How to tailor your resume to the job description

If you want your job search to be efficient and effective, preparing your resume shouldn’t be a one-time experience. You’ll receive more responses from interested companies by taking some time to customize your resume for each new job application.

Tailoring your resume connects the dots for recruiters and hiring managers who are overwhelmed by a flood of generic applicants. Instead of proving that you’re an experienced professional in general, it shows them that you’re a perfect fit for this specific job.

What does it mean to tailor your resume?

For most job openings, a particular skill set is desired to perform specific tasks. Tailoring your resume is about recognizing those skills and responsibilities on the job description and making it obvious that you’re up to the task. Your goal is to draw the shortest line possible between your experience and what’s stated in the job description.

  • A job description says, “These are the skills we need and the qualifications we’re looking for.”
  • A generic resume says, “I have all this experience. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out whether I am capable of doing the job.”
  • A tailored resume says, “Here is an easy-to-read roadmap of where I acquired and developed each of your required skills and qualifications.”

A tailored resume is for people and technology

Not only does this help overloaded recruiters and hiring managers do their jobs, it also optimizes your resume for the technology they use. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by 99% of Fortune 500 companies and help recruiters sort, filter, and search incoming resumes.

For example, the most popular ATS, Taleo, has a feature that automatically scores and ranks your resume based on how well it matches the job description. And most systems have search functions in which recruiters can plug in specific skills and experience to surface applicants with the qualifications they value most. If you applied through an ATS, there’s a strong chance your generic resume wasn’t even read.

Tailor your resume for ATS

How do you know which skills will help you score well or come up in a search?

It’s all in the job description.

How to tailor your resume to the job description

Open up your resume. Compare it to the job description. Go line by line through the description and ask yourself these questions:

  • “Does my resume clearly state that I can do this?”
  • “How quickly can I point to this skill from the description in my resume?” Test yourself.
  • “Am I using the same language found in the job description?”

Match skills and keywords

Mirroring the language, keywords, and buzzwords found on the job description is the easiest way prove you’re a better match. Start with the job title. A recruiter’s first search will be for people that have done the job before, so find a place for it on your resume. If you haven’t actually held the job before, you can list it under your name at the top or as part of a summary section.

The next most important resume keywords are hard skills. These are often technical skills learned through experience, like project management, reception, writing, or payroll. Whether a recruiter is skimming your resume or an ATS is analyzing it, these are the words that will catch their attention. Match them verbatim when possible.

What are they most interested in?

Pay special attention to the skills mentioned first or multiple times. If the job description asks for something that you forgot or deemphasized, add it prominently. Start each new job entry in your work experience section with skills and qualifications that are found in the job description, even if they weren’t the most important part of your day-to-day responsibilities.

But never lie on your resume. Few applicants have every skill and meet every qualification. Tailoring your resume is about making sure the recruiter or hiring manager notices the ones you do have.

Get help tailoring your resume

Manually tailoring your resume takes a lot of work. Thankfully, Jobscan specializes in tools that speed up this process.

For example, with Power Edit, the most important skills and keywords missing from your resume update as you work. You just upload your resume, paste in the job description, follow the keyword and formatting suggestions, watch your score go up, then export your tailored resume.

Power Edit for tailoring your resume
Dynamic resume tailoring, ATS optimization, and formatting all in one place with Power Edit. For a closer look, check out this video.

Additional resume tailoring tips

  • A generic resume is about you while a tailored resume makes it about them
  • Using bullet points instead of big paragraphs on your resume will make your matching qualifications more skimmable
  • Corporate recruiters prefer to see skills in context. If they see a skill on your resume, they need to understand how and why you used it
  • Use accomplishments with dollar amounts, percentages, or other measurables to prove your effectiveness
  • Tailoring is also about removing information that distracts from your top skills. Look at every line on your resume through the lens of, “Does this prove I’m a great fit for this job.”
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