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1 Simple Exercise to Customize Your Resume

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So you need a job. Either you hate the job you have or maybe you're a victim of downsizing and have been laid off. Whatever the situation, all you know is that you need a new J-O-B and the sooner the better. I know how it feels. I've been there. That panicked feeling that you got to do something so you start what I like to call the "Trigger Happy Job Hunt". You know what I'm talking about. It's when you get on the computer and find that dust covered resume from last time you job hunted, quickly update your experience, draft broad reaching cover letter, and then you start clicking. Applying for all the jobs you're interested in with that one resume and cover letter. feel better. I mean you NEED a job and the more resumes you send out, the more likely you'll get a callback right? WRONG. Doing this may actually have the opposite effect. Putting out resumes that are not customized to the job you are applying for not only can lack quality but may miss the mark completely.

This week I want to talk to you about the importance of customizing your resume for every job you apply for. I want you to fight the urge to Trigger Happy Job Hunt. Take a breath. Slow down. Step away from the computer. I know it seems like a lot of work, but below are some solid reasons why taking the time to customize your resume may get you a better job, faster.

Resume Customization Proves Your Listening

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A recruiter is looking for a specific fit for their job posting. They're looking for that person who is going to bring what they're asking for and if they're lucky more. Whatever it is that a recruiter is asking for in the job poster, you should be crafting a resume that's the answer. It really is that simple. Look at it this way, if you ordered a meat lover's pizza and they delivered a vegetarian to you. How would you feel? Grouchy. Resume Customization Will Also Please the Robots

CV Boss Happy Robot

Although some say the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is on its way out, there is no denying that it's still in use and you should consider this in your job applications. You may have a great looking resume full of good information but you didn't customize it with the keywords from the job poster! Oh Oh. The job poster is your guiding post for what to say on your resume. They are full of keywords and those words need to be strategically placed in your resume in order for the robots to pick you out and put you in front of a human. Resume Customization Shows Ambition

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So you passed the ATS Test (if they use it) and your resume is in front of a recruiter. You have no more than 6 seconds to make an impression before they're moving on. Did you know that? It is true, this was a finding in an eye tracking study conducted by The Ladders. What makes them come back for a second look? Customization! During my 20 years of recruiting, nothing made me happier than coming across a resume that was fully customized for what I was hiring for. Call me a geek. Customizing your resume shows a recruiter you have ambition and you've done your homework. It demonstrates you're a serious candidate with a strong work ethic. Enough said.


Convinced you need to customize? Good, but knowing where to start can be difficult for some people who don't have experience putting together their own resume. Below, I put together a simple exercise that I use when I'm building a resume. Think of resume writing like grocery shopping. You have to plan before you hit the ground running or just end up wandering the aisles choosing everything, not knowing how or when you'll use it. Not a good idea.

Step 1 - Analyzing the Job Poster

  • Print the job poster that lists all the goodies that the company is looking for;

  • Grab piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On left side write the title 'Employer Wants' and on the right side write the title 'I Have';

  • Analyze the job poster and start listing everything the employer is asking for under the column 'Employer Wants'. In the column 'I Have', answer each of the employers wants with the experiences you have had in previous positions.

At the end of step one, hopefully, you will have one impressive list of how you specifically fit the requirements of the job. You may have a lot to choose from. Pick the strongest! Don't list everything. Remember what I said in my last blog entry, The 5 Best Ways to Improve Resume Performance? It's about quality, not quantity.

Bonus Tip: Recruiters usually list the biggest priorities at the top of the list. If you need to edit, focus there.


Step 2 - Finding and Using the Right Keywords

Now that you have your list of how you are the answer to the employers needs, it's time to start taking note of keywords used in the job posting. I cannot stress how important it is to use keywords in your resume. They not only connect your resume with the current opening, they also connect you for future job openings. If you don't land this one, you never know what might be posted in the future.

How do you know what words are key? Keywords are repeated buzzwords that will appear in similar jobs. If you are unsure if a word is key, here are some tips on how to figure it out.

  • Go onto to a job search engine and search for jobs similar to the one you are applying for. Don't worry about the geography, you just want as many examples as you can find of similar jobs so you can locate those words that are repeated from posting to posting;

  • Go onto LinkedIn and find profiles of professionals in similar jobs and see what words they're using;

  • Does your profession have an association? If there is, look through the member directory and see what kind of keywords they use in their profiles.

Don't get intimidated! The keywords will make themselves clear to you. Once you have those keywords, take out that piece of paper from step one and start making a master list. You're going to make sure that you use those exact words in your experience statements from the 'I have' column.


Step 3 - Don't forget about your Cover Letter Resumes are structured and have to contain certain information and follow a format. They are informational and it can be tough to showcase your personality there. Your cover letter is your opportunity to shine and is the perfect place to customize your application.

Make it Personal I am still amazed at how many times I received resumes that were addressed to 'whom it may concern' or 'dear hiring manager'. I was very easy to find, I was in the company directory on the website! The small step of doing a little research and finding out the name of the hiring manager shows resourcefulness and that you really have given thought to your application. Do it. It's easy and it looks great. Call the company, ask the receptionist for the contact name of who is hiring for the position. They will know, and they will be more than happy to give it to you. Flex your Knowledge About Their Organization Before you draft your cover letter, do some research on the company website. Find out what they're about and what they've achieved. Many companies have a website section about their mission and values, media releases or annual reports. These are great places to find information that you can mention in your cover letter and correlate to back to you. The recruiter will be impressed by the effort. Trust me. Don't Forget About the Keywords!!! Did I mention keywords are imperative? They are. Get out that master list you created and use them in your cover letter. Boom. It's that easy. I'm not going to lie, it will take more time to complete an application and you will be putting out fewer resumes, but they will be quality resumes that will increase your chances of landing those interviews you're after. The saying "it's a full-time job looking for a job" is a cliche for a reason. Shameless plug time: Check me out at

Now get to work! Give this customization exercise a try and show that resume who's Boss!

Next Week: Creative Resume Design. 6 Great Ideas To Break Away From The Candidate Crowd

Photo Credits: Fofo, Dear_Theopilus, Lensicle, Arvin6lr58

CV Boss JC Halfkenny

JC Halfkenny is CV Boss. With over 20 years of recruitment experience she has reviewed thousands of resumes and hired hundreds in various industries such as manufacturing, spa and wellness, finance, retail and aviation. As an experienced recruiter, she knows the secret of resume writing lies in knowing precisely what to put in, precisely what not to put in, and exactly what kind of a spin to put on a resume, to ensure it will stand out from the crowd.

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