Would you rather receive a birthday card from your best friend with a handwritten note inside or receive a generic “Happy Birthday” on Facebook?

Would you rather click through a random pop up ad or click through a special offer with your name on it?

In both situations, you’d probably pick the most personal option. That’s because we like having things made for us. We like to feel special.

Hiring managers are no exception to the rule. They’ve thought long and hard about the particular type of person they want to hire, and they know what they want.

So, why wouldn’t you send them a resume that is personalized to reflect that a) you understand what they want and need and b) you’re the person who can give it to them.

Well, you can. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you tailor your resume to a job description. You’re writing them that personalized note with the special offer instead of sending them a blast of generic information.

Perhaps you know that you’re supposed to tailor your resume, but how do you do it?

Here are four tips that show you how to make a resume so that a hiring manager instantly feels the need to read your resume through to the end.

How Do You Find Out What a Hiring Manager Wants?

Want in on a little secret? Hiring managers make it as easy as possible for you to find out what they want. They don’t play mind games. Instead, they list every skill, experience, and personality trait they can dream up directly in the job description.

“The best way to tailor a resume to a specific job is to read the job description and include language from that job description on your resume,” says Matt Krumrie, a career expert and the president of ResumesByMatt.com (a resume writing service for professionals).

Think about this:

Hiring managers have to process piles of resumes every day. To do so, they spend an average of six seconds scanning resumes for relevance before deciding if they’re worth reading.

A lot of the time, they don’t even manage to scan all of the resumes they receive on their own. It is often necessary for recruiters to outsource scanning to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). That means your resume won’t get read by a human before it passes through the bots.

So, if you’re still the type of job seeker who sends out one resume in response to every job offer, it’s likely that your resume won’t have what they are trying to find.

No wonder you’re not getting the results you want – more interviews.

Using language from the job description, aka adding keywords to your resume, helps recruiters and R2D2 alike find the information they are looking for faster.  

But how do you know which resume keywords are the most important?

How to Choose the Right Keywords for Your Resume

As Krumrie said above, start by reading the job description. Highlight any skills and required experience you can find in the job posting.

Then have a look at a few other similar job descriptions. You’ll get a sense of what is perceived to be universally necessary for that position. If you feel like going the extra mile, you can hop on LinkedIn and have a look at the skills and experience sections of professionals who have the same job.

Any time you see repeated phrases or keywords across offers and profiles, there is a good chance that it is a skill that the hiring manager will find indispensable.


Another good way to think of skills is to divide them up into three categories:

  • Job-related Skills: You have to have these skills to do the job.
    • Example: Operating a particular piece of machinery.
  • Transferable Skills: These are skills that you can use in lots of different work environments.
    • Example: Your ability to use Microsoft Office.
  • Adaptive Skills: These are your survival skills that you develop to enhance basic human interactions in everyday life.
    • Example: Mediation


Go back and find the job-related skills that you found repeated across job offers. You should have most of these skills. If you have a highly-developed set of these skills, you should show that off in the top part of your resume. The rest should go in your experience and skills sections.

Next, look for the transferable skills that you can translate from one of your former jobs to the one at hand. Make sure you highlight these in your experience section. If they are commonplace skills, like the ability to use Microsoft Office, only list them in your skills section.

Finally, make a list of the adaptive skills. Recruiters usually scatter them throughout the job description. They appear as adjectives such as “ambitious” or “autonomous.” Scatter them throughout your resume as well. Again, emphasize your stronger adaptive skills by putting them near the top in your resume summary for example.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the hiring manager doesn’t expect you to have every single skill listed in the job description.

By categorizing the keyword skills, you give yourself a better chance at emphasizing mandatory skills and highlighting a few of the “nice to have” skills that apply directly to you.

Add a Spotlighting Effect With Numbers and Details

If you want to get the hiring manager’s attention you should add numbers and details.

Numbers automatically draw a reader’s eye.

“If the job description asks for someone with “account management” skills, don’t just list “account management” in a bullet list. That’s lazy, and anyone can do it. It tells the employer nothing,” says Matt Krumrie.

Instead, Krumrie suggests a statement like this:

Account Management: Managed 27 accounts that generated $1.2 million in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year. Closed 3 new accounts, resulting in $400,000 of new business.

It tells the employer:

  1. How many accounts you managed (27).
  2. The financial data/ information related to account management. Be discreet. Don’t share sensitive financial information if you’re not authorized to do so.
  3. That you have the ability to bring in new business – something that every business wants an account manager to do.

A Couple of Quick Tricks to Check Your Tailoring Skills

Once you’ve added all of your keywords, it’s a good idea to check to see if you did a good job. That’s especially true if you are going to send your resume online where it is much more likely to be processed via ATS.

You can use Jobscan’s online resume analysis tool to make sure all of your keywords are optimized for the job description. 

The tool allows you to drop both your job description and your tailored resume into an ATS simulator that compares the two documents. It will tell you how much your resume matches the job offer (80% or better is ideal).


If you notice that your resume doesn’t pass the test, you can follow the tips that Jobscan provides to fix it. Consider an editing step like this to make sure you’ve tailored your resume more closely to the job offer.

Key Takeaway

“Tailoring your resume does take time and diligence. So many minor changes can frustrate a job seeker. But minor changes can have major benefits,” says Matt Krumrie.

Tailoring your resume is one of the best things you can do for your job search. So, don’t miss out on an opportunity to give hiring managers exactly what they want.

About the author: Natalie is a writer at Zety. She writes about how to create successful resumes so that you can land your dream job. When she isn’t writing, she eats tacos and reads complicated novels.

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