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When One Size Does Not Fit All: Tailoring Your Resume

Too often, job hunters send a generic resume for every position they seek. But just as no two job candidates are exactly alike, neither are any two jobs. Say you apply for the COO position in two different companies. Depending on the size, scope, organization, and needs of each company, you may not have the same responsibilities or require the same skill sets. After all, a COO at a small computing startup versus a COO at a Fortune 100 company or at nonprofit faces different challenges and responsibilities. 

It is not unusual for employers and recruiters to request that job candidates tailor their resume for a particular job. This recently happened to one job seeker. When she asked why, the reply was “Because companies know right away within minutes of reading your resume if it’s a generic, run-of-the-mill resume or if it’s specific to what they’re looking for.” And guess which has a much better chance of landing you that interview? Also, a hiring manager may think, if a job candidate is not going to take the time to tailor his or her resume to what I’m looking for, why should I take the time to read it? 

To be sure, customizing your resume takes more time and effort than simply throwing a general version out there and is more than changing a word here and there. But it can also yield greater results. When doing this, ask yourself what the hiring company is looking for. Always keep in mind first and foremost the needs and requirements of the other party in this equation—the company you want to work for—and what you can bring to the table. 

Your Resume: Not a Life Story 
Most hiring professionals and recruiters agree that it is not possible—or even advisable—to detail in one resume all the skills and abilities you have accrued throughout your career. A resume should not be an autobiography of your job history from day one, a blow-by-blow account of everything you have ever accomplished. Adapting your resume to the job you are applying for is one way to avoid turning the resume into a long, drawn-out piece. 

Need more reasons to keep your resume tailored and focused? Keep in mind that most hiring professionals and recruiters:

  •  will review, on average, a resume for about 30 seconds and

  • can receive as many as hundreds of resumes a day and may not read them all.

Tailoring your resume enhances the chance that it will catch the reader’s eyes within those crucial first 30 seconds of review. You can achieve this by carefully reading the job description and selecting those things in your background that demonstrate you can do that job and possess the relevant experience. 

Ask yourself, bullet point by bullet point, line by line, if what’s on your resume is pertinent to the position you are applying for. What should be pumped up or taken out? If you are vying for a senior project engineer role, for example, and you’ve had experience both as a manufacturing engineer and as a project engineer, you want to emphasize your skills as a project engineer—that is what the employer needs to see. 

Focus on the specific qualifications that an employer is seeking. Ask yourself the following: if you could pick five or so accomplishments to highlight on your resume that are relevant to the position you want, what would they be? What is on your resume that you know will have an impact on the person reading it? The answers are what should be front and center of your resume. 

Think of the generic version of your resume as a template. From this template, what can you subtract from and add to, to make it germane for a particular position? What will prove to a company that you really have the goods? (Remember to include any special training, degree or certificate you may have for the position in question.) 

By putting aside your ego—your desire to include on your resume everything you’ve ever done—and focusing on a company’s needs and the qualifications you possess that meet those needs—you do yourself the great favor of making your resume stand out from the pack. A company can tell, and appreciates when a resume is “made to order.” 

Additional Help 
Now that you know the importance of tailoring your resume, how do you go about doing this? Help is everywhere if you look carefully enough.

  • Start with the job posting itself or the description that a recruiter gives you. Review it carefully. Note the keywords and the overall description of the job. It’s good to use some of the same verbiages in your resume, as long as you’re not misrepresenting your experience or quoting the entire job posting verbatim.

  • Research the company you’re interested in. Go to its website to get a sense of the company’s mission and “voice.” Note the kind of language that the site uses. If the site includes job openings, take the time to review positions that sound similar to what you’re looking for. Is there a common theme in those positions? Does it become clear that this company is looking for a specific something? What do you have in your background that matches what the company is seeking?

  • Work with a recruiter who will give you specific insight into a company’s needs—firsthand anecdotes—which is more valuable than what a job posting can provide. After all, a professional recruiting firm such as FPC has developed intimate relationships with its company clients and may be able to share critical information that you would otherwise not be able to obtain.

  • Ask a trusted colleague or friend to review your resume. What stands out? What’s missing? Does your resume sing? Or does it fall flat?

  • Avoid overkill: customizing your resume can be something as simple as bumping up a bullet point on one version that may not need to be so prominently featured on another—if at all.

Above all, make sure your resume highlights the specific skill set being sought. With the knowledge you have acquired about the employer and position, you should be able to emphasize at least four or five accomplishments and skills that will make the person reading it go “Ah-ha—this one sounds great!” 

The Final Word: How FPC Can Help 
There are many things that an FPC recruiter can offer you that a mere job posting cannot. One, in particular, is a specific and thorough insight into the job and what is important to a hiring company. This is something that many job descriptions do not convey. When you work with an FPC recruiter, however, you are gaining access to this valuable piece of knowledge because the FPC recruiter knows what is vital to the hiring manager and what that person is looking for. 

You also have the opportunity to engage in candid, thorough discussions with an FPC recruiter of your job history and background, which can yield helpful results. Something in your background that you may think has little or no significance may indeed be a major point for a hiring company. Because of the intimate bonds that FPC recruiters have formed with their corporate clients over the years, they can tell you when this is the case. This is the personal touch that differentiates FPC recruiters from others—they take the time to thoroughly discuss your background with you so they know your experience inside out, and thus, be in a better position to represent you to a potential employer.


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