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You’ve probably heard or read that you’re supposed to tailor your resume to fit the job you’re applying for. At the very least, you can add some keywords from the job description you’re applying to that will make you a better match. But does this really get you noticed? How much time should you spend on this, when the application process is already so time-consuming. Can you just skip this advice and still get the job? We have answers to all of these questions, plus some great tips for how to tailor your resume to get the job you want.

Why Should You Tailor Your Resume to the Job?

The simple answer to this question is that you will receive more inquiries from employers if you tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. There is an exponential increase in company interest if your resume seems like you’re a good fit for the job. To do this well, think about the goal of sending a resume in the first place: To get a call back. That is truly the best reason for tailoring your resume to each job.

Think about the process. Your resume goes into a database called an application tracking system, or ATS. This software does exactly what it implies: It captures resume applications for a specific job. Now imagine that every job gets 100 resumes. When that happens, the recruiter has to find a way to divide and conquer all of the applications they’ve received in the most efficient way possible. How do they do it? They search (similar to a Google query) for the same keywords that are highlighted in the job ad. If you’ve followed our advice, tailored your resume, and used those same keywords in your application—boom—when that search comes back for the recruiter, your resume will be more likely to make the second cut of “qualified” applicants. As you might imagine, the recruiter is going to use this second, tailored resume pile to select out the candidates they want to talk to by phone or videoconference.

Creating a general resume that shows all of your experience may muddy the waters and make it harder for the recruiter to see that you’re a good fit. So, how can you revise your resume in a way that makes you stand out?

  • Figure out what matters to the company and on this particular job. Use the job description and pull-out key phrases or words that match your experience. Then subtly rewrite your resume, tweaking it to make it look and sound more like the job you’re applying to.
  • Try to first highlight your responsibilities and skills that fall higher up in the job ad. What’s mentioned lower in the ad may be less important. Highlight the qualifications they are searching for, such as relevant experience, certifications, or a particular type of undergraduate degree. Maybe the job description emphasizes leadership and your resume is all “me, me, me.” Change that and lead with your teamwork skills and finish with your individual accomplishments.
  • Do this with all of the jobs you list. Reorder the bullets and write new ones that make sense related to the job. Get rid of anything that doesn’t seem relevant to the job you’re applying to. If you’re older, remove jobs that go back prior to 10-years—particularly if they aren’t relevant to the job you’re applying to now. If you’re applying for a high-level management role, the exception may be so use your best judgment. Generally, ask yourself: Is this experience really relevant to the job I’m applying to right now?

IES Staffing can help you with this process. As part of our work to represent you to employers, we commonly critique your resume to help your skills shine. Our work is free to candidates, so find out how we can help you by contacting us.

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