How to Tailor Your Resume to Standout as a Job Candidate

If you’re in the job market, one of the best ways to make your application stand out from others is to tailor your resume.

As a recruiter, I highly suggest you have a master resume, with detail on every position you had over the last 15 years in your field, and then tailor each version to the specific job you are applying for.

You say that takes too much time? Indeed, customizing your resume does take a little more time than just clicking on a job, attaching the same resume, and clicking apply.

However, you can greatly increase your chances of being selected for a video interview, phone interview or face-to-face interview if you have summarized the particular skills and experiences a specific employer indicated was most important.

Here are some tips and recommendations for how to update your resume for a specific job posting.

Step 1: Review the Job Posting

It all starts with the job posting- this is how where the employer tells you what skills and experience are important to them. Highlight or underline what you see as key skills or experiences in the job posting.

Step 2: Read Your Resume and Compare it to the Job Posting

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

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

But with a particular job posting in mind, you can sharpen your resume's focus. Rather than a scattershot approach, you can narrow in on what the employer wants.

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

Step 3: Always update key resume sections

There's no need 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 particular 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.

• Role summary: 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 role summary, so that readers are sure to catch them. Make sure your role summaries include results and/or #s as much as possible.

Step 4: 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.

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.

In naming your file, keep in mind that people other than you — such as hiring managers — will also see it, so ensure that you select an appropriate resume file name.

These steps do not guarantee that you will get contacted for the next step in any employer’s hiring process. However, tailoring your resume to the specific job posting will give you an edge over many other candidates who are still using the same resume for every application.

About the Author

Susan Senn