6 easy ways to customize your resume

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In general, I am not a fan of customizing the resume for every single job. The chances of making mistakes are just too great, not to mention the stories of people who spend literally hours on a single customization just makes me shudder. However, there are times that some adjustments are necessary to get through HR’s screening processes. This is especially true if the job seeker’s positions only turn up rarely or are highly specialized.

The good news is that it is possible to customize your resume quickly without going crazy. It’s just a matter of a few simple tricks:

  1. Have a solid resume FIRST

Before you go insane tweaking your resume for a single job, make sure you have a solid resume in the first place. This should be written with the targeted job in mind already. For example, if you are considering either a job in accounting or HR, you need two different resumes, as the base skills, experience, and traits are vastly different for those two roles.

When we create a resume for a client, we do a comparative analysis of 3-6 job descriptions for the same type of job but with different companies. This way, we discover what are the universal key words, desired experience, top traits, and education levels that are inherent for that type of job. Once the foundation of a solid resume is built, you can adjust it for specific positions.

  1. Include the title of the target job

This is one of the best ways to get through HR’s screening computers on the application systems. The actual title of the position ranks really high in the valuable key words. Whenever possible, be sure to use the exact phrasing of the job title in your resume. This can be added as a variation to your current title: for example, if your title is “Outside Sales Manager” but their title is “Manager of Key Accounts Division,” change your title on the resume to “Manager of Key Accounts (Outside Sales Manager).” Notice that the actual, real job title must be in parentheses. That way, when HR calls to confirm your work history, there won’t be a discrepancy.

But what if you don’t have a similar title or if you are switching industries? This is where a title for the resume itself comes into play. While objective statements are very old fashioned and self-serving, starting the resume with a heading that uses the exact title indicates to HR that this is your target job:

  1. Match the skills

HR screens people based on skills, specifically the key words within the skills. This is one reason why we must include phrases like “excellent communication skills” on the resume. While everyone knows that isn’t the most exciting writing ever, if HR is using that phrase in the job description, you must use it in your resume or risk being cut by the screening computers. But how do we include these asinine phrases without destroying the overall quality of our resume?

Take a close look at the job description, especially the area called “qualifications” or “requirements.” Ignore the garbage words like “demonstrated ability to” or “responsible for;” only focus on the actual skill or personality trait itself. Now take those phrases and load up the SKILLS section of your resume:

By the way, the core competencies area is a great place to do some key word packing. By using different columns, you can load up a lot of skills without taking too much space.

  1. Use variations of top skills

This matters more for software than some of the other types of skills. One of the biggest offenders is actually Microsoft Office – the words, not the program. Some employers use “MS Office” in their job description. Others may state “Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.” However, the computer will only recognize the way it’s written in that exact job description. In other words, many computers are dumb and don’t know that Office and Word are the same thing. To combat this, consider using a variation for the software, such as “Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).”

  1. Describe relevant experience

Within the job description, pay attention to the duties or responsibilities. When you describe your own experience, find ways to match your own experience or achievements to those specific areas:

  1. Use both the acronym and the name for your degree

Sometimes screening computers are very literal. It may recognize the MBA, but not Masters of Business Administration and vice versa. By using both, you cover all of your bases. And of course, if the job is looking for a specific major, be sure to mention that you have it.  Same thing with your certifications. If the company wants them, make sure to list them.

  1. BONUS! Customize your cover letter

Okay, so that’s not your resume, I know. However, take the effort to read up on the company before drafting your cover letter. Keep in mind that the cover letter is actually written for PEOPLE, as opposed to all of these other tricks that are designed to get past a COMPUTER. In the end, both your resume and cover letter needs to be written well so that once a human being gets to see your materials, you will make the right impression.

Final Thought

HR must cut 95% or more of the candidate pool before sending potential new hires to the manager’s interviews. To do this, they all rely on screening tools, with getting past the computer being just the first step. To make sure you survive, try to match 70-80% of the key words, requirements, and experience to get past those killer bots. And of course, get in touch with the managers directly to greatly increase your chances for an interview, especially if you are changing industries or job levels.


Wondering how well your resume stands up? Contact Donna Shannon for a free resume review:

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