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How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description and Land Your Dream Job

Updated October 2023

Natalie Severt, a resume advice writer for Assignment Bro and Uptowork – Your Resume Builder, shares her tips on how to tailor your resume to a job description each time you apply for a new job.

If there’s one thing all recruiters are after, it’s skills. An IT recruiter wants someone who can develop software; a marketing recruiter is on the lookout for people who know how to build strong brands. But how do you showcase your skills and qualifications so that hiring managers know you’re the best candidate? By tailoring your resume.

Once you’ve learned how to tailor your resume, you’ll also know how to write a resume that instantly grabs recruiters’ attention every time you apply for a job. Here are 5 tips to help you tailor your resume to every job description and land more job interviews than ever:

1. Make a Master List of Keyword Skills

Tailoring your resume is about choosing skills from the job offer and sprinkling them throughout your resume and cover letter. Sounds simple, right? In reality, it’s a bit tricky, but so effective.

1. To start, you’re going to make a master list of skills. Keep in mind that you might not have all the skills on the list, and that’s okay.

2. Go to your job description. Highlight all required skills and experience, and put them on your master list.

3. Next, look for a few job posts for similar positions. Again, highlight the required skills and experience.

4. Do you notice any that match the skills on your list? If so, these skills are in high demand. Circle the skills on your list that match skills from other offers. Any extra job skills that didn’t show up in your offer can still be added to your resume.

5. Your final step is to visit LinkedIn — where you can check out the people who already have the job you want. Browse member profiles and look at the skills they’ve chosen to highlight. Again, do any of these skills match the skills from your job offer?

Any time you see overlapping skills, there’s a good chance they are important and valuable. If you possess any of these overlapping skills, you’ll want to place those skills at the top of your resume.

2. Create a Master Resume

Now that you have your master list of skills, you’re ready to build a master resume. What is a master resume? It’s an updated version of your resume that lists all your work experience, skills, qualifications, and accomplishments. When you find an attractive job offer, you’ll cherry-pick skills and experience from your master resume for your tailored resume.

That’s the key aspect of a tailored resume: you don’t add everything. You select the work experience and skill sets that match the requirements for a particular job. Once you have chosen what will appear on your tailored resume and what won’t, go back to your skills list. If you have any of the skills on your list (and you should), add them to your resume.

3. Prioritize Valuable Skills

You know the skills highlighted in the job offer are most important. You also know that if they show up in other job offers they’re valuable. But how do you know which skills recruiters value most? By categorizing your the skills on your master list.

There are three types of skills:

  1. Job-related Skills
  2. Transferable Skills
  3. Adaptive Skills

Job-related skills are the skills you need to do the job. For example, if you’re applying for the position of a Java Software Developer, you need to know Java. If you don’t, you simply can’t do the job. These skills are mandatory and need to go straight to the top of your resume. That way, the hiring manager can glance at your resume and see you’re qualified.

Do you have any job-related skills that are circled? These need to go in your professional summary at the very top of your resume. Here’s an example of a well-written, entry-level professional summary that includes Java and C++ as job-related skills:

“Detail-oriented Java Software Developer with internship experience. Proficient in Java and C++. Looking to use my teamwork and communication skills to create beautiful websites for XYZ Company.”

Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are the skills that can be used across many jobs. The ability to use Microsoft Office is an example of such a skill. Have a look at your master list of skills to see if any are transferable skills. Do you have these skills? If so, mention them under your responsibilities in your Experience section. Then add those you feel strongest about to your Skills section. If recruiters are asking for these skills, it’s in your interest to show that you have them.

Adaptive Skills

Adaptive skills are social skills. Examples would include responsibility, integrity, and discretion. They are often the adjectives hiring managers use to describe the kind of candidate they want. How do you work them into your resume? The same way hiring managers use them: use adaptive skills to describe yourself.

Let’s go back to the example professional summary: “Detail-oriented Java Software Developer with internship experience. Proficient in Java and C++. Looking to use my teamwork and communication skills to create beautiful websites for XYZ Company.”

“Detail-oriented” is an adaptive skill that helps recruiters to learn more about your personality and approach to work. Do you see any adaptive skills on your master list? Sprinkle them throughout your resume to catch the eye of the hiring manager.

4. Use Numbers and Details to Emphasize Your Skill Set

Now that you have all your keywords in place, you need to make sure recruiters can spot them when scanning your resume. Keep in mind that hiring managers take an average of 6 seconds to scan a resume. In order to direct hiring managers to notice your skills and achievements, you need to make those selling points pop. And adding numbers and details can do this for you. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you’re applying for a job in customer service. The job description states: “Excellent customer service skills required.” At this point, you probably think that it’s enough to add a bullet point in your Experience section that says, “Responsible for customer service.” But “responsible for customer service” doesn’t mean much, does it? It doesn’t provide the hiring manager with valuable information about your skills.

Here’s what you should write instead:

“Provided excellent customer service, increasing customer satisfaction by 15%.”

The number will draw the eye of the hiring manager to the keyword, which you’ve added verbatim. The recruiter will see how your skills translate into real achievements. And they’ll imagine you achieving similar results for them.

5. Check to See if You Successfully Tailored Your Resume

Once you’re done tailoring your resume, you need to double-check that you did a good job. Drop your resume into a cloud generator to see how frequently you used a word or phrase. If your keywords aren’t prominent, consider adding them more than once.

Your next stop is Jobscan ATS simulator. It mimics the way in which real Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software works. ATS scans your resume to see if it contains words that match words and phrases in the job offer. The software can also tell if you’ve added your keywords randomly or in a meaningful way. If the software rejects your resume, a human recruiter will never see your documents.

Key Takeaway

Recruiters can receive hundreds of resumes in response to one job offer — that’s why you need to make sure that your resume catches the eye of the hiring managers. Don’t expect to get tons of job offers by sending generic resumes. Instead, tailor your resume and cover letter to the job description every time you apply for a job. A tailored resume allows recruiters to see right away that your resume is relevant and that you are perfect for the job.

Author Bio

Natalie Severt is a writer at Assignment Bro and Uptowork – Your Resume Builder. She writes about how to create successful resumes so that you can land your dream job. When she isn’t writing, she eats tacos and reads complicated novels. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @natalie_severt

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