How To Tailor Your Resume For A Specific Job

By Maddie Lloyd
Aug. 3, 2022
Articles In Resume Guide

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Recruiters see so many resumes every day that eventually, they all start to blur together. If you want yours to stand out so you can land an interview, you’re going to have to customize your resume so that it addresses everything the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate.

We’ll cover what tailoring a resume is, highlight the major advantages of customizing your resume, and show you how to easily adapt your resume for any job description.

Key Takeaways:

  • It takes six to seven seconds for an employer to look at your resume and decide to keep it or not.

  • When tailoring your resume, you are focusing on what the employer needs, it demonstrates your interest in the job, and it shows your qualifications.

  • Make sure to read the job description, use keywords, and put your most relevant experience experiences first to make your resume stand out.

How to Tailor Your Resume For a Specific Job

What Does Tailoring Your Resume Mean?

Tailoring your resume for a specific job means adapting the information within to more closely align with the job’s duties, skills, and requisite experiences.

Since the goal of your resume and cover letter is to show hiring managers and recruiters that hiring you is a good idea, customizing the information in these documents is an essential part of writing them.

Note that tailoring your resume for a particular job doesn’t mean lying or embellishing your resume with impressive-sounding but dubious claims. Rather, your focus is on adjusting the language of your resume in minor ways that don’t alter the overall truthfulness of the document.

How to Tailor Your Resume for a Specific Job

  1. Read job description for requirements. Read over the job description and make note of any qualities or skills that are important for the job, then scan your resume to see if these words are reflected in your own experiences.

    • If they aren’t — revamp your resume using the buzzwords and traits you found in the job description. If you’re not sure of what words to use to show how your experience is perfect for the position, do a quick Google search of the job title to pick up some lingo you can use to describe yourself.

    • Our pro tip is to review the job description with three highlighters in hand. First, highlight all of the action verbs. Then, highlight all of the adjectives in a different color. Finally, highlight the skills in a third color.

    • Now look for words in your current resume that can easily be swapped for the words that the job description uses. Voila — with fairly low effort, you’ve got all the natural-sounding keywords you need to pass the applicant tracking system and impress the hiring manager or recruiter.

    For example, if you’re applying for a job as a Content Creator, you’re going to want to use words like “copyedit,” “proofread,” and “deadlines,” throughout your resume. It might seem simple, but these words will determine whether your resume gets you an interview, or gets thrown in the trash.

  2. Put your most relevant experiences right at the top. It might make sense to list your work experience in sequential order, but in the world of job hunting, you want your most valuable and relevant experience right there at the top.

    • Employers only spend about six or seven seconds looking at a resume before they decide if it’s a keeper, so you’ll want to make sure that they can see your value quickly and clearly — without having to search the page for something mildly interesting.

    • Find your work or volunteer experiences that are the most closely related to the job you’re applying for, and rearrange your resume so that they stand out — and while you’re at it, make sure to use keywords we’ve been talking about.

    • Also, since your resume summary statement is the first section after your contact info, make sure to spend a lot of time writing the perfect one for each job you apply for. In two to three sentences, describe your most relevant and impressive accomplishments and skills as a way of grabbing the reader’s attention for more than six seconds.

  3. Research company values and align them with yours. Another great way to stand out from other candidates? Show employers that your values align with theirs. This will show them that you have a good sense of character, which is a quick and easy way to make a good impression.

    • So, how do you do this, you may ask? Easy, just check the company website for an “About Us” section, and you’re likely to find a paragraph or two detailing their core values. You might even find these traits in the job description, with phrases like “clear communicator,” “works well with others,” and so on.

    • If, however, the company has values that don’t align with yours, you might want to reconsider applying for the job. For example, if the company has a high respect for Doritos, but you have an unwavering devotion to Cheetos, you might consider applying for a job somewhere that values the same snacks as you.

    • Embodying a company’s ideal candidate goes beyond having a lot of experience. If you can show you’re a perfect fit for the company culture, you’re sure to stand out from other candidates.

  4. Modify your bullet points for less relevant experiences. Now that your most relevant experience is at the top of your resume, it’s time to edit your remaining experiences to show that you gained valuable qualifications from them, too.

    Your first step in doing this is to look over those valuable skills we found earlier. Think back to your less-relevant work experiences and try to match those skills to the responsibilities and duties of those jobs.

    Even though your experience tutoring math isn’t directly related to the solar technician role you’re applying for, you can still include those soft skills required in both positions — like structure, time management, training, analytical thinking — whatever is important for the job at hand.

  5. Have someone review it. Your final step in making sure that your resume is tailored perfectly for the job is to ask someone else to look over it.

    Ask a friend or a relative to read over your resume, and ask if they can tell what kind of role you’re applying for and if you come off as a good fit. Follow up these initial questions by asking your friend what experiences and skills really stood out to them, and if you sound genuinely interested in the position.

    If you miss the mark and your friend thinks you’re applying for a fast-food position, when in reality you’re going for a marketing role, you might want to reorganize your experience and rethink your emphasized skills.

    Your resume should make it painfully obvious exactly what role you’re applying for, and why you’re the perfect candidate for that role. If this isn’t clear, keep reworking it until it is.

Resume Sections to Tailor

You’re a busy professional, and you don’t have time to perfectly optimize every last word of each resume you send out. We get it.

Here’s what to do if you’re looking to maximize your return-on-investment with some low-effort, highly actionable changes:

  • Make your resume summary statement count. If you’re only going to customize one thing on your resume, make it the resume summary statement. In two to three sentences, describe your job title, most impressive accomplishments, and most relevant skills/qualifications.

    Pick out those keywords that the job description repeated most frequently and make sure to include a couple in this section.

  • Tweak your skills section. Since this section is usually just a handful of bullet points, it’s a fairly simple one to customize. It may even be as simple as moving an important skill from the bottom to the top, or cutting out a skill that the job description doesn’t mention.

  • Change work experience bullet points. This is where it gets more time-consuming, but it’s still not too bad. You can keep the same bullet points and adjust some of the action verbs you use (change “supervise” to “manage,” for example, if that’s the word the job description uses).

    Or you can completely cut and rewrite bullet points to more accurately address the key responsibilities listed in the job description.

Your education section doesn’t need to be tailored, unless you’re applying for a role in research, academia, or any other highly-specialized field that has stringent educational requirements.

Benefits of Tailoring Your Resume

Hiring managers and recruiters only care about your professional history insofar as it directly relates to the job they’re hiring for.

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of tailoring your resume for each specific job:

  • It Emphasizes employer needs. Employers are most interested in what you can do for them, based on your track record. With that in mind, tailoring your resume to show you the value you added in your former roles translates perfectly to this new role makes it easier for them to see you succeeding in the new job.

  • It helps get past applicant tracking systems. ATS are a necessary evil for large companies that have to contend with hundreds of applicants for any given job listing. This software is designed to parse your document for relevant information and assign you a score based on keywords and experience levels, among other things.

    Adjusting your keywords for a specific job description will basically guarantee you pass through the software and reach a human reader.

  • It demonstrates genuine interest. Recruiters and hiring managers know a generic resume and cover letter when they see one. While the spray-and-pray method may work okay for some entry-level positions, anything above the bottom-tier of the corporate hierarchy is going to want more specialization.

    When you spend time matching your resume up with the job description, employers notice and appreciate this fact. It shows you’re more motivated to get this particular job, and that’s half the battle.

  • It shows you’re perfect for the job. Ultimately, this is what writing a good resume is all about. When you can naturally and honestly confirm that you have the necessary qualifications listed in the job description, and make that clear on your resume, hiring managers really have no choice but to call you in for an interview.

Final Thoughts

As if writing a resume wasn’t enough of a challenge, now you’ve got to switch it up for every job you apply for. It’s time-consuming and a bit of a drag, but customizing your resume for each and every job increases your chances of getting an interview and landing that sweet gig.

Your resume is what’s going to get your foot in the door, and it’s your first chance to make a good impression on an employer. So, if you want to stand out from everyone else, your resume needs to show that you’re the perfect candidate.

Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get to work and edit that resume — once you do, you’re sure to land an interview and get the job.

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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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