Tailoring Your Resume for Your Job Search

Creating a great resume takes a lot of tweaking to get it just right. Here’s how to craft the perfect tailored resume for your next job application.

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By Ho Lin 3 minute read

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Tailor Your Resume

The role of your resume is to show recruiters that you are the right candidate for the job title that they are hiring for. A good resume showcases who you are as a potential employee, but a great resume showcases how you can meet the needs of the job description.

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Why Do I Need to Tailor My Resume?

It can be useful to have a generic resume to hand, but you should not provide it in specific job applications. If you submit your generic resume as a part of a job application, then there are three main risks:

1. Failing to pass ATS

If you submit a generic resume as part of a job application, then you will run the risk of ranking poorly in applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems separate out poorly qualified candidates from the rest of the applicant pool. Unfortunately, if you don’t hit the right keywords in your resume, even qualified candidates can fail to rank well in ATS. If you do, then your resume is unlikely to even make it to a hiring manager’s desk. 

2. Wasting resume space

The average resume should be no more than one page in length. As such, it is important that you use this space well. If your generic resume doesn’t provide relevant experience and skills that match a specific job application, then it will lower your chances of success.

3. Failing to interest the hiring manager

A generic resume may be a good base for job seekers who want to save time when tailoring their applications, but it is not likely to stand out on a recruiter’s desk. Even if your generic resume makes it through ATS, it is unlikely to wow a hiring manager when they have stacks of resumes to consider that contain more focused information on much-needed skills and qualifications.

Resume Structure

No matter what content you aim to include or which industry you work in, a basic resume should include the following sections:

Header

A great header should include the job seeker’s full name, contact information, and professional social media (e.g., a LinkedIn profile). This is a small but important section that provides hiring managers with all the information they need to schedule a job interview. 

Resume summary or objective

Directly beneath your resume header, there should be either a resume summary or an objective statement. A resume summary is a sum-up of your best skills and qualifications. By contrast, a resume objective statement is a statement of your career goals and intentions. 

Skills

A resume skills section should contain all of the technical skills, hard skills, and soft skills that are relevant to the job application. A resume skills section should include eight to 30 bullet points detailing important skills. This section also offers a chance to ensure that you pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) by including the right keywords. 

Work experience

Your work experience section should include up to ten years of experience, presented in reverse-chronological order. You should include your job title, the company name, and your employment dates, as well as some of your key achievements. 

Education

The education section of any resume should include all of the academic achievements and awards that are most relevant to the job requirements. This may be more important in specialized roles or jobs where there are educational requirements for employment (e.g., law, medicine, or veterinary practice). 

You can also create additional sections for professional certifications, internships, and volunteer work. In short, you can and should include anything that shows that you are the ideal candidate for the role.

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How to Tailor Your Resume

As we’ve stated, it is great career advice to tailor your general resume to suit the needs of each job application, but how do you do this? Just consider the details of the open position and its requirements. Here are three tips to help you tailor your resume: 

1. Mirror the language of the job posting.

Consider the language used in the job posting; is it strictly professional or a little more relaxed? Mirror the tone and style (subtly), and you could convince hiring managers that you will fit in with the company culture. 

2. Include achievements that showcase relevant skills.

You should generally focus on your most impressive achievements (especially in the summary section at the top of your resume), but make sure they are relevant. If you have less impressive but more relevant achievements that prove you can do the work, then they may be a better choice for your resume.

3. Ensure you use the right resume keywords.

The job posting should tell you exactly what a potential employer requires from their ideal candidate (e.g., stating a preference for candidates with specific skills or knowledge). Make sure that you include these key phrases and skills in your resume to rank well in the applicant tracking system.

FAQs: Tailor Your Resume

Have questions? We’re here to help.

No matter what resume format you choose, one page is the standard length for a resume. There may be some cases where two pages are acceptable, especially for more senior positions that require extensive work history. Also, avoid including the “references available upon request” line to avoid using up page space needlessly.

Yes, you do need a cover letter for most job applications. A cover letter gives you the chance to directly address the hiring manager and provide extra information, and is an additional opportunity to support your application. The only exception to the rule is when a job posting specifically states that a cover letter should not be provided.

Yes. If you want help with updating and tailoring your resume, then you can use the ResumeHelp resume builder. This free online tool offers access to a range of professional resume templates that will ensure your resume looks good while meeting all formatting guidelines.

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WRITTEN BY Ho Lin

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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