As a professional resume writer, I hear all the time from clients that, “I’ll start my job search as soon as I have my resume written.” That sounds like a great way to do things, right? I mean, you need to have a resume in order to apply for jobs when you find them, so it seems logical to write the resume before beginning the job search. But, how do you write a resume that says, “Hire me, I am the perfect fit for the position at your company!” if you don’t know what position or company you are aiming for? What ultimately ends up happening in this situation is that you end up with a generic resume that doesn’t really stand out to anyone. Then, you wonder why you’re never getting called back for any interviews, and you quickly get discouraged in your job search, wondering why no one is impressed with you.
So, should you not even bother thinking about your resume until after you have found positions that you are interested in? Not exactly. It is a good idea to create a generic resume before beginning your job search. Why? Because it helps you identify your skills and interests and can help guide your job search. But, that generic resume should not be the one you actually send out after you find the position you want.
After Your Job Search, Identify Your Strengths
After you find a position, go back to that generic resume and tailor it to the specific job posting. How do you do that? First, go through the job posting and making a list of keywords that describe the job duties and requirements of the position. Then make a list of specific experience that you have related to each of those duties and requirements. While you might not have specific experience related to every single keyword on your list, it is important to make sure that you have experience in more than half of them. If you demonstrate your qualifications, then it will be hard to convince a hiring manager that you are actually qualified for the job.
Leave Off Details That Are Not Relevant
Now go back to your generic resume. Begin with the Experience section. For each job in that section, make sure that the duties/responsibilities that most closely match the keywords on your list are the first bullet points listed. If you have several bullet points that describe duties or responsibilities that are not on your keyword list, consider leaving many of them off — hiring managers are most interested in how you can meet the specific role that you are applying for, and having a lot of information on your resume that does not relate to the position can be seen as a waste of their time.
Quantify Your Experience
After adding bullet points related to the job posting wherever possible in your Experience section, take another look at these bullet points. For each bullet point, try to answer the questions, “How many?” “How much?” “How often?” to quantify your experience. Also ask yourself, “how did this benefit the company? What value did I bring to the company?” Answering these questions will help you write bullet points that show how valuable you are as an employee, giving hiring managers a reason to invest in you.
Highlight Your Qualifications in Your Career Summary
The Experience section of your resume is your opportunity to show that you have the experience the hiring manager is looking for, but it is not the only part of your resume that needs to be tailored to the specific job position. The Career Summary at the top of your resume is also a great place to highlight your value. From the job posting, what appears to be most important to this company? Which skills and experience do they stress most? Those things should be included in your Career Summary section. Directly below your Career Summary, include a Core Competency section using words from your keyword list. This helps applicant tracking systems see that you have the necessary experience for the job.
If you take the time to tweak your resume specifically for each job position you are interested in, it shows hiring managers that you are serious about wanting THIS job. Hiring managers don’t want someone who is applying to everything under the sun. They want someone who is excited about their company. Show that you truly want this job. This will help you get the interviews and job offer you are hoping for.
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