It’s simple. A resume can’t get you hired unless it speaks DIRECTLY to the job you’re applying for. When you target your resume to the job you want, it’s a smart way to catch the employer’s eye – and hopefully get the person screening job applications to put you in the “yes” pile.
As a former resume screener, I can tell you that resumes often arrived that seemed disconnected from the job we were trying to fill. And some may have been totally qualified. If only they knew how to target (match) their resume to the job description – the real secret to getting an employer’s attention … and a resume selected!
Will targeting my resume guarantee a job offer?
I’m not telling you that you can get absolutely any job you want just by targeting a resume – you have to have the actual job skills. But some of your skills aren’t as obvious as you’d think, especially to a screener who may give your resume only 8 seconds (on average) before deciding there’s no match.
That really is how it works. When you have a pile of resumes in front of you – imagine 100+ – you don’t have the luxury of perusing each one slowly. You usually just scan each one quickly for possible connections to the job description and what they know about the position.
So you, the applicant, need to make it easy for the resume screener to see the many ways you are well-suited for this one particular job. And you do that by targeting your resume to EACH job you apply for. Yup. I mean it. Each one. It can make a huge difference to your job search interview success rate.
How to make a resume match a specific job description
First, get comfortable. Clear some work room on your desk. You’ll want a copy of the job description and a copy of your resume, and enough workspace to look back and forth from one to the other. (You can also do this on your virtual desk, but I find hard copy very useful for this purpose.)
(1) Carefully review the company’s job description, getting an overall feel for what they are looking for.
(2) Highlight keywords and phrases within the description that best represent the skills and experience they want.
♦ You will want to use these words and phrases as a guide to decide which of your accomplishments to include in your resume. It also helps guide you as to which keywords / key phrases to add to your resume if you don’t already have them there.
♦ Your goal is to focus your resume as best as possible (being totally honest and using your real experience) on what the employer is looking for. Help the employer see where the things you’ve done match what they are looking for.
(3) Now, with the job description in mind, look at your resume and decide which of your existing resume experiences you might want to rephrase or expand to help paint a picture that more closely matches the job you want– and maybe which ones to leave out, if they have nothing to do with the new job.
♦ While being totally honest and using your real experience, help the employer see where your experience from the past connects nicely to what they are looking for.
(4) Also, look at your resume to think about where you might want to add real experiences that aren’t on your resume, but that help paint that matching picture.
(5) This is also the time to think about where you might insert some of the keywords / key phrases that the employer used.
♦ Be careful not to make it look like you’re simply inserting random phrases. You want it to feel real – because it is real.
(6) Make notes on your resume (I love red pen for this) to show where you might edit or add things.
♦ Don’t forget to think about a skills summary section at the top to lead off your resume. This is a great place to focus your targeting. I’m not a big fan of the job objective, but if you like them, you can also add some targeted words / phrases here.
(7) Now it’s time to take your notes and go to work adjusting your resume so that it is targeted to the job.
♦ Don’t sweat the grammar or formatting at this point. Just get stuff on paper and you can edit later.
(8) Now compare your resume to the job description. How did you do? Can you see more places where the employer will easily find the match?
(9) This last step is when you edit and clean up the grammar and formatting, adding anything you may have missed the first go-round.
Voila! Your resume is now targeted to the job. Oh…and don’t forget to ask a friend or two to proofread it. No sense letting a typo undo all your hard work.
PLEASE READ THIS TOO: Beware of Task-Based Job Descriptions!
More articles you might enjoy:
♦ How To Target Your COVER LETTER To the Job (with sample)