Get Noticed: Here’s How to Build a Resume Customization Cheat Sheet

resume customizationCustomizing your resume for each opportunity is not optional these days. Resume customization will help your resume escape the dreaded “black hole” where resumes disappear. Resume customization also demonstrates your interest in the opportunity, which will impress the employer.

The Customization Cheat Sheet helps you focus on your qualifications and accomplishments relevant to the opportunity.

This enables you to highlight them on your resume. Accomplishments (particularly quantified ones, like the example below) make your resume stand out in the crowd of “responsible for…” responses. Plus, if your resume doesn’t contain the “right” words, the keywords the recruiter or HR person uses to search the resume database or applicant tracking system, your resume won’t be found, and you won’t be considered for the job.

While you customize your resume, pay close attention to the exact words used in the job description, and do your best to match that language. Customizing your resume, using the techniques described below, will showcase your qualifications for the job and help you ensure that you have included the appropriate keywords.  Both results will increase the probability that your resume avoids the resume black hole.

Customization takes some time and effort, but, done right, it pays off.

Here us how to build your resume customization cheat sheet…

Job Title Deserves Top Billing

Put the job title used in the job description at the top of the page.

This is the name that the new employer uses for this position. Use this job title in your cover letter and the resume or application you submit for this opportunity, or risk having your resume disappear.  If a current or former employer used a different job title, ignore it – if the requirements, responsibilities, and duties seem to be describing the same job.

Employer Name Next

Write the employer’s name (e.g. IBM) on the next line.

Added to the employer’s job title, use this for your “summary” on this resume:

  • Uniquely qualified to serve as [job title] with [employer name] 

Or simply add that line to the top center of your resume below your name and contact information.

Use the Employer Reference Number and Location

Find the employer’s identifier for the job, if any, and the location next.

Often there is a requisition number, a posting ID, or some other identifier. Use this identifier in the email subject or your cover letter along with the location and job title:

Subject: [job title] in [location] – [identifier]

List the Job Requirements

List the job description requirements. What exactly are they looking for?

Also, pick out each qualification required and also the “nice to have” specification listed in the job description, and list them on your cheat sheet.

For example, if your target job is assistant branch manager at Bank X and the job description lists the following requirements:

  • Two years of business banking experience
  • At least one year of experience managing people
  • A can-do attitude
  • A customer service orientation.

Write the first of the requirements on the left column of the Cheat Sheet, or in Column A if you are using a spreadsheet.

Provide Social Proof that You Meet the Requirements

Add your specific experience that meets or exceeds that requirement in the center of the line.

Do you meet those requirements? Then list how you meet that requirement in column B on the spreadsheet or the middle column of the paper:

2010 to 2013,  Small Business Banker, Bank XYZ

Tell Your Story

Describe an accomplishment that demonstrates how you meet the requirement on the right side.

This will probably be the hardest part of the exercise. It is also the part that will be most useful for you in your cover letter and the job interview.

Finishing the example, these are the quantified accomplishments:

Closed $100M in commercial mortgages and construction and land development loans. Exceeded quality loan requirement by 18% with fewer than $1M in losses annually while meeting all sales goals. Also processed working capital lines of credit and equipment financing loans exceeding $25.2M in 2016. 

Rinse and Repeat

Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 for each requirement listed in the job description.

Now you have the information that describes how you meet the requirements of this job. These are also the keywords you need to include in your resume. That way, your resume will be found when employers are looking for someone with your skill set.

And if you can’t complete at least the first two columns (the requirement and your qualification)? Honestly, you shouldn’t waste your time applying for the job. Because you clearly aren’t qualified. Not this time.

Use Your Resume Customization Cheat Sheet

Transfer your resume customization cheat sheet work to your resume. For example, use your responses to the first two or three requirements in the skills summary:


  • Processed $100,000,000 in commercial loans (mortgages and land and construction loans) closed in 2012.
  • Exceeded loan quality requirements by 18% with fewer than $1,000,000 in annual losses in 2012 while meeting all sales goals. 
  • Managed staff of 4 loan processors and customer service representatives.

Also include these qualifications and accomplishments in your chronological work history, as appropriate.

Re-Use Your Cheat Sheet for Other Opportunities

Save the work you put into creating this resume customization cheat sheet. Without a doubt, this effort will also help you prepare for your job interview. And it will come in handy for other applications as well.

Yes, this is a lot of work. Yes, it takes time. But then again, isn’t getting that next job worth the effort?


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




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorAbout the Author: Online 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 veteran of the United States Marine Corps . She is also a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Susan has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.



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