Have you ever applied for a number of jobs and received nothing but rejection? It’s enough to make you wonder where you’re going wrong. Well, the answer can be quite simple: you might not be tailoring your résumé to each job you’re applying for.
A generic résumé is something of the past. These days, in order to get through the screening process, you need a well-written résumé and cover letter that match the vacancy criteria down to a T. After all, with so much competition, you need to ensure your résumé shouts out ‘ideal candidate!’ – but just how do you do that?
This in-depth guide will help you narrow down your job search and provide insight into how to create a customised and targeted résumé to match the vacancy to enhance your chances of making it through to the interview stage.
1. Do Your Research
Read the Entire Job Ad
We’ve all been there before: noticed an exciting job ad, skimmed over it and sent a generic résumé and cover letter (or maybe even no cover letter at all) without double-checking the key skills that are required for the job to ensure our résumé tallies up.
The first thing you should do is take a breather and carefully analyse the job specs to see if you have the skills to actually succeed in that position. If so, check your résumé template to see if it needs to be tailored towards the role.
Research the Company
Many jobseekers make the rooky mistake of not researching the company properly before applying for a position. However, it’s important to check to see if it’s even a company you’d like to work for and feel that you’d be a good culture fit – otherwise, you’ll simply be wasting your time and theirs.
When I was fresh out of university, I was so eager to get a job. I sent my application to every journalism job going – only to sit in a number of interviews that didn’t match my interest or personality. Although it was great experience, I could’ve missed an opportunity of a lifetime by not narrowing down my search and doing adequate research. The moral of the story here is to only apply for positions that you really want to do, not ones that you have little interest in.
‘Keywords are important because it's the primary way recruiters source candidates on LinkedIn and in their HR systems (ATS),’ says James Hu, founder and CEO of Jobscan. ‘A candidate whose [résumé] doesn't include the exact-match keywords will not show up in the search.’
The job description is the best place to identify top keywords and discover what is missing from your résumé. Take a look at the example below – you’ll notice that the keywords have been highlighted and reflected in the tailored résumé.
Make Sure It’s Clear Why You’re Applying
Sometimes it can be a bit confusing for hiring managers why you’re even applying if you don’t fully match the criteria that they’re asking for. So if you’re missing certain experience or knowledge, think about similar experiences or transferable skills that you can talk about to make you look good on paper and convince them you’re suitable for the job.
2. Personalise Your Résumé
Be mindful of your personal details – don’t share more than what you have to! If the job you are applying for is in another country or state but you’re willing to relocate, meanwhile, indicate this within your address information.
This is the most important part of your résumé and will either encourage the recruiter to read on or toss it in the bin and move on to the next one. In this short summary, you’ll need to highlight what skills and experience you have that are relevant to the job, why you’re the perfect candidate, as well as why you’re a good fit for the company.
When writing your skills section, use similar adjectives to those reflected in the job advertisement. If they require someone who has led teams in the past, for example, then you should definitely think about highlighting your leadership skills here.
Your employment history section should reflect the most relevant jobs to the position you’re applying for – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should start removing positions altogether, though. What you can do is condense the information that you do have and place emphasis on the roles that are relevant and which allow you to show your transferable skills. For example, you might be applying for a graphic designer job but worked in a retail position 10 years ago which will seem irrelevant today – this is where a short description would suffice.
It’s vital not to leave any gaps in your résumé – if you volunteered or took a gap year, for example, it’s important to include these details, along with the skills you gained during that time. On the other hand, if you don’t have the experience that’s needed for the position, you can use your other roles to demonstrate how you handled the same responsibilities. For example, you might be applying for a managerial position but have never actually worked in this role before. If you were a supervisor, you can explain through your history how you had the same leadership duties and essentially managed a team.
If certain qualifications have been listed as part of the job description, ensure these are listed clearly on your résumé. If you don’t have the education but have the relevant experience, don’t let this part of the job specs put you off.
Interests and Hobbies
Your hobbies and interests are an important factor that can place you above another candidate. If you are applying to work for a fitness company and you play sports, go to the gym and cook nutritious food in your spare time, then you’re already a great culture fit on paper.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for a managerial role and are a captain of your five- a-side football team, you’re already showing your key leadership skills, even outside of work. It’s important to not overlook this area of your résumé and ensure you tailor your genuine hobbies to the role.
3. Make Use of Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter plays a huge role in your application and you should spend time creating a tailored letter to accompany your résumé. It’s important to highlight relevant skills and experience that ties in with the requirements that you’ve been given.
For example, if you’re applying for a marketing position and they want experience with campaigns, you can add something along the lines of: ‘Led a successful campaign that increased sales by 50%’.
Be sure to also address any gaps in your résumé and show your passion and interest for the industry.
No two jobs are identical and in order to succeed while job hunting, you’ll need to take the time to ensure your résumé matches the role that you’re applying for. With this guide, you should be on the road to success in no time.
Have you had any difficulties tailoring your résumé in the past? Let us know if you have any additional tips and tricks to add in the comments section below…