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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.


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How to Customize Your Resume


A couple of days ago, I described my frustration at the lack of personalized responses to my ad for a designer. Commenter Mose suggested that instead of just venting, I actually explain how to customize your resume. Good idea! So I’ve taken a resume I had on my desk (disguised of course) and we’re going to customize it to fit a specific job description.

This job seeker is a business development executive who has been selling high tech equipment for the last 10 years. The equipment is sold to a number of different industries and organizations, including the military, manufacturing and health care.

resume_sample_14

Here you’ll see that we focused on his technology expertise, his international experience and his ability to drive revenue gains – all things which are backed up throughout his resume, but none of which tie him to just one industry.

But now he has to actually use this resume to write to people in very specific industries, and they are looking for clues that he will be a good fit. Which means they need to see that he has the industry background and relevant experience to do a great job for them.

Customizing Your Resume Step 1

Examine the job description. Print it out and go through it looking for the key points. Don’t just look at the qualifications list because recruiters don’t always write everything they’re thinking. Look also at the responsibilities, because that will give you clues to key requirements. Here is part of a job posting that I snagged from the web.

job_description1

You’ll see that I have highlighted key points that we need to emphasize in the resume.

Customize Your Resume Step 2

Now look at your own resume and look for areas you can change in order to emphasize the key points you identified in the job description. For example, look back at David’s resume introduction. The job posting was titled ‘Business Development Executive’ so I will remove the reference to ‘sales’ in the title. I will also change the sub-header and the areas of expertise.

Notice that they use the word ‘consultative sales’ twice in the job posting. This is obviously very important to them and yet we haven’t used that term anywhere in the introduction. David does work this way, so we need to stress that fact. They are looking for someone to ‘aggressively grow’ their business – this suggests that strong, driving language will appeal to them.

Looking further down his resume, I see that we can put more emphasis on the health care industry and minimize the focus on the other areas (military and manufacturing) because these just muddy the message.

I also see that they use the word ‘account penetration’ twice, which suggests they have issues in this area. David is very strong here, but we haven’t written about his successes using those words, so we will need to make that change.

I will continue to go through the resume this way looking for any opportunity to highlight how David fits this position, but for the sake of this blog post, I hope this is enough for you to get the idea.

Here is part of the revised resume:

resume_sample_2

See how much more appealing it is? It’s hard to imagine a recruiter not wanting to interview David given how well he fits the job requirements. I continued to make changes throughout the resume to ensure that his suitability was clear. But one thing I didn’t do – and would never do – is to lie. Sometimes, job postings will list skills you don’t have – that’s OK. Just work on stressing what you can do without ever making up things that are untrue, because that will always come back to bite you.

Some people think this kind of messaging is best left for the cover letter, but honestly lots of people never even read cover letters, so you have to do it right in the resume.

Making these kind of changes can be the difference between getting an interview and not, so take the time do it right!

Good luck … and if you need step-by-step help in writing your resume, check out The Blue Sky Guide to Resume Writing. In this downloadable eBook, I walk you through the entire resume creation process from start to finish, just as I did in this blog post. Your resume will never be the same again!

Read more about Resume Writing.

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Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

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4 comments on “How to Customize Your Resume”

  1. Louise, this is perfect. Wonderful job showing the before, during, and after makeover!

  2. QuestingElf says:

    I really like the before-and-after transformations. I actually felt a surge within me wanting to know more about this candidate.

    The next question is will overworked, rushed employers appreciate such a resume? Too often I’ve been in offices where hiring managers and HR with eyes glazed over, looking at resume after resume. I was once startled when I heard one boss say, “I have to stop looking at these resumes. I could overlook someone who’s really good when I’m so tired.”

    That boss knew he had somebody else’s future in his hands. If only we had more like him, and mroe employers who were receptive of people who do take the time to target. I have come across some employers who think that someone who targets is trying too hard, especially because they themselves never put as much time and effort into landing their own positions.

    Well, I still hope transformations of dedication shine through as we get through these tough economic times.

  3. Louise Fletcher says:

    Thanks Hannah!

    QuestingElf, the answer is YES! Not all of them and not all the time, but enough of them to make a difference. They won’t think of it that way of course – they won’t sit back and admire your resume and how well put together it is – it won’t be that conscious. But if you’ve done your job correctly, they’ll take a quick glance and put you right on the ‘interview’ pile.

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