Q: I don’t really have to edit and update my resume for every single job I pursue, do I?
A: Allow me to be a little tongue in cheek here. Of course not…as long as you don’t mind having fewer interviews.
Just keep in mind that the more interested you are in a particular job, the more tailoring your resume to that specific job will help you achieve your goal. If you were a close relative or friend, I’d tell you to tailor your resume to any job you apply. And, it’s not that hard.
You know why? Because the employer has already told you what they’re looking for. All you have to do is show them how your experience and skills match what they’re seeking. Take a look back at the job description. Now read it again. That description is going to be your guiding light as you review and edit your resume for the job opening. The first person who reviews your resume often refers to themselves as a “screener”. This means your goal is to get them to not say “no” to your resume.
Let’s start at the top. Although we don’t recommend it, many candidates like to include a career summary or their objectives at the top of the page. As we said in our previous post, Why Your Resume Didn’t Get Past the First Round, those statements may be important to you, but they’re not what the screener is looking for. If you have such a paragraph on your resume, it should mirror the job description exactly. If you have 4 out of 6 required skills, you should list those 4 skills and no other additional skills or qualifications.
Of course, you can only tailor so much; you are who you are. But you can change how you present yourself and your experience. The best way to do this is to use bullet points that directly correlate to job responsibilities. Highlight your current responsibilities that match those in the open job. Again, it’s not about highlighting what you think are your best attributes, it’s about highlighting the experiences that are most relevant to the job and those that best match what the employer is looking for.
“The best way to do this is to use bullet points that directly correlate to job responsibilities.”
Make your accomplishments stand out by making them easy and obvious for the recruiter to see. We tell candidates to think about “what they did” and turn that into an impactful accomplishment by quantifying it in terms of efficiency or time and costs saved.
For example, instead of saying that you are a “proficient user” of Excel, tailor this to better illustrate your proficiency, “as demonstrated by creating 14 spreadsheets per week, maintaining 26 weekly reports, and instituting pivot tables on weekly report in Excel.” Reading that will give the reviewer a very detailed and descriptive understanding of your capabilities.
Take it a step further by describing the impact your work had. For example, change “my primary responsibility was creating weekly reports for the executive team” to “By adding pivot tables to Excel, I saved senior management two hours of research time per week.”
Another way to change how you present your experience is by tailoring your previous job titles to the current position. Are you interviewing for a role as a marketing assistant? Highlight other positions you held as an ‘assistant,’ even if they weren’t in marketing. Consider tailoring the dates in your employment history so that your most relevant experiences are pushed to the top. We’re not recommending that you falsify any parts of your job history, but that you present your past experiences in a way that most closely matches what the prospective employer is looking for.
Again, remember that it’s important to write about accomplishments the recruiter is looking for and that best match the job requirements. Don’t include accomplishments — however great they seem — if they’re not relevant.
Jim Pickering has worked at Professional Staffing Group for 8 years. He started in PSG’s entry-level training program and is now a senior recruiting manager. Jim oversees a team that sources and pre-screens candidates for PSG’s clients.