Writing a CV/resume can be a daunting prospect, whether you’re an entry-level applicant or experienced in an industry or looking for a career change, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to get noticed as a candidate is to tailor your resume to the employer’s job description.
You need to tailor your resume to every job description, and you need to know how to use the right resume keywords.
A CV, which stands for curriculum vitae, is a document used when applying for jobs. It allows you to summarise your education, skills and experience enabling you to successfully sell your abilities to potential employers.
In the USA and Canada CVs are known as résumés. These documents tend to be more concise and follow no particular formatting rules.
Alongside your CV, employers also usually ask for a cover letter.
Taking your time to write a strong CV/resume is so important. Not only will it get you noticed, but it will leave a prospective employer wanting to know more about your skills and experience.
In this article, you will learn why you should be tailoring your resume to job descriptions.
What is tailoring a resume?
When an employer posts a job opening, they include a list of responsibilities and required (or preferred) qualifications. You will take those qualifications and add the same language or keywords throughout your resume to show you can fulfill the role.
A tailored resume proves that you have the skills the employer is seeking and have previously used them to create optimal results at work.
Tailoring your resume is about recognizing those skills and responsibilities on the job description and making it obvious that you’re up to the task. Your goal is to draw the shortest line possible between your experience and what’s stated in the job description.
Benefits of tailoring your resume
Providing a tailored resume can help you stand out amongst other applicants and improve your chances of getting an interview. Tailoring your resume to the job description of the job you are applying for comes with many benefits:
- It demonstrates your alignment with the job.
When looking at your resume, hiring managers are most concerned about how well you fit the job requirements. By focusing on your most relevant experiences and skills, you demonstrate a proven record of performing similar responsibilities.
- It proves your interest.
Tailoring your resume can display genuine enthusiasm for the job because you took the extra time and effort to ensure it showcases your best-fit qualifications. Hiring managers will appreciate this thoughtfulness and feel more excited about a candidate who seems eager to work for them.
- It emphasizes the employer’s needs.
Hiring managers want to see how a candidate would support their goals. Focusing on your most applicable skills and relevant accomplishments shows them that you are considering their needs, not just what the job can do for you.
- It can help you pass applicant tracking systems.
Many of today’s hiring managers use these tools (ATS) to filter through resumes using keywords from the job description. Tailoring your resume using the job description will improve your chances of having your resume read.
How to Tailor Your Resume to Job Description
Here’s how to tailor your resume accordingly
- Review the job description.
Firstly, you need to understand what the employer wants and the qualifications required to perform the job. Read its description and write down or highlight any significant keywords related to skills. These may be words or phrases that seem unique to the job or reoccur throughout the posting.
Then take note of specific requirements, such as necessary education or training and years of experience. Also, look at the order of the responsibilities listed, as those mentioned first may be more of a priority for the employer.
You will want to mirror the employer’s priorities when organizing your resume — the first items they mention should be some of the first items you mention.
- Compare your resume.
Now that you know what the employer is seeking from candidates, you can review your general resume to start tailoring it to their needs. Place your key qualifications in the top half of the page using your summary and experience sections, which will ensure that the hiring manager sees that you fit the role right away.
Look at the experiences already listed on your resume and determine which previous roles are most relevant. If they are your most recent jobs, use a reverse-chronological format.
However, you may want to use a functional or combination format if your most relevant job was further back in your history. With those formats, you can steer the focus toward your most relevant skills rather than your work timeline.
- Update your summary.
The summary section will be at the top of your resume, so it is one of the first things a hiring manager sees. If you have one, use it to showcase your most relevant skills and accomplishments based on the keywords you highlighted. You should also include the title of the job to which you are applying, proving that this is a personalized resume.
- Customize your work history.
Your work history is the next most visible section on your resume, so the hiring manager should immediately be able to tell that you have relevant experience. If you have a long work history, this may mean you need to minimize or remove any positions that do not align.
Or if your most relevant jobs were further back, you may split this section into two for further tailoring:
- an “[industry] experience” section and
- an “Other work experience” section.
The bulleted lists under each position should always utilize the job description’s keywords. This specific language shows that you will start the job with the required skills and experience. Keep in mind that your first bullet points should represent the most relevant responsibilities or tasks.
For example, if the description emphasizes leadership abilities, start each list with examples of how you led a team, trained peers or other similar tasks. Even if those were not your main responsibilities, those responsibilities best match what the hiring manager wants.
- Include measurable results.
To further prove yourself as a qualified candidate, use quantifiable data in your experience section. If you do not already have numbers in your bulleted list, determine where you can add them to demonstrate your impact at previous companies.
Hiring managers will be impressed by such achievements because they present the value you provide.
- Update your skills section.
Your summary and work history may not include all the most relevant skills you have, so add any remaining to your skills section. Like those sections, list the employer’s most prioritized skills first using exact keywords from the job description. Examples may include proficiency in specific technologies or technical and soft skills.
Next, include any other relevant skills that showcase the unique value you bring to the role. Be sure to include any “preferred” skills as these may be optional but can help set you apart as a top candidate.
- Proofread your resume.
Beyond grammatical and spelling errors, review your resume to ensure you used the employer’s keywords and phrases. You should compare your summary section to the overall job description and evaluate whether they match.
Next, ensure that each bullet point in your work history is relevant to the job’s responsibilities and requirements. You can also ask a friend or colleague to review it and provide feedback on whether they see alignment.
Aside from passing potential applicant tracking systems (ATS), you want to ensure that your language is specific enough to catch the hiring manager’s attention. Seeing familiar words or phrases will demonstrate that you understand their needs and can execute the job’s responsibilities.
Hiring managers may sort through hundreds of resumes for a single job, meaning they often scan to find the most relevant details. The best way to get noticed as a candidate is to tailor your resume to the employer’s job description.
To do this, you need to showcase your most relevant qualifications using their keywords and specific phrases.
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