Customize Your Resume By Target Job Openings More Effectively

Effectively targeting a job posting is one of the easiest ways to improve your chances of obtaining an interview. While it sounds like an obvious step, many candidates ignore the most vital information they have – the data listed in a job posting – and submit their resumes without making minor tweaks to customize the documents.

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Effectively targeting a job posting is one of the easiest ways to improve your chances of obtaining an interview. While it sounds like an obvious step, many candidates ignore the most vital information they have – the data listed in a job posting – and submit their resumes without making minor tweaks to customize the documents.

Avoiding a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t mean you need to rewrite your resume every time you apply for a job. If you structure your resume properly, you can easily add and remove information that will make customization a snap.

Why customize? Because it demonstrates to an employer that you’re applying for this job, not any job. 

First Steps

To begin, make sure that your resume contains a Headline and a Summary of Qualifications. These two sections form the foundation of your customization efforts. By tweaking them, you can keep 95 percent of your resume the same, but still incorporate tailored information where it matters most.

Let’s start by reviewing a sample job ad for a Help Desk opening:

Sample Job Ad

XYZ has an immediate opening for our Help Desk.  Friendly attitude and exceptional communication skills are essential.  Duties include answering incoming calls via telephone or email; providing on-site support to 200 employees; assessing and resolving problems; monitoring network performance; alerting manager of emergency issues; and monitoring internal equipment and servers for trouble. Strong knowledge of Cisco routing and experience with network management platforms such as OpenView and IP protocol are a must.

Let’s say you’re an entry-level IT professional interested in this position. Your resume’s current headline is:

Entry-level IT professional with strong academic background

With one minor tweak, you can effectively target the top requirement in the job ad – good communication skills – without losing your academic achievements:

Entry-level IT professional with excellent communication skills

and strong academic background

Soft skills like "communication" and "multi-tasking" are harder to quantify than technical skills, but if they’re the first request in the ad, don’t underestimate their importance. Soft skills are frequently overlooked on IT resumes, and they might be a hot button: There’s no telling what disaster the company just went through with a former employee. 

Real-world experience always trumps academic experience. If you’ve actually worked on a help desk, mention it in the headline:

IT professional with strong Help Desk experience

and excellent communication skills

Customizing Your Summary of Qualifications

Placed directly below the headline, the Summary of Qualifications consists of four to six bullets that specifically target your key skills, experiences, and intangibles.  As you did with the headline, use the job ad’s information to determine what bullets to add, remove, or reorder to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the opening.

Keeping with the Entry-Level IT example, let’s look at a sample Summary of Qualifications:

Summary of Qualifications

  • Proven ability to diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve technical problems.
  • Exemplary academic record. Graduated with 3.36 G.P.A.
  • Quick learner with strong working knowledge of software, hardware, networking, operating systems, and security applications.
  • Outstanding communication skills; demonstrated background working well with students and co-workers in one-on-one and group settings.
  • Superior analytical and problem-solving abilities, with track record of improving operations.

A revised Summary of Qualifications, which targets our job ad, might read something like this:

Summary of Qualifications

  • Proven ability to diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve technical problems.
  • Quick learner with strong working knowledge of software, hardware, operating systems, security applications, and networking, including Cisco Routers, OpenView, and IP protocol.
  • Superior analytical and problem-solving abilities, with track record of improving operations.
  • Demonstrated background working well with co-workers in one-on-one and group settings.
  • Team player with outgoing personality.
  • Exemplary academic record. Graduated with 3.36 G.P.A.

Again, these are minor tweaks. But they can make a huge difference in showing an employer you’re applying for one job, not 100 jobs.

In an age when you can blast your resume to 1,000 employers or apply for 50 jobs in a night, customization isn’t less important – it’s more important, especially if you’re applying for a position you think you can obtain.  If 20 minutes spent revising your resume can shave months off your job search, it’s an excellent investment.

Warren Simons is a freelance writer living in New York City.