looking for, such as “detail-oriented” or “independent worker.” Keywords also might show up in other places, such as in the company’s motto. The job title itself is also a keyword: if you’re applying to be a grant writer, it’s good to have “grant writer” somewhere on your resume.
When you work those words and phrases into your resume, you’re subtly showing that you have what it takes for the job. And if your resume’s being scanned by software, the right keywords help ensure it won’t automatically get filtered out.
You can add those keywords anywhere they make sense on your resume. If you have a Summary or Profile section, that’s a great place for keywords. They might also fit in your Work History or Skills sections.
You can even update your headers to include keywords. For example, if you’re applying to be a copy editor, update your Work Experience header to read Copy Editing Experience. Just make sure everything listed there is relevant to copy editing. If you also have unrelated work experience, put it in a separate Work Experience or Additional Experience section, or remove it altogether.
Updating your resume is crucial for getting the job you want. The more competitive the field, the more critical it is to tailor your resume. But no matter what you’re applying for, a tailored resume can help get you more interviews. And once you land the job, make sure to read our guide to maintaining your work-life balance!