How to Tailor Your Résumé (Benefits, Tips and Examples)

Threading your way to the perfect job!

Reviewed by Electra Michaelidou

A man tailoring his resume

Writing a tailored résumé is kind of like crafting a bespoke suit. Just as a tailor measures every inch of fabric to fit your body perfectly, a well-tailored résumé is meticulously adjusted to match the specific needs of the job you’re applying for.

It’s anything but a one-size-fits-all document; it’s a customized showcase of your skills and experiences, designed to make you look like the ideal candidate.

In this guide, we’ll explore what makes a tailored résumé distinct and why it’s important. We’ll also show you how to tailor your résumé, step by step, so it highlights your strengths and aligns seamlessly with the employer’s expectations — along with useful examples along the way.

What is a tailored résumé?

A tailored résumé (also known as a customized or targeted résumé) is, quite simply, a unique version of your résumé that has been specifically modified to highlight your experiences, skills and qualifications that directly match the requirements of the specific job or company you’re targeting.

This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting your résumé from scratch every time. Rather, it means using your master résumé (more on this later) as the basis for a more targeted version to present the most relevant information to potential employers.

What makes a tailored résumé… tailored?

I’m glad you asked!

As we’ve explored above, creating a tailored résumé goes beyond simply listing your qualifications and experiences, and instead perfectly aligning your skills, achievements and overall professional story with the employer’s needs.

But what exactly sets a tailored résumé apart from a generic one?

Well, it:

  • Features a personalized career summary that addresses what exactly you bring to the table and how you meet the employer’s needs. A great little trick here is to also incorporate the advertised job’s title and, for extra brownie points, the company’s name (something along the lines of “leveraging my expertise to contribute to Company ABC’s cutting-edge projects”).
  • Emphasizes focused work experience. This essentially means only highlighting experience that’s directly pertinent to your target job. If, for example, you’re applying for a banking job, you’d only list similar experiences that demonstrate your expertise — and you’d leave out that barista gig from your college days.
  • Highlights relevant (particularly hard) skills, especially those noted in the job description. If “excellent knowledge of Excel” is listed among the job’s requirements, for example, be sure to include it in your résumé verbatim (provided, of course, that you are an Excel whiz) or at least a variation of it. It’s also a good idea to feature broader industry skills, too.
  • Incorporates job-specific keywords, particularly — again — those included in the job description. If you’re applying for an IT role, for example, and the job ad features keywords like “cloud computing” and “DevOps”, try to incorporate these in key sections, like the summary, work experience and skills section.
  • Mirrors the job description’s tone and language. If it’s formal, use a professional and polished tone. If, on the other hand, it’s casual, adopt a more relaxed and approachable style — but be careful, as you don’t want to come across as unserious and unprofessional. It’s still a résumé.

Why should you tailor your résumé?

While there’s nothing really stopping you from submitting a one-size-fits-all résumé to every job you apply for, it won’t get you far in your job search efforts — particularly in an already oversaturated market. Indeed, a more tailored approach will prove far more effective, impactful and memorable.

Here’s why:

It shows your genuine interest

A customized résumé demonstrates that you’ve taken the time and made the effort to really understand the job and company. Ultimately, this proves that you’re genuinely interested in the job you’re applying for and that you’re serious about wanting to work for this specific company and contribute towards its success.

It catches the hiring manager’s attention

Nearly 63% of recruiters prefer receiving tailored résumés over generic ones. In other words, if you submit a résumé that’s tailored to the job you’re applying for, you’re 63% more likely to catch the hiring manager’s attention and proceed to the next stage of the recruitment process.

It helps you showcase your value

By customizing your résumé to your target job, you’re essentially matching your achievements and skills to the job’s requirements and the company’s needs. This, in turn, translates into communicating your value proposition: what you’re capable of doing, what you’ve done in the past and what you can do for this employer.

It sets you apart from the competition

Research shows that most jobseekers (a staggering 54% of them) don’t bother with customizing their résumés for each job they apply for, instead preferring to submit a generic résumé. So, when you place yourself in the other 46% who do tailor their applications, you give yourself an edge over the competition who doesn’t.

It helps you pass applicant tracking systems

Your résumé has a 75% chance of being scanned by an ATS before it’s even reviewed by a human recruiter (these systems are designed to scan résumés for specific keywords related to the job description). When you take the time to strategically incorporate these keywords into your résumé, you increase your chances of beating the robots.

How to tailor your résumé

And now the juicy part: the process of tailoring your résumé. It can be a little daunting, but I promise you: it’s worth the time and effort.

Step 1: Create a master résumé

The first thing you’ll need to do, before you actually start the process of tailoring your résumé, is to create a master résumé — a comprehensive catalog of everything you’ve ever done at every job you’ve ever had.

And by “everything”, I really do mean everything: all your experiences, achievements, skills, qualifications, certifications, contact details… everything. Even the things that don’t seem important or relevant at face value.

Although this might seem counterproductive, and it can admittedly be a time-consuming and unexciting task, a master résumé will serve as the basis for customizing job applications later — effectively streamlining the entire process.

Indeed, when you have a master résumé to refer to, you can easily and quickly draw pertinent information from it to create a tailored résumé for a job that you’re targeting.


Remember to keep updating your master résumé as and when you accumulate new experiences, skills and qualifications. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to quickly tailor it for specific job opportunities.

Step 2: Dissect the job description

The thing about job descriptions is that — despite the (usually considerable) time, effort and thought that recruiters put into crafting them — jobseekers rarely pay attention to what’s there beyond basic educational requirements and details about compensation, perks and benefits.

While this kind of mindset is debatably okay when you first come across the vacancy and decide to apply for it, it really isn’t when it’s time to put your application package together.

At this point, you’ll need to go back to the job description, and carefully read through it. Then, carefully read through it again (and again), scrutinizing and analyzing every word of it, dissecting it like one of the poor little frogs in biology class.

All this will help you understand exactly what the employer is looking for. Make sure to read between the lines, too, as it’s often here where you’ll find clues of the employer’s expectations, as well as the information that you’ll need to spruce up your application.


Copy the job description into a blank MS Word (or word processor of choice) document, and highlight key phrases, skills, qualifications and responsibilities that the employer mentions. Better yet, print out a hard copy, and use a highlighter for this little exercise. This will come in handy in the next step.

Step 3: Compile a list of the job requirements

Based on your analysis of the job description, start compiling a list of key phrases, skills, attributes, qualifications and specific responsibilities mentioned in the description.

You can do this either in another Word document or, if you’re anything like me and you prefer the “old-fashioned way”, on paper.

Organize this list to serve as a checklist for when you actually begin tailoring your résumé (we’re almost there, I promise!). For example, you can divide it up into several sections, like “Technical skills”, “Soft skills”, “Educational qualifications” and “Industry terms”, and add keywords and phrases under the relevant sections.

Depending on the job description itself, you should end up with a checklist featuring anything between a dozen items or so and a full page or two worth of information.

Step 4: Match the requirements to your background

In this step, you’ll officially begin the puzzle that is tailoring your résumé, assembling the pieces while referring to the picture on the box. For this, you’ll need the checklist you’ve just prepared and the master résumé you put together earlier.

Peruse both documents, comparing how the job requirements match to your background: your achievements, experiences, projects and past positions, along with your skills and strengths.

As you read through your checklist and identify the skills and experiences you possess that most closely align with the keywords from the job description, begin drafting your résumé by emphasizing these relevant details.

For example, if one of the requirements is a strong background in financial reporting, you can work this into a bullet point in your work experience section, something along the lines of “Improved financial reporting accuracy by 15% through the implementation of automated processes, resulting in timely and error-free monthly, quarterly and annual reports.”

This way, you not only show that you have what the employer is looking for, but you also demonstrate what you can do for their company — and why they should seriously consider your candidacy.

Step 5: Put it all together

Your tailored résumé is almost ready! In this final step, all the puzzle pieces will come together for a job-winning résumé.

Once you’ve polished and perfected your drafted content to incorporate keywords and match the job requirements, it’s time to put it all together, paying special attention to the career summary, work experience, education and skills sections.

Make sure to structure your résumé to lead with sections that are most relevant to the job requirements — this might mean adjusting the order of sections to highlight your strongest qualifications first. For example, a recent graduate with only a few months’ work experience would present their education first before segueing into their employment history.

While assembling and tailoring your résumé, meanwhile, remember to use bullet points to concisely articulate achievements and responsibilities that demonstrate your ability to meet the employer’s needs. And try to inject as many stats and numbers as possible to quantify your achievements and further showcase your value.

Example of a résumé tailored to a job description

To help you get a better idea of what a tailored résumé looks like, we’ve put together an example for your inspiration, based on a custom job description for an accountant vacancy at the fictional ABC Financial Services.

We’ve highlighted keywords and phrases in both the job description and the résumé samples so you can see how we’ve matched them up.

Sample job description

Job Title: Accountant

Company: ABC Financial Services

Location: New York, NY

Job Summary:

ABC Financial Services is seeking a detail-oriented Accountant to join our team in New York. The ideal candidate will have a strong background in financial reporting, budget management and account reconciliations. You will play a key role in ensuring the accuracy of our financial data and supporting the financial health of the company.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Prepare and analyze financial statements and budget reports.
  • Perform account reconciliations and ensure compliance with accounting principles.
  • Provide financial insights and support to various departments.
  • Maintain accurate and complete financial records.
  • Ensure the integrity of financial data through careful analysis and documentation.


  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance or a related field.
  • Minimum of 3 years of experience in financial reporting, budget management and account reconciliations.
  • Proficiency in accounting software and Excel.
  • Strong analytical and communication skills.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Example tailored résumé

Summary section

Highly skilled Accountant with over 3 years of experience in financial reporting, budget management and account reconciliations. Adept at preparing and analyzing financial statements and budget reports. Proficient in accounting software and Excel with strong analytical and communication skills. Seeking to leverage my skills and experience to contribute to ABC Financial Services’ success.

Work experience section

XYZ Corporation | New York, NY
January 2020–Present

  • Prepared and analyzed monthly and quarterly financial statements and budget reports.
  • Performed detailed account reconciliations ensuring compliance with accounting principles.
  • Provided financial insights and support to various departments, enhancing financial decision-making.
  • Maintained accurate and complete financial records, ensuring the integrity of financial data.
  • Utilized accounting software and Excel for data analysis and reporting.
  • Developed strong analytical and communication skills through collaboration with finance team.

Education section

Bachelor of Science in Accounting
University of New York, New York, NY
Graduated: May 2017

Skills section

  • Financial Reporting
  • Budget Management
  • Account Reconciliations
  • Accounting Software
  • Excel
  • Analytical Skills
  • Communication Skills

Now, here’s the résumé in action:

Accountant Tailored Resume Example

Get the ATS-Friendly Template

FAQs about tailored résumés

Got some questions left unanswered? These FAQs might be helpful:

Q: When is it okay to send a generic résumé?

There are only a few — very specific — situations when it’s okay to use a generic résumé versus a tailored one:

  • You’re attending a job fair
  • You’re attending a networking event
  • You’re registering with a recruitment agency

In these situations, tailoring your résumé will be near-impossible, as you can’t be completely sure which job or company you are tailoring it to. That said, it’s still a good idea to customize your résumé to your target industry as much as possible.

Q: How much time does tailoring a résumé take?

This largely depends on the amount of work involved.

A simple revision of your current résumé, for example, will typically take 30–60 minutes. But if you’re writing a tailored résumé from scratch, you can expect to spend anywhere between two and eight hours on it — sometimes more.

Q: What if I don’t have any relevant work experience and skills?

A very valid question, indeed, particularly if you’re a recent grad or you’re changing careers. In this case, you might find the following strategies particularly helpful:

  • Highlight your transferable skills (skills from previous jobs that can be applied to the job you’re applying for)
  • Emphasize soft skills (like your adaptability and work ethic)
  • List volunteer or extracurricular activities that relate to your target job
  • Include relevant coursework and training, including certifications and workshops

Q: Can I use ChatGPT to tailor my résumé?

You sure can! In fact, leveraging generative AI tools like ChatGPT can speed up the entire résumé writing process. All you have to do is feed carefully thought-out prompts into the AI tool, along with the job description and, if applicable, your existing résumé to get the ball rolling.

Q: Should cover letters also be customized?

Yes! Your cover letter is an extension of your résumé, after all, so it too should be tailored to your target job. In fact, customizing your cover letter is often more impactful than customizing your résumé, as it allows you to directly address the hiring manager, articulate your passion for the role and explain how your unique background aligns with the company’s goals.

Key takeaways

Résumé writing can certainly be an intimidating task at the best of times. Throw the need to tailor your résumé to a job into the mix, and the intimidation grows exponentially.

But our step-by-step guidance and practical examples should alleviate at least some of that intimidation and motivate you to craft a résumé that’s not only tailored but also impactful, memorable and, most importantly, job-winning.

Here’s a little refresher of everything we learned in this article:

  • A tailored résumé is a specific version of your résumé that has been strategically customized to the requirements of the job you’re applying for.
  • Tailoring your résumé to a job demonstrates your genuine interest in it, while it also sets you apart from the competition and helps you beat the ATS.
  • Always prefer submitting a tailored résumé over a generic one — an exception is if you’re handing it out to employers for consideration at job fairs or networking events.
  • Make sure to highlight only relevant skills and experiences that directly relate to the target job, and personalize the summary section to the company.
  • Strategically (and naturally) sprinkle important keywords and phrases from the job description throughout your résumé.

Drop us your questions or concerns in the comments section below!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on February 23, 2018.