If you’re currently on the hunt for a new role, you’ve probably read the same old résumé tips over and over again. “Focus on a clear structure.” “Keep it short and snappy.” “Focus on results, not responsibilities.”
But I’ve worked in recruitment for years. Often, candidates follow all of the advice above, but fail to pick up on the single most important résumé tip of all time: tailor your résumé to your target role.
If you want to persuade recruiters to give you an interview, ensuring your résumé matches the role you’re applying for is the most important key to success.
Here I’ll lay out why it is a golden résumé tip and more importantly, how you can ensure your résumé makes the cut.
Why it’s important
Put yourself in the minds of recruiters and hiring managers for a second. With dozens and sometimes hundreds of applications to scour through, they don’t have time to waste on unsuitable applicants. And if a recruiter fails to find a suitable candidate for a job, their reputation can be tarnished.
Their first task is to pinpoint which candidates have the correct combination of experience, skills, and knowledge for the specificity of the job they’re hiring for. It’s those lucky applicants who’ll be invited for a face-to-face interview. Any irrelevant or generic résumés are quickly tossed in their trash folder.
What does this mean for you? Well, if the role you’re applying for requires experience of managing bespoke technology projects and using CMS-based web platforms, you need to ensure your résumé immediately makes it clear that you’ve got exactly that, ideally in the time of a 30-second read.
Every company has a different vision and work culture. Likewise, every single job comes with varied requirements in terms of skills, qualifications, and experience. Tailoring your résumé to the employer and job enables you to present your experience in a way that instantly showcases your suitability for the role. By making your relevant capabilities obvious, you’re essentially spoon-feeding recruiters the information they need in order to invite you in for an interview.
Personalizing your résumé for the specific role you’re applying for is a golden opportunity to prove to employers that you want their job and only their job, despite how you really feel. Remember, no one wants to hire someone who would be happy with a run-of-the-mill job.
These tips will help you through the process of tailoring your résumé.
Conduct thorough research
Take some time to understand what the employer is looking for. Before you do anything else, browse the company’s website, blogs, and social media profiles to gain a feel for their goals and working culture, as well as their clients, current endeavors, and upcoming projects. This type of information will help you to tailor your tone to allow a broader understanding of how your skills and experience can benefit the company.
Next, grab a pen and paper and pull up the job posting. After carefully reading the entire role description, go back and make a thorough list of the specific requirements, including everything from skills and character attributes, to experience and industry knowledge. Moreover, take a look through the duties and responsibilities section. Have you carried out similar tasks before? If so, add them to your list for the position.
Connect the dots and prioritize
Read through your list and check off any of the points that link to your skills, experiences, or past responsibilities. Now that you know exactly what relevant qualities you have to offer the employer, it’s time to prioritize.
Evaluate yourself according to the following. First, what hard skills and industry knowledge does the employer request right off the bat? From there, take a look at which qualifications and experience the employer specifically asks for. Lastly, review your own list of qualifications and mark off the ones that aren’t priorities to the employer.
Ultimately, your résumé should reflect the needs of the employer. Whatever you decipher is most important to them should be listed high up on your application, such as in your professional summary or your core skills list, which will promote your suitability in a brief glance.
Anything that is a lower priority can be incorporated into your previous role descriptions. Soft skills normally fall into this bracket. For instance, your target employer states they are seeking candidates who are comfortable working on a team. Rather than merely stating that you’re a team player, emphasize any collaborative or group projects you’ve carried out in your work experience section.
Cut the irrelevant
Once you’ve created an initial draft, reread your résumé with a critical eye.
As a recruiter, I’d much rather read a more in-depth overview of your recent and more relevant job, than a lengthy paragraph on your vaguely relevant internship from a decade ago. Sure, it’s important to showcase your career path and progression, but usually, it’s best to cut older roles to only a line or two and prioritize space for your more relevant and senior experience.
The same goes with hobbies, side projects, and extracurricular activities. If you decide to include them, ask yourself this, “Does this point showcase the relevant skills and abilities needed to carry out the role?” If the answer is no, hit the delete button. Your cooking hobby or animal shelter volunteer work may well be a big part of your life, but they’re not going to add to your candidacy as a senior marketer in the legal sector.
Tweaking your résumé for each job may be more time-consuming than firing out the same application for multiple roles, but it’s a crucial step towards job-hunting success. A well-researched, highly personalized, and fit-for-the-purpose résumé will supercharge the response rate from employers and lead you to the job you truly want.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV—he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to publications like Business Insider, The Guardian, and Fast Company.