If you’re in the midst of a job search, there’s an often-overlooked tool that can give you some insight: resume examples. Browsing through the resumes of people in the types of roles you’re looking for can give you some clues about how your resume might be improved.
Specific discoveries could include valuable credentials, cutting-edge technologies and techniques you should learn, sought-after skills and tools, and common accomplishments. Resume examples can be a great way to see how you stack up.
Still, the best research tool is an individual job posting. That’s because the job posting itself is your primary source of resume keywords. These are the words you use to show an employer that you are a fit for their role. Using resume keywords properly means your resume is more likely to get noticed.
Using them improperly can be just as damaging as not using them at all. Many applicant tracking systems have updated their algorithms to penalize applicants who try to game the system.
Keywords play a huge role in how an applicant tracking system scores and ranks candidates. The higher you rank, the more likely you are to be invited in for an interview by the human on the other end of the ATS.
The word cloud above was generated using the text from a dozen job postings for registered nurses. The larger the word appears, the more times it appeared throughout the job postings.
Registered nurse resume keywords
Registered nurse keywords
For a registered nurse resume, it’s important to use both the abbreviation (RN) and the full term (registered nurse) because applicant tracking systems and hiring managers could look for either or both. Similarly, include both your degree’s abbreviated form (BSN) and the spelled-out version (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
“Needs” in these job postings referred not to what a candidate needs to have, but to patients’ needs.
Tailoring your resume
Customizing your resume to a particular job posting doesn’t have to be an arduous process—and your response rate with customized resumes will be much higher than if you use the same resume for each application and just hope it’s close enough.
The fact is that generic resumes aren’t close enough. And even if you do get so lucky as to have a hiring manager review your generic resume, it will be obvious to them that it was not written for their specific job opening. It’s a competitive job market; many people applying for each job will have submitted customized resumes. The difference between a generic resume and one targeted for a specific job is night and day.
Tailoring each resume you submit is a straightforward process when you use the right tools. First, you should have—and regularly update—a career management document. It’s an always-growing repository of things you have included on past resumes, things you might include on future resumes, plus other details—such as your references and their contact information, or detailed notes about individual professional accomplishments. That way you can refresh your memory later.
After finishing a particular clinical rotation, for example, go to your career management document and make notes about the dates, location, people you worked with, challenges you handled, and anything else that stood out.
When you have a detailed career management document to work from, it’s easy to pick and choose for your resume only what’s relevant to a given job.
When you’re done, to see how well you’ve tailored your resume for a particular role, try Jobscan. Paste the text of your resume and the text of the job description into the resume analysis tool, and you’ll get instant feedback about what’s good, what’s missing, and what you can improve. Resume examples are a great starting point for your research, but no match for personalized feedback when you’re ready to apply.