How to tailor a resume to a job description in 4 easy steps
Updated: May 3, 2021
Resumes are odd things. Though you might expect them to be about you, your resume is really more about what the employer wants to know about you. The best way to accomplish this and get the interview is to tailor your resume toward the job description for which you're applying. If you're not sure where to start, here are 4 easy steps to walk you through the process of tailoring your resume toward a position.
1) Review the job description for requirements, qualifications, and desired skills
The first step to tailoring your resume to a job description is to carefully read through the description and note any of listed experience, duties, or responsibilities that you've had in previous positions. The easiest way to do this is to print out the job description (or paste it into a word document) and highlight all the duties, responsibilities, and/or experiences in the job description that you've had.
These highlighted words are the keywords or key phrases that you're going to use to tailor your resume.
2) Make a list of the keywords and your associated experiences with each keyword/key phrase
I promise this is not as difficult as it sounds. First, make a list of those keywords that you identified in the last step. Then, for each keyword, identify at which position you had that experience or performed that duty or responsibility. (You might have performed that task or had the responsibility at more than one position and that's okay!)
Now, for each keyword or key phrase, write down what it is that you actually did in relation to what the employer is looking for. For example, if the keyword is "Scheduling" and you were once responsible for maintaining a schedule in an office setting, then you might write, "Scheduled appointments across multiple staff calendars."
Here are some other examples for other industries:
Keyword/Key Phrase: Manage IT projects
Your Experience Sentence: Managed multiple IT projects from development through implementation.
Keyword/Key Phrase: Improved Customer Service
Your Experience Sentence: Developed a new customer intake system which improved customer service.
Keyword/Key Phrase: Create social media content
Your Experience Sentence: Created engaging social media content.
Don't worry about being fancy here, we're going to gussy up the sentences in the next step before you drop it into your resume. For now, just get the information written down.
3) Add more description or quantifiers to each sentence
In order to get the information in your resume to stand out from other candidates, you need to give the hiring manager more information about your experience. To do this, for each experience sentence, ask yourself: So what? What came from you doing that thing or performing that task?
As an example, if your experience sentence was: "Created engaging social media content." Then asking yourself, "So what did creating that content accomplish?" might give you this new sentence: "Created engaging social media content with high click-through rates."
To add a quantifier to the sentences, you can ask "how many," "how often," or "by how much?" So for that last sentence (Created engaging social media content with high click-through rates), you might add:
"Created engaging social media content with high click-through rates which increased product sales by 5%."
"Created engaging social media content which increased click-through rates by 20%."
Here are some other examples from the experience sentences above:
Original: Scheduled appointments across multiple staff calendars."
Quantified: Scheduled appointments for the CEO, company Vice President, and 12 other staff members in accordance with each staff member's scheduling preferences.
Original: Managed multiple IT projects from development through implementation.
Quantified: Managed multiple IT projects from development through implementation including an organization-wide migration to a new platform for over 2,500 users across 4 sites.
Original: Developed a new customer intake system which improved customer service.
Quantified: Developed a new customer intake system which streamlined the process and improved customer service satisfaction rates by 14%
4) Plug these new sentences into your resume (and remove any sentences irrelevant to the job)
The last step is to take these new, more tailored sentences and plug them into your resume. Don't forget to do this with your Summary of Qualifications as this is the section employers tend to read first.
In order to make room for these new sentences (and still keep your resume down to 1-2 pages), remove any sentences with information that is irrelevant to the role. Remember, the employer has told you in their job description what they're looking for. Try to put yourself in their shoes to determine what old information from your resume will be relevant to the position to which you're applying.
These new sentences you've created are not just helpful for getting you the interview, but can also be brought during the interview since you know it's information that's important to the hiring manager.
Good luck out there!
Need more assistance in creating or updating your resume? Buy my book Cut the Bullsh*t, Land the Job: A Guide to Resume Writing, Networking, Interviewing, LinkedIn, Salary Negotiation, and More! The guide comes with over 30 resume templates and is available in both eBook and print formats.
Want to take the stress out of this part of the job application process? I can help! Check out my basic resume update package!