You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to tailor your resume for each job. But what exactly does that mean, and why is it important? Here’s what you need to know.
How Can You Tailor Your Resume To Each Job?
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
More and more employers are now using ATS software to screen candidates’ resumes before a human ever lays eyes on them. The software isn’t intelligent, and it can’t decide what you meant to say. Its entire function is to scan for keywords that match the job description. If you don’t hit the right words, your resume may never reach a human being.
Let’s say that you make it through the ATS software and your resume lands on a hiring manager’s desk. Did you know that you have less than 10 seconds to make a great first impression? That’s right. The average length of time that HR professionals spend with each resume, at least on the first round, is between six and nine seconds. Your resume has to instantly demonstrate why you’re right for the job.
What to Do
Now you know why it’s so important to tailor your resume. But you may have no idea how to go about it. Here are some tips:
- Find the keywords. The job description will contain specific words and phrases. Be sure to mirror them on your resume.
- Note the important elements. Is anything in the job description mentioned more than once? Is anything written in a different font or otherwise offset from the rest of the text? Those are likely the things that the employer considers most important.
- Be intentional. Everything on your resume should have a purpose. Yes, it’s important to list your work history. But when talking about what you did at each job or the skills you used, focus on the things that matter to that specific employer.
- Keep it brief. Your resume should be just one or two pages long, and go back no more than 10 years. The only exception is if you are applying for very senior roles that require more than a decade of experience. Otherwise, no one really cares where you worked that long ago.
What Not to Do
You’ll want to put forth the version of yourself that most closely matches the job description. But you should never, ever lie. Don’t list skills you don’t actually have or jobs you never held in an effort to pad your resume.
Also, avoid “keyword stuffing.” This is the process of shoving as many relevant keywords into a written document as possible in hopes of making it more attractive to software readers. Remember, if you get through the ATS screener, a human will then read your resume. Keyword stuffing is a sure way to have your resume tossed out. Instead, use keywords sparingly and in a way that still reads naturally.