In a competitive employment market, customizing your resume for available job openings is not a luxury - it's imperative. Today, a cookie-cutter resume doesn't really cut it.
As jobs have consolidated and the numbers of those vying for openings are still high, it behooves you to have several versions of your resume. Just make sure that you've highlighted your true strengths, and that those skills sets are areas on which you really want to focus going forward.
To be extra clear, this does not mean lying on your resume. It means including skills that you already possess, but may not have used actively or very recently. It's about how you package your background, so that you catch the hiring manager's attention by demonstrating that there truly is a match.
How to Standout
• Don't send the traditional resume. A standard chronological resume that doesn't relate to the opening at hand will quickly seem irrelevant. It will also send the message that you didn't even make the effort to customize it. And if your cover letter does relate directly to the job (which it should), there will be a mismatch. Oftentimes a cover letter sets high expectations, but when followed by a one-size-fits-all resume, a hiring manager is disappointed because the two are not in sync.
• Instead, use a functional format where you list transferable skills, projects and accomplishments that are specific to the job - and summarize your qualifications upfront. For example, it might begin with a generalized statement and get more specific from there: "Managed strategic marketing initiatives at various large and mid-sized firms, which significantly increased corporate profitability."
• Use active, accomplishment-oriented language. Avoid such terms as, "duties/responsibilities included": words that the resume reader has seen 1,000 times before. Instead, use active words, such as "expanded," "increased," "reduced," etc., and sell yourself by using accomplishment-oriented descriptions.
Other action words include: managed, designed, implemented, launched, etc. You're marketing yourself to a specific audience, so make sure both your resume and cover letter sell your achievements. Before you rework your resume, review your previous jobs, roles and responsibilities, then make a list that match your credentials to the job posting. Outline the specific outcome of your actions such as, "increased sales at (former company) by x percent."
• Don't emphasize skills that aren't part of the job requirements. You may have been spectacular at training, but if that's not germane to the job, don't highlight it. Instead, be specific with results that the manager will be interested in, using concrete examples. If the position is supervisory then say, "Supervised x number of employees." Use bullets to make these easier to read.
• Don't make your resume SHOUT. Hiring managers can receive hundreds of resumes a day. They've seen it all when it comes to people trying to get their attention. Printing your resume on neon paper; using a too large/bold/italic or colorful font; attaching a photo, gift or making jokes can all backfire.
• Emphasize your skills for the job and the intended audience. If your passion is to train others, then talk about training in great detail. List jobs or training in order of importance to the resume reader.
• Don't list references on your resume. You're selling your skills in one to two pages, so keep your resume to that. However, when they are specifically requested, do list references on a separate sheet. You may choose to attach a few pages of commendations to the reference sheet, including awards or letters of recognition.
Review and Rewrite
Put yourself in the employer's shoes, then ask yourself if your resume proves you're the candidate to interview, wearing a critical hat. It will likely take a few rewrites.
Today, it's worth taking the time to put your best foot forward in every way - and showcasing your best talents. It could help you land the interview, and maybe even land the job of your dreams.