The Benefits of Tailoring Your Resume to the Job Description

After days of swapping skills, selecting fonts, and tweaking the most microscopic of spaces, you’ve finally created the perfect resume. In all its resplendent glory, you attach it to job application after job application, and for the next week, you hover over your phone waiting for the interview requests to start rolling in. And then…nothing. Not a single follow up. What happened?

Tailoring your resume

Truth is, the days of crafting one resume to rule them all have passed. You’ll benefit far more by tailoring your resume to each specific job. Here’s why.

Scan and Pan

It used to be acceptable to create one resume for all applications. Back then, typewriters made changing a resume only slightly less cumbersome than chiseling one onto a stone tablet. But word processors have made revising easier, and recruiters have adapted their standards accordingly.

Today, many recruiters use programs called applicant tracking systems (ATS). Put simply, an ATS scans resumes and filters viable candidates from the chaff. An ATS’s criteria can include job-specific keywords, former employers, years of experience, and schools attended. To be noticed, your resume will need to include the keywords being scanned for, and since every job is unique, the chances of creating one resume that will satisfy every ATS is slim. You’ll need to tailor your resume to get past this first step.

Where can you find these magic keywords? Check the job posting.

Speed Read

Even if you only snag human readers—which is incredibly unlikely—you still can’t lean on a single resume. Like an ATS, people are scanners by nature, not readers.

According to one study, users read on average only 28 percent of any given webpage. Another study found that users follow an F-shaped pattern when reading, meaning they concentrate on the upper left-hand corner at first, but they quickly lose focus and take in the rest of the information vertically.

Now imagine a time-crunched recruiter with hundreds of resumes to evaluate. If your resume doesn’t grab her attention immediately, it’s bound for the recycling bin. To prevent this undesired, if environmentally responsible, fate, you should tailor every resume so the most pertinent information is located in the top of the page.

Tips and Tricks

If you think updating your resume for every application sounds tedious, you’re right. We said word processors made revising easier, not painless. To help you out, here are some tips and tricks:

Templates: Build templates of your resume and fill them in with information that doesn’t change regardless of job, such as you address and education. If a section like education proves more or less important to a particular job, moving it up or down is as simple as a copy-paste.

Highlight: Be sure to highlight any information on your template that needs to be altered. You don’t want to send a resume that reads, “Insert Qualifications Here.” Even a speed-reading recruiter will catch that.

Multiple Resumes: Keep different types of resume templates. For example, a chronological resume can be used job applications in your current field and should include qualifications and work experience at the top. A functional resume can be used when applying for new careers and should headline adaptive and transferable skills.

Master List: Create master lists for your skills, qualifications, technical abilities, etc. After tailoring a resume to a particular job, update your master list with any new material generated. This will allow you to easily copy information onto the next resume and revise it accordingly.

One Page: Did we mention keep it to one page? Because definitely do that.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll receive all the benefits of a tailored resume. As a bonus, you’ll enjoy far fewer headaches than if you tied to build a resume from scratch for each application. It’s win-win, and if you get that follow-up call, go ahead and add another win.

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