how to tailor a resume to a job

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.