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If you are selling ice cream to children, you’ll probably focus on how fun and colorful it is and how happy it will make them if they eat it. If you’re selling ice cream to adults, you may want to focus on the finer points of the flavor, the price, and the low-fat ingredients. It’s the same product and the same end goal, but the presentation is optimized for the appropriate audience. In the same manner, you should be optimizing your resume for each position to which you apply.
To expand the metaphor a bit, your resume is a product brochure for you. Would a company give the same product brochure to each of their target audiences? Nope. They’d customize the brochure to include appropriate keywords and lingo in order to connect more easily and to demonstrate their expertise.
So why do people think they can use one stock resume to apply for each and every job?
It’s important to remember that the goal of the resume is to get you the interview, not the job. Remember all the pertinent content—keywords, responsibilities, achievements, etc.—should be optimized for the specific role you are pursuing. Don’t embellish or be untruthful, but do OPTIMIZE. Here are some fundamental rules that, when applied, will greatly increase your chances of landing that next interview.
- Match keywords to the role.
Use the same keywords and verbiage. Rearrange your list of responsibilities to prioritize the experience most applicable to the role. Then follow with duties least important to the role. HR tracking systems will be searching for those specific keywords. If you don’t customize your resume to include those same keywords and phrases, you can miss out on the opportunity to get an interview. Your resume will simply never be viewed by a human. You will be considered “not qualified,” and therefore, your resume and your chance for an interview are discarded.
- Match responsibilities to the role.
When describing what your responsibilities are in a position, say what you did and why you did it. Don’t say, “Created functional specifications for clients.” Do say, “Created functional specifications for clients to scope out work and set budgets needed to complete the recommended work.” Demonstrate your knowledge, and why you did what you did.
- Share major accomplishments that match the role.
Show numbers. Give specifics. These are the things that are most impressive. They want to see that you get results! Don’t just tell them that you beat sales goals, tell them you beat the sales goals by a specific amount or percentage. Don’t tell them you saved your team money by creating efficiencies, tell them how much money you saved. Don’t just tell them you implemented practices that improved the time to market for a product, tell them by how much. Employers want concrete numbers and facts. You want to help them believe that you can do the same for their company. Facts are easier to believe than abstract statements.
- Resume and LinkedIn profile should match.
This might seem simple, but it’s very important. You want dates, titles, responsibilities… everything, to match. If they don’t sync up, then there might be concern that you’re not being truthful.
- Reread, reread, and then reread again.
Don’t rely on Microsoft Word auto correct, or any other auto correct, to catch your mistakes. Be sure to use correct verb tense, correct punctuation, and consistent formatting. If you use bullet points, make sure you use bullet points throughout. If you use periods at the end of each bullet point, use them throughout. Current positions should use an active tense (i.e. managing, coordinating, scheduling, etc.) And when noting past positions, it should be past tense (i.e. managed, coordinated, scheduled.) They want to see attention to detail. Nothing screams “I don’t care” like a missed punctuation mark (See, you noticed, right?)
Here’s an extra tip: Read your resume out loud, slowly, and in a quiet place. You’ll be amazed at how you catch typos and missed words when you do this simple exercise.
If you follow these five rules, you’re putting yourself in a much better position to be called for an interview. However, you shouldn’t think you are done at this point. There are still cover letters to write, LinkedIn profiles and networks to maximize, and social media footprints to create. Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts on these topics and more. You might want to go to the blog and subscribe so you don’t miss them! And if you’re ready to keep learning, check out this post on Basic Interview Preparation.