Tailoring Your Resume to the Job Posting: Highlighting the Relevant Points
Getting your resume noticed by a particular employer can seem to be a daunting task when yours may be one of hundreds of resumes they receive. Not to fear! There are many ways you can improve the chances of your resume making it to the top of the pile (for starters, being neat and organized, using easy-to-read formatting, proofreading and having a strong opening statement or career summary). But, the most important thing you can do is to make sure your resume highlights the specific points in the job posting for the position you are seeking (and also the company).
You may feel that although you have some relevant experience, but don't have the exact qualifications the employer is looking for, that you should highlight what you feel are your strongest areas instead of the ones that specifically meet the job requirements.
Example: A job seeker wants to apply for a job in tax preparation. He has an accounting background but has also taken advanced courses in tax preparation and done volunteer tax prep for the government. He lacks confidence in the level of importance the courses and volunteer experience would have and worries that drawing attention to that may be seen as overstating his qualifications and at the same time, overshadow his accounting experience. He feels that the best option (because he really wants to get his foot in the door) is to just stress in his Career Summary that he is a fast learner and has many basic office skills.
Unfortunately, his resume won’t get noticed because it doesn’t highlight what is applicable to the position (even though there are only a couple things). To apply to that position, he needs to have confidence in the relevant experience he does have and bring it to the top of his resume (ideally, his "Career Summary"). In today’s competitive job market, using old buzz words such as "fast learner" to try and get your foot in the door isn't going to get you far.
Even though your resume is supposed to be about you, your experience and education, it needs to focus on what’s in it for the employer you want to work for. Its true purpose is to present you as the ideal candidate for the position, which means showing you have the skills to meet the goals of the position and proving your excellence by explaining the benefits you’ve provided to other organizations in your career. There are several ways you can do that.
Read the Job Posting Thoroughly
Look at the description of the position and its requirements and find the words and phrases that also describe you and your skills and experience. You want to align your resume (and your cover letter) as much as possible with the picture the employer has painted of the ideal job candidate. Using those specific words and phrases in your resume’s Career Summary and/or in a section entitled, "Skills", "Core Competencies" or "Areas of Expertise" will help capture the employer’s attention, but also ensure that your resume is picked up by their applicant tracking system.
Do Your Research
It’s a well-known rule of thumb that you should research a company before going to a job interview, but your research should be conducted before you even send them your resume. By going to their website, checking out their social media pages and reading articles about them, you can get a greater sense of the company (and whether they are actually a fit for you). By writing/editing your resume with a complete understanding of the company and what their vision and values are, you will show the employer that you are a fit for them.
Focus on Your Career Summary
At the very top of your resume, you should have a three to five sentence description or overview of what you offer the employer. This "Career Summary" (or you can call it "Professional Summary" or "Professional Overview") should be customized for every position you apply to and describe your experience and skills, preferably using words and phrases used in the job posting. This is where you really want to focus on what you bring to the table with respect to the position’s requirements. Your Career Summary should also provide the employer with highlights of what will be provided in greater detail in the rest of your resume (in the "Skills" and "Experience" sections).
Quantify Your Performance Information
If your job experience has included accomplishments that are relevant to the position, such as increasing sales leads, improving productivity, saving time by creating a new process, solving problems, or exceeding sales quotas, you want to prominently include that information in your resume’s Career Summary or Skills sections. There is a tendency for job seekers to focus on skills and what they can do rather than what they have DONE. Employers want to hear about your accomplishments and especially those involving numbers and percentages, such as "exceeded sales quota by 20%" or "attracted 10 new customers in one month." In the absence of actual numbers, try providing a quick explanation of what you specifically did to, for example, solve a problem or create efficiency in a particular area. If an employer sees that you have delivered benefits to your past employers, they'll believe that you will do the same for them.
Demonstrate Rather Than Describe Your Skills
You want to avoid using buzz words and clichéd terms such as "team player," "people person" and "fast learner" to describe your skills. These terms are overused and employers tend to overlook them for that reason. To get their attention, try to demonstrate that you have these skills by providing actual examples or cases. You can also demonstrate certain skills such as being organized or being a good communicator by how your resume is organized and conveys your skills and experience. Again, you want to focus on the skills that are most relevant to the position. Steer away from emphasizing skills that are too basic and more relevant to positions that are more entry-level than the one you’re pursuing.
Be Confident Without Being Arrogant
There’s a fine line between being confident and being boastful. Showcase your skills and talents but avoid engaging in self-promotion. More importantly, be careful about over-exaggerating. Show pride in your accomplishments but do it with humility.
To conduct an effective job search, you really need to tailor your resume (and your cover letter) to each position you pursue, providing the employer with a picture of you succeeding in that position. Once an employer sees that you have what it takes to be the ideal candidate, you will have jumped the hurdle of getting an interview and be that much closer to getting the job you want.
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