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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Here's How to Tweak Your Resume to Prove You're the Perfect Fit

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You know you’re supposed to customize your resume for each and every job application. But sometimes, it’s not so clear how you can give the employers what they’re looking for—at least, not without being in-your-face obvious.

For example, suppose the job description asks for someone who’s “highly motivated” and a “self-starter.” How do you say, “Hey, that’s me!” without saying, “I’m highly motivated and a self-starter?”

Here’s the short answer: You use your applicable skills and relevant experience to prove it.

For the full explanation of how to actually do this, read on.

If They’re Looking for a Team Player

Highlight the times you’ve worked successfully with other people. Note: Some people confuse teamwork skills with situations in which they were supervising a team. Don’t do that—peer-to-peer interactions are different than manager-employee ones. Make sure you’re using examples that demonstrate the former. (And save the latter for positions that ask you to highlight your leadership experience.)

For example:

  • Increased email click-through rate by 20% by collaborating closely with other members of design team
  • Partnered with 6 other employees to plan and execute a 200-person corporate retreat
  • Increased coding accuracy by 15% by using pair programming technique

Key Words: Work with, collaborate, partner, participate, merge, unite, contribute, develop relationships with

If They’re Looking for a Leader

Here’s where you can demonstrate your ability to motivate, teach, and inspire. As you’ll see, it’s possible to demonstrate leadership skills even in an entry-level position. Just reference a circumstance in which you were giving directions—whether that was leading a seminar or actually managing a team.

For example:

  • Onboarded, trained, and oversaw 5 new employees in the analytics department
  • Gave presentation on effective communication processes to 60-person company
  • Mentored 3 PR interns, continuing the relationship after they returned to school
  • Implemented new time management software system and taught 10 employees how to use it
  • Supervised 4 direct reports

Key Words: Facilitate, manage, supervise, teach, direct, delegate, mediate, recruit, advise, administer, moderate, instruct, guide, counsel, coach, arbitrate, liaise, coordinate, inspire, influence

If They’re Looking for Someone Who Thrives in a Fast-Paced Environment

Now’s your opportunity to bring up all the times you’ve juggled several tasks at once. (Every day, am I right?) Demonstrating you can handle multiple responsibilities at any given moment will give the hiring manager confidence that you’ll be able to stay calm and efficient, even when there are hundreds of assignments flying at you.

For example:

  • Planned and launched 3 simultaneous employee engagement programs, resulting in a 20% increase in reported employee satisfaction
  • Answered 40+ calls per day while helping in-store customers and maintaining area cleanliness
  • Identified and solved 20+ customer queries each week while researching and resolving payment discrepancies

Key Words: Prioritize, expedite, organize, manage, multitask, dynamic environment, high-volume

If They’re Looking for a Strong Communicator

Here’s your place to discuss roles in which you wrote or spoke. In general, match the communication medium you use to the actual job description. If you’re applying for an HR position in which you'll always be verbally communicating, highlight responsibilities that required speaking to other employees, clients, or management. If, on the other hand, you’re applying for a PR position, you’ll want to play up your ability to communicate over email and by phone.

For example:

  • Interacted with approximately 50 customers per day, improving their experience through warm, friendly demeanor, and eagerness to answer questions
  • Negotiated partnerships with 4 new clients, helping company establish a strong position in emerging market
  • Rewrote onboarding process for overseas contract workers, a 100-page document used to train approximately 500 employees each year
  • Kept 10-member sales team focused and motivated by giving 15-minute weekly speech

Key Words: Compose, write, present, speak, interview, lobby, persuade, negotiate, author, discuss, interface, clarify, articulate

If They’re Looking for an Analytical or Qualitative Thinker

Bring up the times you’ve made logical decisions or worked with data. Don’t worry if your role doesn’t involve numbers—career expert Lily Zhang has an excellent guide to quantifying any job.

For example:

  • Saved company $10,000 by logging and reviewing weekly employee pay logs and investigating pay discrepancies
  • Developed and managed $500K budget for commercial activities, prioritizing key investments to meet in-market revenue forecast
  • Designed and implemented A/B testing, using results to increase user engagement by 40%

If They’re Looking for Someone Who’s Creative

You should incorporate projects or ideas that you specifically developed. If you’re having trouble coming up with an example, you might want to broaden your definition of “creative.” It doesn’t necessarily mean “artsy”—for many jobs, it means being able to find an unexpected solution. Since every job comes with challenges, you’re guaranteed to have at least one “creative win.”

For example:

  • Proposed new “Green Living” vertical, doubling average time spent on site and enabling company to secure eco-conscious brand partners
  • Created e-book landing page, allowing company to collect emails from 1,000 potential leads
  • Generated 5% revenue increase by designing and implementing new merchandising solution for regional retail stores

Key Words: Introduce, initiate, solve, create, implement, design, launch, pioneer, innovate

If They’re Looking for a Self-Starter

Point out the times you’ve been proactive or successfully worked on your own. In general, companies searching for “self-motivated,” “driven,” “passionate,” or “self-directed” workers want to know you won’t need to be micro-managed, nor will you do the bare minimum of what’s required of you.

For example:

  • Took the initiative to form Facebook page for store’s employees, improving internal communication and teamwork
  • Proactively reached out to clients when their orders were going to be late, reducing number of canceled orders by 20%
  • Volunteered on company Employee Success team; independently planned 6 quarterly events for employees

Key Words: Independently, anticipate, identify/resolve, offer, volunteer

Next time you read a job description and think, “This position would be perfect for me,” use the relevant experiences and key words to prove it. You’ll be one step ahead of the candidates who expect hiring managers to connect the resume dots themselves—and one step closer to landing the job.