How to Tailor Your Resume to a Specific Job Description

By Biron Clark



Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

If you’ve read any type of resume advice online there’s a good chance you saw many recommendations that you should tailor your resume for each job.

You’re probably wondering- Is it really necessary??

It might be tempting to skip it, because yes- it takes time.

But it really will make a huge difference in the number of companies that call you back and invite you to interview.

I’m talking about an exponential increase in callbacks… not a slight increase. I’ve tried both ways, trust me.

And tailoring your resume is not as hard as it sounds. I’ll take you through it step by step. But first, read this next section because it’s important…

The Problem With Not Tailoring Your Resume:

Most job seekers go create a resume with the goal of seeming as impressive as possible. That’s not what a hiring manager is looking for though, especially not at first.

They’re not evaluating how impressive you are, or how smart you are, or anything like that.

They’re taking your resume, putting it side-by-side with the job description, and deciding if you have the skills and experience needed to do this specific job.

They want to see evidence that you can come in and perform well from day 1.

When you create a general resume with the goal of showing all of your impressive experience, what you are doing is not in line with what the company is checking for.

There’s a disconnect, and this causes a lack of callbacks.

This all happens because you made your resume about YOU.

When you tailor a resume to a specific job, it becomes about THEM. And that’s how you get the interview!

How To Tailor Your Resume to a Job:

1. Identify what’s most important to the company

The key to making your resume attractive to a company is to tailor it to the job description. You can use the job description to figure out their needs and priorities and then make your resume mirror that.

Things to look for:

  • What responsibilities are mentioned first? What’s mentioned lower down and might be less important?
  • What specific requirements or qualifications do they list?
  • Are any themes repeated throughout? (like leadership, multitasking, organization, etc.)

2. Match your resume content with the job description

Now that you understand a bit about what the company wants, look at your resume.

You want to tailor your resume to the job description, starting by matching the most important things on the job description with the most visible areas on your resume.

Make the first few bullet points under each previous job on your resume as relevant as possible. Your resume employment history is one of the first places recruiters and hiring managers look, so it’s one of the most important areas to tailor!

If you’re looking for your first job, you can tailor your education and other related experience instead. Same concept.

If the job description emphasized leadership, don’t talk about all your individual accomplishments first. Instead, put a bullet point that mentions any leading you’ve done… taking the lead on projects, training, supervising others. No matter how small, find a way to demonstrate leadership!

Then you can list your individual accomplishments.

Maybe the individual part was 90% of your last role, and leadership was only 10%. It doesn’t matter, mention the leadership first, just like the job description did.

If you have multiple positions on your resume, tailor all of them.

If you have an objective or summary section in your resume, tailor that too! Look at how the company describes the overall role and match your summary with that description.

3. Reorder, add, remove

You can accomplish what I described above with a few different methods.

First, you can reorder the bullet points and info you already have. Push the most relevant experience to the beginning of each section and move other less-relevant pieces lower down.

I’m mentioning this first because it’s easiest. You’re just cutting and pasting different pieces, with no writing needed.

Next, you can write new bullet points. You might see something on the job description, realize it’s not mentioned on your resume at all but it’s something you do have a bit of experience with. So add it!

And finally, you can remove or delete information if the new bullet points you’ve added have made it redundant, or if it’s just not relevant at all.

Here’s a good way to know whether to remove something: Ask yourself if a company will be confused by any of the info you provided.

If you think the hiring manager is going to ask, “why did they think it made sense to include this information?”, then maybe it should be removed.

Or if you need to save space or make room, you can delete some of your old bullet points to make room for the new tailored info that you’re adding.

As a final note, you can reorder whole sections of your resume as well.

Example: Moving your “Education” section above or below your “Employment” section. In most cases, you’d want it below. As a general rule of thumb, the first thing a hiring manager wants to see is your most recent experience.

So the less they have to dig for that, the better!

But I know there are jobs out there where a hiring manager can’t even consider interviewing you without seeing you have the specific education and training required. Nurses, pilots, etc.

So in that case, you can consider putting your education up top. Use your best judgement based on the job description. Did they mention these qualifications right off the bat? Or was it an afterthought near the bottom?

4. Provide compelling evidence

Not all bullet points are created equal.

Let’s say you read that multi-tasking is a big challenge in the job you’re applying for, so you decide to tailor your resume for it.

Do you think writing, “excellent multi-tasker” in your career summary is going to be impressive or convincing enough?

Do you think having one bullet point saying, “frequently required to multi-task” under your most recent job will impress the hiring manager?

No way!

You need to provide specifics: Facts, figures, examples, stories. Something that shows the hiring team that you can come in and be effective in this job right away.

Here’s what you could put as a bullet point for the example above:

“Managed 4-5 simultaneous projects including all timelines, goals, and results. Frequently required to make scheduling adjustments as new projects were initiated.”

That’s convincing!

Other ideas for facts and figures to include:

  • Percentages (a % increase in sales, a % growth you contributed to, etc.)
  • Dollar amounts (managed $___ worth of customer accounts, $___ worth of projects, $___ advertising budget, team budget, etc.)
  • Number of people (trained 4 new employees, interacted with up to 10 suppliers on a daily basis, etc.)
  • Geography (managed work for various clients across 4 continents)

I wrote a complete article on how to add numbers to enhance your resume, you can check it out here.

5. Review everything

Once you’re comfortable that you’ve covered everything possible on your resume in terms of what the job description asks for, do what the hiring manager would do…

Lay your resume side-by-side with the job description and glance through it. Does everything fit and make sense? Will the company be able to clearly see why you chose to apply for this position and why you’re interested?

Or will they ask, “Hm, I wonder why this person thought to apply here?”

That’s what you want to avoid!

Tailoring Your Resume to a Job Will Also Help You in the Interview

If you follow the steps above, you’re going to be way better prepared than the other candidates in the interview.

You’ll have a better understanding of the job and the employer’s needs, so you can make sure your interview answers are laser-targeted.

For example, when they ask you, “tell me about yourself,” instead of just naming random facts or pieces of work experience, you’ll be able to focus on what’s most relevant for their job. You can talk about the pieces of experience and accomplishments that best demonstrate you’ll be able to succeed in their job!

That’s going to get you a whole lot more job offers!

So taking the time to learn how to tailor your resume to a job won’t just get you more interviews, it’ll help you turn those interviews into job offers, too.

What to Do Next

Here’s a great way to get started: Go find one job description for a position you’d want to apply for. Try to find something that’s typical and “middle of the road” for the type of position you’d want. This is important because we’re going to create a “master copy” of your resume.

Follow the steps above and tailor your resume to that job description you just found, and then save that file. That’s your master copy for this job search.

When you apply for other jobs, use that file as a starting point.

You might find that you only need to make one or two small adjustments from one job to the next!

Sometimes more is needed of course, and it’s well worth it either way.

As a final note: If you’re applying for a few different types of positions, create a master copy for each. I was in this scenario a few years back when I was looking to either continue as a recruiter, or go into corporate sales. I was getting absolutely no responses from my general resume, because it was tailored a bit to both areas.

I admit it- I was lazy. I tried to create one general resume to appeal to every employer in two entirely different areas of work! I thought if I went half and half, I’d have just enough to please everyone.

Horrible idea, it didn’t work. I pleased no one.

If you try to make your resume good enough for every job out there, the reality is it won’t be good enough for any job! You need to tailor it.

I didn’t see any results in that job search until I created two separate resumes. And then after tailoring my resume further with my method above, things really took off…  I went from no callbacks to 10+ the next week.

Biron Clark

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30 thoughts on “How to Tailor Your Resume to a Specific Job Description”

  1. Helpful article, thank you!

    I have questions, though. In case I’m applying to a multinational company based in country A for a position in country B, to which country should I tailor my resume and address my cover letter in case there’s any ‘rule’ difference?

    Thanks in advance for answering!

    • Yes. I recommend a chronological resume for practically everyone. It’s the format employers and recruiters are used to seeing, and it shows them the info they’re looking for faster. I did spend a year recruiting in software technology and IT, FYI.

    • What if your most recent job(s) don’t position you for the industry/type of job you’re currently seeking (especially if you’re a recent grad), could splitting the work experience sections into “relevant [occupation/industry] experience” and “other work experience” suffice?

      I did this with my most recent resume for civil engineering and both a hiring manager and recruiter said my resume looked good. Thoughts?

  2. How do you tailor your resume and cover letter if you’re applying via. email to companies that don’t have any open positions (or positions you’re not qualified for) where you can’t go off of a job description?

    • Hey Biron, if we’re submitting resumes/cover letters directly to companies via. email (like the basic inquiry email address info@…) what do you recommend we include on our resume for tailoring since there isn’t a specific job description as a guide?

  3. In terms of matching the wording of your resume with job description, to which level of matching the engine search works? is it by key words or sentences or both?

    • Every employer/software is a bit different. But it’s usually keywords and key phrases, not full sentences.

  4. Hello,

    What if my experience was years ago? Too far back to put on a resume? I was a stay-at-home Mom for several years….how do I include that relevant experience when it was soooo longggg ago????

  5. Great tips, info and article! I’ve heard that before, but, what should you do about this? If changing your resume to meet a job description, would then mean having to change your linkedin profile too, so it could match your changed job description and job title for one particular application. I’ve also read that you have to be sure your profile and resume match up. So if you sent many resumes that had been changed up, and even if you changed your linkedin profile for each one, who knows when one of the places you applied may see your profile, which had already been change again for a different job. Also, I understand what you mean by being a “jack of all trades and master of none” on your resume and profile. But what should you do if you have 2 totally different jobs skills and experiences and have these jobs or freelance business listed on your resume. How can you take one or more jobs totally off of your resume or profile so you don’t look like that, especially if the job you are applyng to matches a least recent job. Please advise, thank you

  6. Hi .. I wanted to understand while I try to tailor my resume for different jobs , should I also modify my Role? For example if my role is an E&I Engineer but am also applying for Document controller position or Drafter position.. what current role should I mention in my cv?

  7. Hi, I work in the Banking – Customer Service field, but wish to transfer to the Superannuation – Customer Service field. I am looking at a current job vacancy and the responsibilities aren’t what I have done before. The impression I get from your article is, you need to include examples of doing similar responsibilities in the duties section of your previous roles. If you haven’t exactly done them. How do you impress the Hiring Manager you can still do them?

  8. Does the format of my resume matter? Mine is formatted nontraditionally where I have my skills, education, etc. listed in a column on the left, side by side with my professional summary & experience to the right of that. I have broken down my relevant experience up top and remaining “professional experience” below that into two separate sections. When I upload my resume onto websites or job sites (eg, Indeed), it either previews incorrectly (where the formatting looks all messed up) or doesn’t upload correctly to the relevant sections. Should I remove the side column and use a traditional resume format?

    • It definitely matters, not just for online application systems but for the person reading, too. I know as a recruiter I HATED “functional” resumes, and any format that didn’t show employment history in chronological order. If you’re not getting interviews, then it’s worth trying something new, and I’d recommend testing a traditional resume format.

  9. Here’s the thing… I understand that hiring managers want to see applicants that have all of the desired skills mentioned in the job description. What I don’t understand is the fact that hiring managers don’t think that a person is interested if they aren’t 100% qualified (this may not be case, but the article makes it sound like it is). I mean, come on! People can be interested in a job despite the fact that their resume may not perfectly match the job description. I may not be qualified, but that shouldn’t make you question my interest. “Hm, I wonder why this person thought to apply here?” they say. Because it seems like a good job–that’s why.

    • Hi,

      You’re right – those are two different things.

      I wasn’t implying that interest and qualifications are the same thing.

      Not sure where you thought I said that. But it’s very possible for a hiring manager to think you’re interested but decide you’re not qualified.

      You need to show both. Tailoring your resume is more about showing you’re qualified.

  10. Hi Biron, I have a background in sales and management with a degree in education. I am seeking opportunities in new areas such as Project Management and People Operations. My current title is Director of Sales and Operations, therefore when I scan my resume via ATS a recommendation is to change my job title to fit the job listing. I don’t want to lie, what other alternatives do I have to get past the ATS and get the interview?

  11. I would love to apply for a job recently posted and know I could learn the ins and outs although I have never had this position before… how do I get them to see that I am a self starter, and willing to learn ? I have independantly set up and run departments before, enjoy reaching out and working with people and have the administrative background – just not the details for the job

  12. My problem is that I have been a school crossing guard in Miami,fla. for 10 years now. I was employed at another hospital prior to this which closed its doors permanently on account of mismanagement problems. On a recent job interview for a hospital I was asked why I have been a crossing guard for so long. I have been interview countless times and I always get emailed with rejected.

    • If you’re getting interviews, your resume is fine, and you should start focusing on how you answer the interview questions you keep hearing. Just mentioning this to make sure you know – since this article is about improving your resume. The resume has one job: to get you interviews. If it’s doing that, it did its job.

  13. I am in between jobs and looking into a few different career paths. I plan to tailor my resume to each path / job, but wondering what to do about my LinkedIn. Do I make it private so the various employers cannot see the differences between what I submitted and what is online?

    • Hi Laura, good question. “Tailoring” is fine-tuning, usually. Re-ordering bullet points within a job. Changing the wording a bit. I’d leave your LinkedIn public, but maybe just put a little bit less info there. For example maybe each job title, and 1-2 bullets. (Whereas on your resume, you might have each job title, a 2-sentence description of the role, and 6 bullets).

  14. Maybe I am not tailoring my resume enough. The skill set is about the same and most of the jobs ask for the same thing basically, so I move info around and try to use their worlds when possible. I usually already have what they ask for in my bullet points. Still can’t get a career job. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Bridgett,

      It sounds like you’re doing things the right way. You don’t need to make huge adjustments on each resume you send out, if the jobs are similar. That’s why tailoring is great. It’s not as time-consuming as people think.

      Try putting more facts/metrics on your resume. Real numbers/results of past accomplishments. That could help you stand out further.

      It could also be an issue of the order things appear on your resume. Your recent work experience (with tailored bullet points) should appear on the top half of page 1. Don’t make the hiring manager dig and search for it.

      Are you doing this?

      I’ve seen some resumes where they put a big intro paragraph, a big “Skills” section, etc… all before their recent experience. Big mistake.

      Hope this helps!

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