It’s tempting to submit the first version of your resume to as many job postings as possible.
But a very common mistake that job seekers make is submitting a generic resume to hundreds of job openings. This is the #1 way to get rejected by:
An electronic scan by Applicant Tracking Systems
A skim by a recruiter or hiring manager
You don’t want to be that candidate. Especially if you’re shifting careers.
Spending more time matching your resume to the job will lead to spending less searching for jobs.
Let’s go through how to strategically customize your resume to the job description step-by-step to reduce the number of rejections from employers.
Step 1: Read the job description and highlight key parts
The most important step before creating a resume is to carefully read the job description.
Employers spend time crafting job descriptions that describe their needs. Their goal is to attract candidates that best fit the open role.
What’s the best way to actually be that best fit candidate? By making sure your resume includes the important things that the employer is looking for. The candidate that can best match the job description will stand out the most.
When you read a job posting, you should identify the following information.
The exact title and location of the position
The responsibilities of the role
Required and preferred qualifications
List of hard and soft skills ordered by how often they’re mentioned
Company offering, goals, and team size
You’ll only know how to make your resume stand out once you’ve identified these points.
Let’s take a look at a real example of a job posting for a Social Media Lead and highlight the most important keywords and phrases.
Job Title and Location
Even if you’re applying to jobs that have the same exact title, these characteristics can be very different across job openings. The subtle differences add up, which is why every candidate is unique.
This example job posting indicates that the employer is looking for a Social Media Lead in New York City.
Lead in the job title indicates that the employer is looking for someone with leadership and ownership experience.
The employer should know at first glance of your resume that you’re actually pursuing the job opening that they have. Ideally, the exact job title is mentioned in either your resume objective and your most recent work experience.
Location is important to keep in mind since some employers prefer to interview local candidates. More importantly, make sure you’re okay with the job location!
About the Company
Employers have different expectations of a particular role based on its size and its goals. The following company traits are important to identify if available:
The industry of the company
The company’s goals and values
The total number of employees
The size of the team you’d be working on
These traits can greatly influence the role you’re seeking. For example
A product marketing job at a company that serves millions of users is very different than a product marketing job at a company that serves enterprise clients.
A bartender at a restaurant may be different than being a bartender for a large venue.
Let’s see what information we can extract about the employer from the Social Media Lead job posting example.
What will you be expected to do on the job? While there’s some overlap of responsibilities between jobs that have the same title, responsibilities can vary across companies. It's also important to note the use of actionable verbs in the description.
Going back to our example, here’s what I found in the Social Media Lead job posting:
What is the employer looking for in a candidate?
Every job position has both required and preferred qualifications. The keywords from these sections in the job posting are critical to have on your resume.
Take a look at the qualifications that I've identified in our example Social Media Lead job opening.
What if you don’t have some of these preferred qualifications?
My advice is to apply anyways. Sometimes employers reach high in their job descriptions, and there might be some wiggle room. Many employers know that good candidates can always grow into the role. So you should reach high too!
There’s always a way to communicate your experience in a way that gives employers more confidence that you can do the job at hand.
Step 2: Adjust your resume with matching skills and experiences
Now that you've identified keywords and know what the employer is looking for, you can adjust the sections in your resume to best position yourself for the role.
Since employers spend less than 6 seconds scanning your resume, you need to communicate your ability to perform the job at the top of every resume section.
You want to match up your experiences and skills with the parts of the job description that you highlighted.
It’s important to include the following experiences and qualifications on your resume:
Experiences that match the responsibilities and qualifications from the job description.
Experiences that justifies your ability to perform the job.
Let’s go through a few resume sections and apply these strategies for the Social Media Lead job example.
Resume Summary or Objective
The resume header is the quickest way for employers to find out that you’re a good fit for the open role. Some key things that can be communicated in this section are:
You’re looking to perform the exact title of the open role.
The number of years of relevant experience
You intend to fulfill the responsibilities and goals of the open role
For example, a candidate for the Social Media Lead position we’ve talked about can have the following summary:
Social Media Expert with 3+ years of experience looking to apply leadership and analytical skills to grow business news consumption for an established email product across social channels.
Resume Work Experience
This is where the most of the highlighted parts of the job description should go. Especially in your most recent experience.
You need to demonstrate that you can do the job before listing out other achievements. Your bullet points ordered by the qualifications and experiences that the employer wants most.
Be specific about every bullet point on your resume
Responsible for customer support.
Improved turnaround time of support tickets by 35% to provide great customer support.
A mistake is often made at this step that you should avoid. It’s not just about mentioning the keywords in your resume. Your bullet points need to draw attention to the keywords through actions that led to quantifiable results.
Tip: Don't lie on your resume. In a long interview process, employers have plenty of opportunities to find out if you’re lying 🤥.
This is the best place to call out any soft and hard skills, especially experience with tools and software.
Skills that you have that are mentioned in the job description should be exactly written on your resume. For example:
If the employer wants skills in Microsoft Excel, don’t just say you have skills with Spreadsheets
Job postings that want experience with Facebook Ads shouldn’t just mention Social Ads Platforms.
The more specific, the better. Going back to our Social Media Lead job example, let’s see what works.
Specific skills to include in a Social Media Lead resume
Social Media Analytics Tools, Social Ads, Social Sharing
Hootsuite, Facebook Ads, Linkedin Marketing
Tailoring your resume experience, skills, and objective specific to the job can greatly improve your chances of winning an interview.
Step 3: Review and edit your Resume
This is a critical step to make sure your resume will beat the bots and draw attention when it’s being skimmed.
Self Review - Take a step back - does your resume accurately market yourself for the open role?
Peer Review - Even if your peer is not in the industry, do they think that your resume clearly shows that you can fulfill the open role?
In this process, make sure you reword bullet points and remove any irrelevant experiences or skills. Especially if your resume is looking crowded.
Step 4: Repeat the same process for another job opening
Having multiple resumes specific to every job that you’re applying to can be an advantage for winning the interview.
It’s okay to use your current resume as a starting point for customizing it to an open role. Just make a copy of it and repeat the resume customization process in Steps 1-4. It’s important to stay organized as you create multiple versions of your resume. Make sure it’s clear which resume is for a specific company and position.
With our online resume builder, you can easily stay organized by duplicating resumes and naming them appropriately. Your printable resumes are accessible online any time from any device.
Rohit is a software engineer, entrepreneur, and investor with a passion for helping others advance in their career. He interviews experts across different industries, researches job market trends, and provides career advice at every step of the job search process.