How to Double Check That Your Resume's Actually Tailored to the Job You Want
So, you found a job you’re excited about applying for and took your best whack at tailoring your resume to it. Great! It’s important to go the extra mile for something you care about.
But, it’s even more important to make sure that extra mile is worth it. When you’re at this stage of the process, the changes are not usually drastic. You might be wondering if they’re even noticeable. Trust me, they are! The easier you make it for the hiring manager to see you’re a fit, the more likely you’ll get through to the next round.
So, to ensure you spend your time wisely, here are three quick ways to check if your resume’s really ready to go.
1. Play the Matching Game
This first step is pleasantly straightforward. Basically, you’re looking for keyword matches between your resume and the position’s description. Highlight the parts of the original posting that stand out to you or seem important, then look for the same words in your own resume.
Keywords signal to people that you have relevant experience and that your application should be given a bit more time—and in a world where these pieces of paper get all of six seconds, a little more time can be quite valuable.
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2. Get Straight to the Point
You’ve found all the keywords on your resume. Excellent. Next, you need to check if they’re buried in too much text. If they all tend to be at the end of your bullets, then that’s no good. Or maybe they’re hidden away at the bottom in your skills section. Again, that’s a no-go.
You want these relevant words and skills front and center, close to the top, and toward the front of your bullets. Edit accordingly. Ideally, you don’t want the person reading to have to think too hard about whether to put you in the pile for phone screening. Make it obvious.
Of course, if you’re a career changer or you’re leaning on experience from several different jobs to count as being qualified for this one, that makes things trickier. You might want to consider a summary statement as a way to get those keywords closer to the top.
3. Interview Your Resume
The first two steps involve getting hiring managers to spend a little extra time on your resume. The next step is to make sure they find what they’re looking for now that you have their attention. Take the job description and come up with interview questions. Can you answer these questions with just the information on your resume?
For example, if the posting states that they’re looking for a team player, you’ll want to “ask your resume” if it can tell you about a time when you proved you were a team player. Then, you’ll want to make sure one of your bullets starts with something like, “Collaborated on a team of four to…”
This last step is the most in-depth and it’s the final test to see how much you were able to connect the dots. No, you don’t necessarily have to address everything mentioned (it is only one page, after all), but this is a good gauge to see how personalized you’ve managed to get it to this particular job.
About The Author
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.