How to Quickly Customize Your Resume for Each Application

custom resumeNow that most resumes and applications are stored in an employer’s resume database or applicant tracking system (“ATS”), customization of each resume and application is becoming increasingly important; perhaps mandatory.

In addition, several recent studies have indicated that the human reviewer – if/when they do actually see your resume – will spend fewer than 10 seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether or not you are qualified for the opportunity.

Carefully done, customizing your resume will do two things for you:

  1. Your resume will pass the ATS/keyword test
  2. Your resume will impress the human reviewer

Don’t be discouraged or intimidated! Customizing your resume does NOT mean a complete re-write of your resume for each opportunity. But, it does mean taking a little more time than simply clicking the “Attach” and “Apply” buttons.

Here’s how to carefully, and quickly, customize your resume for each application you submit:

1. Analyze the Job Description

Carefully read the job description. Observe:

  • The job title used in the description
  • The duties and responsibilities
  • The specific requirements of the job
  • The job’s location

For example, let’s assume that you are an experienced administrative assistant looking for a similar job, hopefully a step up in salary and responsibilities.

2. Customize Your Resume’s “Target Job Title”

Resume expert and author Martin Yate recommends using a “Target Job Title” at the top of your resume, below your standard name and contact information. Whatever job title is used in the job description, match that title exactly on your resume.

This customization also makes it clear that you have taken the time and effort to customize your resume for this specific opportunity.

3. Customize Your Skills to Match the Terms Used

Doing a quick scan of the requirements in an administrative assistant job posting, I found the following language used:

Job Description: Advanced knowledge of Microsoft applications (Word, Excel, PPT)

Ideally, assuming you had all of the skills described, you would be smart to change the reference in your resume to include the terms used in the job description.

Let’s assume that your resume currently describes your Microsoft Office skills like this:

Current Resume: Solid background in Microsoft Office.

Notice important keywords are missing (applications, Word, Excel, PPT) from your current resume. This could result in your resume not escaping the ATS, never to be seen by a human being. So, recognizing this problem, adjust your resume to match the description:

Submitted Resume: Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office applications – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (PPT)

This matches the language in your resume with the language used in the description, and should help your resume pass the keyword-matching requirements. It also adds the terms “Office” and “PowerPoint” in case those terms are also needed.

Including additional terms is fine – better to have too many keywords than not enough, as long as the keywords used are appropriate for you.

4. Highlight Your Matching Skills in a “Summary of Skills” Section

Martin Yate recommends capturing the human reviewer’s attention by clearly lining up your experience with the requirements in the job description in a section at the top of your resume, below your contact information and the Target Job Title or Objective, labelled “Summary of Skills” (or “Performance Summary”).

In that section, in only 3 to 5 bullets for most jobs, pick your experiences or achievements that seem to best match the most important requirements in the job description. Or, the achievements you have that are most impressive.

5. Confirm Your Location

Don’t publish your home or work addresses on your resume, but do include a city, county, or other regional term, like “East Bay” or “Metro West” that fit with the job’s location. Use your current location or, if you are trying to relocate, your future location.

Employers are usually sensitive to the location of the job candidate in relation to the location of the job. They prefer to hire someone who is located near the job’s location, for many good reasons: a local candidate is more likely to stay in the job, be on time, and will not need an expensive relocation. So, by including a location that fits with the employer’s requirements, you are confirming that you are a good match.

Customization done!

The rest of your resume probably needs little, if any, customization – a standard work history chronology should be fine otherwise. So, the customization you have done has probably not taken you very much time, but it should have a good payoff.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!




susan joyceAbout the AuthorOnline job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.



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