4 Ways to Tailor Your Resume & 4 Reasons Why You Must

4 Ways to Tailor Your Resume & 4 Reasons Why You MustBy now you’ve probably heard that every resume you share online or with recruiters, contacts, or employers must first be tailored before you do so. Why, you may wonder?

First, because the majority of the time that you do share your resume, it will either start out being uploaded to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or will likely be uploaded by someone else to one without your knowing about it. In either case, the ATS, which is a computer database, will be used to search through all saved resumes, which means yours must be pre-adjusted, so it will rank high in a search for candidates for the role for which you originally applied. Since you don’t have control over who uploads your resume to an ATS (or when), it is best if you have tailored it accordingly from the start. If you fail to tailor your resume for ATS searches, you dramatically increase the odds that you will win few to no interviews despite applying for dozens and dozens and dozens of jobs.

Second, because when ATS systems search your resume, they will be looking for the specific key words that the searcher requested. This means that the ATS will count the number of times these words are used in your document and employ that total to rank order your resume in comparison with the submissions of other candidates. In other words, while experience, credentials, and skills are critically important in winning interviews for jobs you apply for online, in the end it is she or he who tailors best who wins the interview.

Third, because recruiters and employers often search based on an amount of experience, and if your resume proves you have more or less than the amount sought, your candidacy will be overlooked. If a recruiter searches the ATS for candidates with 10-12 years of experience, for example, and your resume shows that you have 15, your resume will be ignored. The same will be true if you possess less than that amount. Hence, you must adjust the length of experience you report in your resume to align as closely as it reasonably can with the job posting.

Fourth, because it’s not enough to prove you’re qualified for the job in question ~ you also have to prove that you are more qualified than the majority of other candidates. What you must keep in mind is that the average job posting is pursued by potentially hundreds of candidates, which guarantees you major competition. While some of these candidates will not possess experience equal to yours, some will. And some will possess superior skills, credentials, or experience. It is not enough to demonstrate that you are a “good enough” candidate. You must show proof that you are an exceptional candidate, or you are wasting your time applying for the job.

How can you do that? If you possess 75% or more of the experience sought for the job, these tailoring suggestions will help your candidacy to stand out.

Change Your Resume’s Title

  • Leverage a networking title. When you use your resume for networking purposes in cases where there is no specific job at hand, you need to use a networking, or less specific title to help broaden the conversation you hope to have with targeted companies. An example of a networking title would be Senior Operations Executive (which could mean a lot of different things), while a sample position title might be Director of IT.
  • Update your targeted position title. When you use your resume to apply for specific jobs, you must always alter the document’s title to match the job title exactly. This tightens the alignment between your background and the role, adds key words to the resume, and shapes your readers’ perceptions of you from the moment they see your document.

Alter Your Resume’s Key Words

  • Adjust your skills section. Identify the top 5-8 skills sought in the job posting you’re applying for and insert them into your resume’s skills sub-section.
  • Revise your summary. Take those same 5-8 skills, or slightly rephrased versions of them, and seed them into your resume’s career summary.
  • Upgrade your position descriptions. Do the same thing with your position descriptions and achievements throughout your entire document.
  • Insert industry-specific terms. Cull industry-specific terms and phrases from the job posting and insert into the resume in relevant sections. For example, if you apply for a role in sales, the posting may speak about client relations, while in the healthcare industry this will be called patient relations instead.

Age-Proof Your Resume

  • Alter the amount of experience you claim in your summary. Many resumes reference a specific amount of experience in the summary. When employers are seeking candidates with a different amount of experience in the job posting, this practice can prevent you from securing an interview. Dovetail the amount of experience you claim with the job specifications without lying. If the job posting asks for 10-12 years and you possess 15, say that you have “more than 12.” If the job posting asks for 10-12 years and you possess 8, say that you have “nearly 10.”
  • Shorten the amount of experience you list. At the same time, make sure that you include no more than 12 years of experience (in this example) in your resume. That may mean removing pre-2000 jobs from the document.
  • Delete or mask older employment dates. If your pre-2000 jobs are too important to omit from the resume, package them in an early career history section and omit the dates.
  • Eliminate older education dates. Make sure you leave off your education dates, too.

Overhaul Your Achievements

  • Enhance your CAR stories. It’s imperative that the CAR (challenge | action | result) stories you use in your resume relate to the job posting and the experience it requests. This may mean that you need to alter a CAR store here or there to make clear that you possess the kind of direct experience the employer is seeking.
  • Highlight your strategic planning experience. If you’re applying for director-level roles or above, you will need to prove that you have relevant strategic planning experience. Note that this means more than saying that you possess this experience. It means showcasing your strategic planning history and the results you’ve achieved with it.
  • Modify your scope of authority. If you possess a higher- or a lower-level title than that of the job posting at hand, you may need to make some additional adjustments. Let’s say you’re currently in a director role, but you’re applying for a senior mid-management position. In this case, you may need to “dumb down” your director role a bit by softening your experience or “whitewashing” some key elements. Does the position supervise a team of 2, yet you currently manage a team of 10? Alter your resume to state that you lead a team of 2+. Does the position ask for experience managing a team of 10, yet you currently supervise just 8 people? Alter your resume to state that you lead a team of nearly 10. In both cases, you’re inserting the critical number in an honest way that directly aligns with the job specifications.

This may seem like a lot of work, but most resume tailoring, once you get the hang of it, takes mere minutes to complete. If it takes you longer, then you may be overthinking the process. Or you may be way over-qualified for the job in question.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.