You just told your friend that you’re going to start the job search and she enthusiastically responds with, “Send me your resume, I’ll send it around.” Or you find an “in” at your dream company and are told just to email over your resume, despite there being no relevant positions available. How do you send something as powerful as possible when there’s nothing to “ tailor ” your materials to?
The solution is easier than you’d think, because that was actually a trick question. There’s always something you can use as a guide. With that in mind, here are three things—other than a clear position description—you can use to help shape your resume .
1. Your Knowledge of the Company or Industry
It’s undoubtedly helpful to know what a hiring manager is looking for—but a job posting isn’t the only place to glean that information.
Through a little research, you can get a sense of direction on everything from overall design to important keywords. Is there a distinct tone throughout the company website? Is there some skill that’s highly valued across the industry or some problem that needs solving?
For example, consider if the organization or sector tends to favor formality, familiarity with a certain software or demographic, and so forth. Then, use that information to fine-tune your resume and make decisions like if you should include online courses or cut an early job to expand on things you’ve learned in your most recent role.
2. Your Dream Job
When there’s a list of responsibilities to refer to, you feel reassured that your resume will demonstrate relevant experience. But along with being helpful, do you know what else a formal description is? Limiting. When you have to highlight certain attributes to show you’re right for a predetermined role, you can develop tunnel vision, and focus exclusively on checking those boxes.
So, see this lack of guidance as an opportunity to shape your resume around what you think is most important. Highlight the experience and skills you’re most excited about. For example, maybe you tone down the emphasis on your current role, because you’re most inspired by your recent volunteer work, or you’re hoping to get back to the work you were doing in previous position.
Instead of including what best fits with a position someone else thought up, work in the opposite direction. Think about where you’d like to pitch in and what you’d love to contribute, and tailor your materials accordingly. Think about it: If you’re lucky enough to get your resume passed around a few different companies, this ups the odds that you’ll be called in for an awesome opening.
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3. Your Creativity
When a job description is posted, it’ll most often include specific instructions for how to submit your materials. (And, to be clear, I’m 100% for following directions !) But if you don’t have anything to work off of, you don’t have to worry about breaking any rules.
In other words, you’re free to think outside the box —even way outside of it (like this guy who created a GQ resume to land a job at GQ ). This time, you’re tailoring your resume to who you are—to show just how creative you can be.
It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but at the right company, it can be the ticket to getting noticed.
I’m willing to bet there are at least a few aspects of the formal search process that you’d be happier without . So, instead of worrying about how you’ll update your materials without a job description, see it as one less constraint.
You get to choose its direction, and the person reading your resume will be impressed that it shows such a clear vision—even though you submitted it without a specific position in mind.
Photo of person typing courtesy of Naataali/Getty Images.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author