Imagine that you sell toys. If your goal is to get the attention of children, you will probably focus on the toy’s bright colors, the sounds it makes, and how fun it is to play with. If your goal is to target the children’s parents, you will want to highlight how much their children will enjoy it, how educational it is, and its safety features. It’s the same product and the same end goal of making a sale, but the presentation is optimized for the appropriate audience. When you’re vying for a new role, you should take the same mindset and optimize your resume for the target role.
One way to think about it is that your resume is essentially a brochure for you. Would a company give the exact same product brochure to each of their target audiences? Nope. Successful companies customize brochures to include appropriate keywords and appealing visuals to both demonstrate their expertise and connect better with the target demographic.
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 end goal of the resume is to get you the interview, not the job. It is really to get your foot in the door. Remember that all of the pertinent content—keywords, responsibilities, achievements, etc.—should align with the description, requirements, and industry of the specific role you are pursuing. Below we go into more detail on some basic strategies to optimize your resume and increase your chances of landing that interview.
1. Match keywords to the role
Use the same keywords and verbiage found in the job description so the content and voice of your resume aligns with that of the description. Rearrange your list of job duties and responsibilities and place the experience that is most applicable to the target role at the top. This will ensure that the recruiter or hiring manager immediately sees that you are a potential fit. HR tracking systems and recruiters use tools to search for specific keywords when looking for candidates, so make sure you can insert those keywords in highly-visible sections of your resume. Doing this ensures that your resume will make it through automated search filters and land in the recruiter’s pool of results. If you don’t customize your resume to include those same keywords and phrases, you can miss out on the opportunity to get noticed at all, and thus lose the opportunity to get an interview.
2. Match prior responsibilities to the role
Carefully read through the job description and take stock of which of your prior roles included similar duties. You want to emphasize those parts of your experience, and downplay responsibilities that are less relevant. When you describe job duties for a position you have held, describe what you did and why you did it. Don’t simply say, “Created functional specifications for clients.” Put it in context, and instead say, “Created functional specifications for clients to scope out work and set budgets needed to complete the recommended work.” Demonstrate your knowledge, proficiencies, initiative, and how your accomplishments connected to supporting the organization you worked for. This will illustrate the value you bring to the table for the target role.
3. Share major accomplishments that match the role
Show your numbers and be as specific as possible. Presenting your accomplishments in a quantifiable way is both impressive and gives concrete examples of your achievements. When you write about saving your team money by creating efficiencies, write about the dollar amount of money you actually saved the organization and what those efficiencies were. When you write about how you implemented practices that improved the time to market for a product, describe the practices, and talk about the specific time frame. Employers want concrete numbers and facts because they are straight to the point, easy to understand, and immediately give a clear picture of what you might be able to do for them.
4. Align your resume and LinkedIn profile
This might seem super simple, but it is very important. Make sure that all dates, titles, responsibilities, names of supervisors, and all other information match between the two. If the information doesn’t sync up, it might raise concerns that you’re not being truthful about your employment history. Your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have to provide as many details as your resume, however, the information listed needs to be the same.
5. Reread, reread, and then reread again
Don’t rely solely on autocorrect or spelling and grammar tools to catch your mistakes. Be sure to use correct and consistent verb tense, correct punctuation, and consistent formatting throughout your resume. For example, 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. When you write about your roles, any current position descriptions should use present tense verbs. For positions you held in the past, you should use the past tense. It wouldn’t hurt to have a close friend or family member take a look and read it over as well. They might be able to pick up on something you have missed. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that attention to detail. Nothing screams “I don’t care” more than a missed punctuation mark
See, you noticed that, right?
And a bonus tip: Read your resume out loud, slowly, in a quiet place. You’ll be amazed at how this helps you catch typos and missed words and improve the flow of your sentences.
If you follow these five rules, you’re putting yourself in a much better position to get your resume to stand out and get through the filters. In turn, you have a better chance to be called for an interview! However, you shouldn’t completely relax and think you are done at this point. If you are serious about your search for a new role, there are still cover letters to write and polish, LinkedIn profiles and networks to build and optimize, and social media footprints to create.
Keep an eye out for upcoming Knowledge Center posts on these topics and more. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on valuable new information! And if you’re ready to keep learning, check out this post on Basic Interview Preparation.
If you’ve already snagged an interview, congratulations! Make sure you are ready to go by checking out our post on Basic Interview Preparation!