One of the things that professionals do to “tip” the scales into their favor is to customize their resumes for every job they are applying for. That’s right, you tailor it for every single job application.
That is how you get ahead. That is how you make sure that you move to the next step in the interview process. Yes, it takes more work upfront. But won’t you rather do that extra work now in order to progress to the next step of the process, rather than sending your generic resume dozens of times and crossing your fingers hoping that you move to the next step?
Why Customizing Your Resume Works
If you go back to the basics, the purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. Or at least the next step in the process.
For most companies, that’s either a phone interview/screening or an actual face-to-face (or Zoom) interview.
The main reason why customizing your resume works is that no two jobs are exactly the same. This means that the hiring manager wants to have her questions answered simply by looking at your resume.
Customize your resume and make it easier for the interviewer to say to herself, “yes, this candidate is exactly who I’m looking for!”
Won’t That Take Too Much Time and Work?
If you go back to one of the fundamental principles, you are in-charge of your own career. That means it is up to you to manage every aspect of your professional life and not leave it up to others, or worse, up to chance.
Yes, it is more time-consuming and requires more work upfront.
But if it greatly increases your chances of getting a promotion, or land that dream job of yours, won’t you be more excited in putting in more work now?
For example, one part of career management that no one is talking about is a systematic documentation of your own accomplishments.
- Have you hit a homerun on a recent project where you completed it on time and on budget, despite being understaffed?
- Did you exceeded your targets when the past 3 people in your role failed to meet even 75% of it?
- Were you able to cut down cost by creating processes that improved efficiencies yet not having to fire anyone, which ultimately led to more profitability?
If you’re “relying” on your company’s annual performance review to document that, then you’re relying on others to manage your career.
Essentially, you’re leaving things up to chance.
Do the work now so you won’t have to later.
Watch Out for This Major Pitfall
Customizing doesn’t mean sharing everything. Remember, your resume is a summary of your professional career. Resumes aren’t an autobiography.
That means only including what is relevant to the job.
- You don’t need to include your life story.
- You don’t need to share your hobbies either.
- You definitely don’t need an objective statement.
Here’s how you can properly customize your resume to each job you’re applying for
How to Customize Your Resume
Customizing your resume for a job is a simple 3-step process:
Step 1: Read the Job Description
This is something a lot of professionals often neglect to do. They see the job title, tell themselves, “Oh, I like that. I’ll send my application.”
They don’t read what the job actually entails. They don’t know that they will be in an B2B company, rather than consumer. They get surprised that they may be working with multiple vendors when they thought they are a specialist.
If you want to stand out and progress through the different stages of the interview process, read the job description. Several times if needed.
Look for themes. What are the main responsibilities of the role.
Unfortunately, job descriptions often list down individual tasks that makes this harder. Go beyond the actual tasks and find commonalities among them.
For example, if it says setting up meetings, following up with tasks, and creating reports, the theme might be for account management where you make sure the client gets what they need, happy with the results, and renews with your company.
So, you may not have experience with setting out meetings, or even with the tools listed. But that doesn’t mean you have no relevant experience or accomplishments around these themes.
If you’re a long-time graphic design freelancer, you definitely have worked on account management, even if you didn’t do those things in an official role.
Bottom line: read the job description. Find themes and commonalities. Then…
Step 2: Compare Your Findings with Your Career Management Document
A career management document (CMD) is a document that contains all your accomplishments, big and small, for every role you had. This includes your volunteer work where you managed 15 volunteers every summer to do project ABC; and includes your corporate work where you hit your sales quota every month for the last 13 months.
It may contain 1-2 pages. It may go as high as 10 pages. It doesn’t matter. This CMD is for your eyes only.
Think of it as your database of accomplishments and results.
Say, you’re applying for a managerial role. The job description also highlighted that reporting and communication skills is very important because you will be talking to clients and act as the bridge between the client and your team.
Now, look at your CMD and find all the relevant accomplishments you achieved that had anything to do with managing a group of people (e.g. your volunteer work) and reporting/communication (e.g. that podcast you started on the side where you take Q&A from guests).
See where this is going?
Step 3: Use the Relevant Accomplishments in Your Resume
Once you find those relevant accomplishments, that’s what you add in the resume document that you submit with your application.
If you’re applying within the same industry, often the customization is really just rearranging the order or replacing a few phrases with what’s used in the job description.
For example, you’re applying for a marketing associate role. You already have experience and results in improving conversions. But job #1 might include in the job description that the role’s main responsibility is to improve conversion rates. Job #2 might have emphasis more on creating a process or structure.
So the big accomplishment that you achieved for your employer where you setup the entire conversion rate optimization strategy from scratch will be used for two separate job applications. For one, you emphasize the actual results; while the other emphasizes the strategy and process.
Putting It All Together
That’s really all there is to it.
Repeat the 3-step process across the major responsibilities listed in the job description and create a new resume tailor-fitted for that job you’re applying for.
If you don’t have a career management document or have a resume that’s basically your life story, now is a good time to step back and work on those.
The main goal is to have a longer document that’s kept private which you update with accomplishments every quarter (CMD), then a 1-pager document that you customize for every application (resume).
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