How to Tailor Your Resume and Get Noticed
Have you ever been on a website like reddit or a news site, scanned it for the headlines, but only read clicked on one or two of the articles? Of course, you have. You read them because they’re of interest, or relevant, to you.
It’s the same with your job application. It needs to be tailored to the job so that it gets attention from the Hiring Manager – not the one that gets passed over because it just doesn’t seem relevant.
We suggest that every job application should be tailored to the job you’re applying for but that can be time-consuming so we recommend that you keep templates for your resumes and cover letters – pertinent to specific jobs.
Having a template that you can tweak can speed up your job search by cutting down the time between seeing a job and applying. However, if you are only sending out the same basic format application each time then you won’t attract any attention. If you want the best job you have to be prepared to do a little work. You need to tailor your resume for each job.
Tailored vs One Size Fits Most
When you’re looking for a job, it can be tempting to send as many resumes out as possible. After all you want a job and you want it quick. The problem with this method is that you end up applying to a lot of jobs that aren’t really suitable and will miss out on jobs that you might have got if you had been more selective.
Tailoring your application helps you to focus on jobs that are a good fit for you. It also helps your chances by showing the employer exactly why you would be a good pick for them.
Think of it like trying to get a basket from the free throw line. If you shoot 20 shots with your eyes closed, you might get lucky and get a few in. If you shoot 10 with your eyes open though you will probably be much more successful. It’s the same with your resume.
It’s always better to go slow and tailor your resume than to rush and send out a bunch of applications that won’t go anywhere.
How to Tailor Your Resume and Get the Job You Want
All good resumes avoid using bland, unoriginal, zombie speak language. They talk about what makes you YOU and why you are a good worker.
However, just like you are different to the next job seeker – the company you’re applying for is different from the business down the road. Make sure that you are personalising your application for each business you apply to. When you tailor your resume you will dramatically improve your chances to get through to an interview. Follow these 9 steps to easily change your basic template into a bespoke application.
1. Read the Job Ad
This might seem obvious but if you want to tailor your resume properly you need to read the job ad. I mean really read it. Print it and go through it with a highlighter and see what aspects are the most important. You need to know exactly what type of worker the employer is looking for. From there you can start to narrow down which skills and experiences you should be focusing on.
If you are having trouble working out the important skills, look for repeated skills or qualifications or anything that seems unique or unusual. For instance, a job might advertise for somebody who is hard-working, dedicated and customer focused. While hard work and dedication are important skills (and you should still address them) they aren’t unique to that job. Customer focused is the take away here. Make sure your resume specifically underlines how your experience or skills allow you to help customers.
2. Use Their Language
When writing your resume keep an eye out for any phrases or words that the employer uses that you can put on your resume. If you’re applying as a Barista at a cafe that calls their coffee makers “Coffee-roos” then say you are applying for a Coffee-roo position. They want to know that you are on-board with their business and a team member. Avoiding their words and style won’t show the employer that.
Using the same language as them (and like the point above – using words unique to the ad and business) can also help your resume get through Applicant Tracking Systems. These resume reading robots look out for keywords rather than reading your whole resume. If your application has the right words in it you will get the tick of approval to go through to a human.
Make sure you check the requirements section of the job ad and keep your eyes peeled for hard skills. These are the words you want to include (if they apply of course) to beat the ATS.
3. Don’t Stop at the Job Ad
If you want to really tailor your resume you can’t simply read the job ad and call it a day. You need to look at a company’s website, social media pages, and even any recent media reports. (As an added bonus, you might find another job opportunity on the hidden job market section of a company’s website!) You want to know exactly what type of business you’re applying for. If they are a young, agile, funky and growing company your application should be written in a way that shows that you are too (although still being professional). Pitch yourself as someone who likes to be challenged and wants to grow with a business.
If they are a thought leader and work with the community, show how you are committed to using your experience to help others and want to work with the best.
When you tailor your resume you want to show an employer that you are the best fit employee for them. To get a resume that fits the job description like a glove, you need to use all the elements of the business that you can find.
4. Be Direct
Hiring Managers are busy people and don’t have a lot of time to dissect your resume to find out who you are. That’s why it’s essential that you put your most important (and relevant) information right at the start. Don’t make them look for it. Serve it to them on a platter.
This applies to each section of your resume or profile. When you list your key skills make sure that each one applies for this job. Your duties, roles, and achievements in your experience section should all relate to the job at hand. If they don’t relate in any way, leave them out.
5. It’s Okay Not to Include Everything
Your resume isn’t your life story. It’s a piece of marketing that shows a Hiring Manager that you’re the best person for that job.
If you don’t have any professional experience or much relevant experience then it’s fine to include information that would otherwise be left off other resumes. For instance, once you have gained a post-school qualification you shouldn’t include your high school results unless they are either a) extremely good or b) extremely relevant. If you’re still at school or only recently graduated, leave it on there! It gives you another opportunity to show your abilities, talents, and interests. Just make sure it’s relevant.
You also don’t have to list all of your hobbies from way back. The fact that you won a talent contest in your primary school probably won’t count for much. It’s okay to list a couple – in fact, sometimes there can be some common ground with the interviewer that make nice conversation starters for them. If, however, they relate to the job, then, by all means, put them in! For example, if you’re into adrenalin sports and you’re applying as an Adventure Tour Guide, then it should definitely go in your resume or profile.
At the end of the day, the majority of your work history, skills, and experiences aren’t going to relate to the job you want. That’s okay! You need to be able to look at your work history and be able to say “yes, that can help me do this job” or “even though that skill is useful, it doesn’t apply here”.
6. Soft Skills are Key
If you feel doubtful about leaving out a lot of your history because it isn’t relevant, then this part is for you.
Soft skills (intra- and interpersonal skills) are some of the most important skills we can develop and employers are really focussed on them at the moment. Every single job uses them in some way and, unlike hard skills, soft skills can follow you across jobs and industries throughout your career. In fact, they’re often called transferable skills because they’re just that. Because they are so important, it’s essential when you tailor your resume that you emphasise your soft skills.
Soft skills also allow you to address parts of your resume that don’t necessarily fit the job. If you have extensive experience stocking shelves, for example, but now want to work as a Salesperson then you might have some trouble explaining how moving boxes relates to selling products to customers. However, if you can show the employer that you have well-developed team-player and communication soft skills that you developed while stacking shelves, you appear as a much better-prepared candidate.
7. Don’t Forget to Tailor Your Cover Letter
Just like your resume, your cover letter is a way for you to impress the Hiring Manager. If you use a generic cover letter you are showing that you don’t care enough about the job to show them why you are a good fit. The perception will be, if this candidate can’t put effort into their application, how much effort will they put into the job?
Don’t worry though, the same basic rules apply and it shouldn’t take long to transform your basic template into a tailored version. You want to use the keywords and key phrases found in the job ad and on the business’ social pages, about us page or careers page. You also want to make sure that the experience and skills you mention in the cover letter match the job description.
Unlike the resume, you don’t want to include tangential experience or skills. Only use your strongest skills and experience that match the job ad most closely. Your cover letter is an introduction to who you are and why you would be a good fit for the job and the employer. When you tailor your cover letter for the job ad you are showing the employer exactly why they should hire you. And it demonstrates that you have attention to detail – another soft skill in demand.
8. Don’t Lie
If you are trying to match your experience and skills to the most important aspects of the job ad, you might realise that you can’t fit every descriptor. Maybe you only have 1 year of experience when they want 3. You might not have worked in a management position before. It can be tempting to lie a little on your resume to make you look just a little more appealing. After all, you are trying to get a perfect fit with your tailored resume.
Fight that feeling!
Lying on your resume is a quick way to find yourself on some Hiring Manager’s DO NOT HIRE EVER pile. Either the Hiring Manager will work out your lie on their own or they will check your references and see that things aren’t adding up.
It’s better to just be honest. Definitely, showcase your skills and talents and talk up your abilities but don’t makeup or grossly exaggerate your resume. It will only come back to haunt you.
9. Don’t Worry if You Don’t Fill All the Criteria
While most employers would love for the person they hire to have all of their desired skills, they are usually okay when someone doesn’t completely match up. They sometimes have criteria they definitely require and won’t budge on. Then they have a list other skills, experience, and qualifications that are desirable but flexible.
Unfortunately for you, most employers and job ads won’t specify what skills and qualifications they absolutely require. That’s okay – just try your best to provide examples or proof of you filling the job ad criteria. On JobGetter, you will see a list of the specified skills, so we give you a head start on the skills you should list in your application if you have them.
If you don’t have enough experience in a job or a specific qualification, put down everything else that you do have that applies. An employer who looks at a generic resume and sees that the job seeker doesn’t have enough experience will probably ignore that person.
However, if you give them a well-tailored resume that shows why that missing experience isn’t such a big deal you might be given the go-ahead for an interview. That’s why its so important not to lie and why tailoring your application can improve your success rate.
Tailor Your Resume to Show the Best You
When you write your resume, it can be tempting to show an employer everything you’ve done up until that point. It’s completely natural – you want to impress them and are proud of what you have worked hard to achieve.
Remember, when you apply for a job, you aren’t just trying to show that you are a good employee. You are trying to convince a Hiring Manager that you would be a good employee in their particular role. Your skills and experience should all reflect how they would help you achieve excellence in that position.
You know you can be great – you just have to help them see it too. Good luck!