You just discovered a job opening with a great company. You scan over the job description listed on the company's website, LinkedIn, or a job board and realize that you really want this job. You even notice that you have the college degree and experience that they are looking for.
What you are about to do next is going to lose you the job.
Stop applying with the same resume for every job you find!
Employers know the difference between a generic resume and a resume targeting their company and open position.
While it takes a little more effort on your part, it's important to customize your resume for every job opportunity you find. These tips will guide you step-by-step through customizing your resume for each job position you apply for.
Analyze The Job Posting
Job postings provided by employers are the secret to successful resume writing. Corporate recruiters and hiring managers spend a lot of time creating these because they spell out exactly who they want to hire.
They are also the cheat sheets for passing Applicant Tracking software.
How Applicant Tracking Software Works
When you upload your resume to a company's website or job board, your resume is collected and stored by that employer's Applicant Tracking software. The software will scan your resume and categorize the information it finds by Contact Information, Experience, etc. These are the top two approaches to using this information:
Either the software will compare your resume to the job posting by and rank your resume against other applicants, or
Human Resource Managers will log in and do keyword searches to narrow down the hundreds of applicants and identify the most qualified.
Either way, your resume needs to have the right keywords which are typically found in the job posting if you have any hope of moving forward in the hiring process.
What To Look For In A Job Posting
There are three specific details you want to look for in a job description. You need to identify the primary goals of the role, the qualifications and skills needed to be a top candidate, and the company's vision and values. The company's vision and values should align with your own and be reflected in your character.
As you are analyzing the job posting, ask yourself:
What is the primary goal of this position in relation to overall company goals?
What are the top 5-8 qualifications and skills needed for this role that I possess?
What are the company's vision and values, and do they align with my own?
Create A List of Keywords
The heaviest-weighted keywords will be the qualifications and skills that you identify in the job posting. Other keywords that will be important to integrate into your resume include hidden skills, which are implied in the job posting, and characteristics that reflect the company's values.
For example, there is a Product Designer job opening with Facebook:
DESCRIPTION: Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Through our family of apps and services, we're building a different kind of company that connects billions of people around the world, gives them ways to share what matters most to them, and helps bring people closer together. Whether we're creating new products or helping a small business expand its reach, people at Facebook are builders at heart. Our global teams are constantly iterating, solving problems, and working together to empower people around the world to build community and connect in meaningful ways. Together, we can help people build stronger communities - we're just getting started.
Come be a part of a team of designers passionate about creating the very best product for Facebook's billion users. As a Product Designer, you will be involved in every aspect of the product development process, from brainstorming the next great product innovation to tweaking pixels right before launch. You will be expected to utilize your full range of product design, interaction design, and visual design skills, and you will own the experience for a wide area of the Facebook product. This position is full-time and based in Seattle.
From these first two paragraphs, you can find the primary goal of the role is, "creating the very best product for Facebook's billion users." You can also find the company's vision which is, "to empower people around the world to build community and connect in meaningful ways." The top values found in these paragraphs are innovation, collaboration, and meaningful work.
The job posting continues:
Take broad, conceptual ideas and turn them into something useful and valuable for our billion plus users
Design flows and experiences that are incredibly simple and elegant
Contribute to high-level strategic decisions with the rest of the product and executive teams
Give and solicit feedback from other designers in order to continually raise our bar for quality
Partner with PMs, engineers, researchers and content strategists to oversee the user experience of a product from conception until launch (and then some)
Communication skills and the ability to articulate your design decisions
The ability to think at high level about product strategy and vision
Experience in building and shipping applications or software
A portfolio featuring examples of interaction design work
7+ years of application design experience
7+ years of visual design experience
7+ years of interaction design experience
The top qualifications and skills are communication, product strategy and vision, application design, visual design, interaction design. Some hidden skills that could be keywords include product development, user experience, presentation skills, and strategic thinking. The company's values that could be integrated into your resume as keywords include innovative/innovated and collaboration/collaborated.
Based on this job posting, you should include all of these keywords in your resume.
Rework Your Branding Statement or Career Summary
Now that you have a good idea of what the employer is looking for specifically in an ideal candidate, start with naturally integrating these keywords into your Branding Statement or Career Summary.
Your Branding Statement should introduce your top qualifications (keywords!), highlight your most relevant skills (more keywords!), and showcase the unique value you offer to the employer to present you as the best fit for the job. Here's an example of a Branding Statement for a resume targeting this job:
"Product Designer with 8+ years of success in creating innovative products by leveraging strengths in application design, visual design, and interaction design. Excel in collaborating with product development teams to improve user experiences. Strong strategic thinking, communication, and presentation skills with a proven track record of transforming conceptual ideas into community-building products."
Not sure how to get started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!
Update Your Key Skills or Areas of Expertise Section
Since the top third of your resume is the first section to be read, an easy-to-skim Key Skills or Areas of Expertise section will help you present your qualifications and skills quickly to hiring managers. This section is also key to making sure your resume passes the notorious "15-second Test" (the average amount of time decision-makers spend looking at your resume before deciding if you will move forward in the selection process).
This section is ideal for integrating more keywords into your resume. Add any relevant skills that are missing from your Skills section and adjust the others to mirror the terminology used in the job posting. Your Skills section for this job posting might look like this:
Application Design | Visual Design | Interaction Design
Product Strategy & Vision | Product Development | Team Collaboration
Revamp Your Job Summaries
The keywords you've identified should also be integrated throughout your Experience section. The most strategic approach for integrating keywords into your Experience section is summarizing your typical tasks for each job you've held in a short paragraph.
You can use these paragraph summaries to mirror the terminology (or keywords) from the job posting as you describe the tasks you performed that relate the most to the new role. When you target your experience, you improve the focus of your resume which employers love to see!
Target Your Achievements
You should also review the major contributions and measurable achievements that you've included in your Experience section. Targeting your achievements to focus on the achievements that relate the most to the primary goals of the new role will help present you as the best fit for the job.
Since the primary role of our example job posting is "creating the very best product for Facebook's billion users," you would want to consider:
How many applications or software products have you assisted with designing?
How many users have purchased, downloaded, or actively use the products you've contributed toward designing and developing?
Have your efforts contributed to revenue growth? If so, by how much?
Have your efforts improved user experiences? If so, were your efforts recognized formally or informally by users or supervisors?
One final touch you can make is to change your Resume Title to reflect the specific job title. If you have been using a general Resume Title, like Summary of Qualifications, edit it show that you are specifically targeting that job with this resume.
Once you have targeted your resume and optimized it with keywords found within the job post, you can check your work by using Jobscan.
Start analyzing the job posting, identifying the top keywords, and integrating them into your resume to get hired faster!