For Every Application: 5 Ways Your Resume Must be Customized

Customized ResumeThere are few pieces of resume advice everyone believes in; everyone has a different opinion on just about every subject.

However, there is one point every career advisor, mentor and resume writer agree on: for every application submitted, you must customize your resume.

But how? What do recruiters and hiring managers look for? And what about the online application processes and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Here are the five most effective ways to customize your resume f0r each application, and get the attention of any hiring manager:

1. Identify the Right Keywords

For most bigger companies, your resume needs to pass through an online application system before it will ever be seen by the recruiter or hiring manager. Using keywords applicable to a specific job and industry, those online applications scan your resume determine if you are a worthy candidate for the position.

In order to make the first cut, your resume needs to have the right keywords for the position. You will likely already have industry-specific keywords on your resume, but you also need to incorporate position-specific keywords throughout your summary and employment sections. To find the additional keywords push the job description through which will highlight the important competencies for each position, then tweak your resume to reflect the optimized words.

A word of caution: be smart about the words you choose and the way you incorporate them. Just like other search engines, online application systems are able to detect keyword “dumps,” where your document is so keyword-rich, that it doesn’t tell a cohesive story – and your resume will be rejected.

2. Demonstrate Proof of Your Expertise in Their Terms

Too often resumes default to summarizing your past job descriptions, instead of showing how you accomplished various milestones, demonstrating performance and showing where you specialize. In today’s job market, you simply must show recruiters your specific area of expertise.

Start by crafting your content around the keywords from the job description, the company website and their marketing materials. For each company, this will be significantly different, so pay particular attention to what makes them unique, and how you fit in.

Then, show the recruiter what you can do; not by simply telling them you are an expert in that area, but by proving it! In other words, don’t just say you are a “strong leader,” show you are a strong leader by providing a quantified example of your leadership.

3. Tailor Your Heading Title

Your resume has only 6.25 seconds to make an impression on the recruiter or hiring manager. The very first thing they are going to look at: your title heading – the bold statement at the top that indicates what you are an expert in and why the recruiter should continue to review your resume.

Your heading title is a great place for you to strongly correlate your experience with the position you are applying for. Make it as easy for the recruiter as possible by showing them that you are already qualified for their position.

For example, if you typically use a heading title of Digital Marketing Executive but are applying for a Digital Marketing Manager position, update your heading to: Digital Marketing Manager. There is no guessing left for the recruiter and you will have piqued the recruiter’s interest from the very beginning.

4. Include Company Specific Phrases and Acronyms

The companies you’ve interned or worked for previously may have had their own acronyms and abbreviations for various tools, geographies and projects. They become such a part of who we are in our everyday working lives that our resume tends to include “insider” speak. Unfortunately, none of that makes any sense to the recruiter you are trying to impress.

Scrub your resume clean of these items and replace them with industry-wide keywords and those phrases and acronyms specific to this company, as noted in the job description or on their career page. What software packages do they use? Which social media platforms are they on most? What are the keywords used to describe their culture?

5. Know if the Company is Using ATS

Is the company using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the software behind most major hiring centers? Or are they reading each resume one-by-one? In order to tailor your resume to this company, you must know. (Hint: Most larger firms and recruiting agencies are using ATS; the volume of resumes they receive leaves them no choice.)

If they are using ATS, know that, while it has come a long way, it still doesn’t work well with graphical components. Items such as tables, images, shadow boxes, as well as special characters and shapes, do not render well when you apply through digital means. In order to get around this, have a graphic-free version of your resume ready.

If the company is not using ATS, be prepared to provide a PDF version of your resume. Here, you can be a little more dynamic. And sometimes you must be, because those design elements might be the difference between getting an interview, and not.

Once you incorporate these five steps, your resume will be customized for the position you are applying for. You will stand out to the recruiter – and you’ll be one step closer to getting the interview!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Chameleon Resumes!


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Lisa Rangel AuthorAbout the Author: Lisa Rangel is founder and managing director ofChameleon Resumes, a Forbes Top 100 Career Website, has helped hundreds of people land the exact job they wanted – even when they weren’t sure they would get an interview. Lisa is a 7-time certified resume writer and job search consultant, a former recruiter and one of the few executive resume writers performing resume and job search-related contract work for LinkedIn. She has been featured on, LinkedIn, Investors Business Daily, and so many more publications. Follow Lisa on Twitter



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