The days of having a one-size “fits all” resume is no longer a smart or viable option in today’s workforce. Recruiters don’t pay as much attention to generic resumes as opposed to tailored ones. A big mistake that job seekers make is using the same resume for every job possibility, regardless of the job description and what industry they are applying to. Always submit a customized resume.

Work History Journal: Create a work history journal or template resume with all your qualifications. Every time you have an accomplishment or milestone, take some notes and add them to your journal. This will serve you well when it comes time to remember what you have done over the years.

When you tailor your resume to a particular company or position, use these notes to refer to the most relevant experiences to prove why you are the person the employer seeks. By adding these accomplishments and statistics into your resume template, you will soon begin to highlight the very best that you have to offer when applying for a job.

Research the company and job responsibilities to get the best idea of what may be most useful to the potential employer. List all relevant qualifications.

Below is a list of best practices and ideas for customizing your resume for each application submission:


Contact information: It’s important to include all your contact information on your resume so employers and recruiters can easily get in touch with you. Include your full name, street address, city, state, and zip, home phone number, cell phone number, and email address. If you hold a security clearance, you might consider adding less information just in case your document ends up somewhere you did not intend. You might also consider adding a web link. For example, if you are a developer, add a link to your portfolio.

If you have a good presence on LinkedIn (see #4 of A Recruiter’s LinkedIn Tips for Your Career) consider adding your customized URL from LinkedIn. You will have the opportunity to convey a lot of additional information which is not detailed on your resume.

Objective: Tell prospective employers your goals. It’s important to tailor your resume objective to match the job you are applying for. The more specific you are the better your chances of being considered for the job you are interested in. This may be optional if you intend to add a lot of information in your summary section (see below). If you are newer to the work-force, this segment will add information to help market yourself better.

Summary: This section of your resume is customized to list your key achievements, skills, and experience relevant to the position for which you are applying. Your summary of qualifications is a critical component of your resume. Without it your odds of being recognized are diminished significantly.

Experience: The experience section of your resume includes your employment history. List your current position on top and oldest position on the bottom. If you have ten plus years’ of experience, consider summarizing your other positions as a combined work experience section. List the companies you worked for, dates of employment (month and year), the position titles that you held, the city and state that you have worked in and a bulleted list of your achievements as they relate to the position that you are applying for. If you have a technical background, list the tools and software that you have used.

Education: List the schools you attended, the degrees you attained, and any special awards and honors you earned. Also include professional development coursework and certifications as well as any publications that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Key words: Your resume should include the same keywords that appear in the job description that you are applying for. Recruiters use key word searches to identify potential qualified applicants to consider. The more key words list that match the job description, the better your chances of matching the recruiter’s search criteria.

Prioritize: It’s important to prioritize the content of your resume so that you list the most important and relevant experience first, follow with additional key accomplishments as they relate to the position that you are applying for.

Incorporate action verbs and phrases into your resume. Use action verbs such as; applied, encouraged, verified, mentored and taught. Your current job accomplishments should be present tense; all previous accomplishments for past employers should be written in past tense. If there is something that is very important for the reader to see, consider using bolding, but be judicious as most resumes are optically scanned and different typestyles, sizes and bolding sometimes don’t scan well. See 5 Things to Avoid When Designing Your Resume.

Remember to focus on the company you’re applying to and ensure that you are catering to them. Focus on what you will bring to a company and how you can help with that deliverable or implement that project execution. The reality is that employers read scores of resumes when searching for the right employee to hire. You want to make sure your resume stands out from the rest.

Following the preceding suggestions will help you obtain more interviews in less time.

The goal of your resume is to land the interview. Remember when hiring managers are speaking to potential candidates they are not only looking for someone who is excited to get to work, but who is also passionate about that particular position.

Consider listing additional ideas for your fellow readers that have worked for you. Feel free to consult with me directly if you are shy and don’t want to ask questions publically.

Views: 8928

Comment by Nigel Coxon on January 10, 2013 at 8:43am

Even if you're not going to tailor as much as Jay recommends, please at the very least make sure your application  has the correct job title and company name on it - and not the ones from the last role you applied for.

You may laugh, but I have seen it far too often. It dooms any attached CV to the bin, though just for irony's sake I look to see if the applicant has put "attention to detail" as one of their strengths.

Comment by Megan Bell on January 10, 2013 at 9:20am

Great article Jay!  I personally have been doing the career journal for about 5 years now (it's around 7 pages) and it helped me put together a well crafted, job specific resume that landed me a job in 1.5 weeks after being laid off.  I also recommend having a cover letter "template" that can be quickly tailored to each job posting, including anything the posting is requesting.  You made some excellent recommendations, and I hope every Candidate out there gets to see this!

@ Nigel, yes the cover and resume addressed to some other job/recruiter is quite frustrating.  I'm going to check out their strengths section for the "attention to detail" from now on, LOL.  My other favorite is the objective statement that says "Professional Nurse seeking a home health care position" and they're applying to be an IT Specialist in a corporate office environment!  

Comment by Jay Perreault {DCTechRecruiter} on January 10, 2013 at 11:48am

Thank you both for taking the time to comment Megan and Nigel.

@Nigel, you are right; paying attention to detail is a deal breaker for me as well!

Smart move @Megan. It's nice to see a solid success story. It takes a little more up-front work but well worth it in the end, especially if you are in a pinch through an unexpected RIF or get caught up in a WARN notification.

Comment by Justin Sherratt on January 15, 2013 at 1:40pm


This is be gold also for recent graduates. So often I saw new graduates sending off the same resume for every job, or internship.. 

One area I would add is that if you are re-entry or new, using the summary and experience to highlight job related skills that were learned from non "job" environments. This is especially true for returning parents (hello - time management, Veterans - Logistics etc and Students - social media, tech, etc.

Great Post.

Comment by Jay Perreault {DCTechRecruiter} on January 15, 2013 at 1:50pm

@ Justin, please feel free to pass this article along if you want to help anyone!

Your references to the returning-to-work workforce or new entries are spot on. Thanks for sharing.


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