Want to Get the Interview? You Need a Targeted Resume, with Heather McBride

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The most effective resume is one that is targeted for the specific job you want. Your resume should match the skills, experience, and background the company is looking for. How do you create a resume like this? Find Your Dream Job guest Heather McBride says the first step is understanding how to highlight the skill sets the employer is looking for. Heather also stresses that your resume is not the place to be humble; freely share your accomplishments and experience. 

About Our Guest:

Heather McBride is a resume writer and a human resources consultant.

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 402:

Want to Get the Interview? You Need a Targeted Resume, with Heather McBride

Airdate: June 7, 2023

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

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You apply for jobs. But employers don’t offer you an interview.

The problem could be your resume. And fixing it can be surprisingly easy.

Heather McBride is here to talk about why you need a targeted resume to get the interview.

She’s a resume writer and a human resources consultant. Heather has helped hundreds of people across the globe get the job of their dreams.

She joins us from Eugene, Oregon.

Well, let’s start with the basics, Heather. Why can’t you use the same resume every time you apply for a job?

Heather McBride:

Well, I think that you can if you choose to, and it’s best to not lose an opportunity by not applying. But the most effective resume is one that is targeted for the specific job that you’re applying for. And that means looking at the accomplishments, making sure that they’re relevant, and making sure that your keywords address the language that they use inside of their job description.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to talk about your tips for how to target your resume in a moment, Heather, but let’s talk a little bit more about the disadvantages of using the same resume everywhere. Can employers tell if you’re doing this? And what do they think when you do do it?

Heather McBride:

I think that they can tell because if you look at a resume and it has generic language, and it doesn’t address the things that they’re looking for, and just a general sense of anonymity. And I think that when I was looking at resumes, I could always tell if someone took the moment to address what was important and relevant to me, my employer, and the job posting.

Mac Prichard:

You worked in human resources for a long time, Heather; looked at probably, hundreds, thousands of resumes. When you were sorting through them, and you saw that somebody has targeted their resume for the position you were filling, what difference did it make when you were making decisions about whether or not to select that person for an interview?

Heather McBride:

It made all of the difference in the world. If someone took the time to make sure that the information on the paper was relevant to my hiring leader and they showed that the skills the, experience, and background that they have matched or was close to what I was looking for, I would give them a call and push the resume over to the hiring leader.

Mac Prichard:

And why did you do that? Why did it make a difference when you had that resume than somebody who had sent a generic one?

Heather McBride:

Well, the job seeker made my hiring leader’s job easier. I mean, when you’re focused on operations and you’re looking to fill a vacancy, you want to look at people that have the experience that you need, and you don’t want to waste your time.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, do most applicants use a targeted resume?

Heather McBride:

Well, my clients do over the last ten years. But before, when I was recruiting, I really feel like most people were not targeting the resume at all, for whatever reason. They might be busy. They might not have the education to understand that it is important to target it. So, that’s what it was like when I was recruiting.

What I see when clients reach out to me, and they send me their old resume, probably about eighty percent of people aren’t targeting at all, and it’s usually because they lack the confidence to claim that experience or that accomplishment as their contribution. And so, there’s a lot of education around how to claim accomplishments, too, going on.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us more about that because you’ve held both jobs; you’ve been on the – working for the employer as a human resources manager, screening resumes, and now you’re coaching people and helping them target their resumes and get jobs, and you mentioned confidence. How do you help people get the confidence to target their resumes? And how do you make that happen, Heather?

Heather McBride:

Well, that’s a great question. A lot of times, it’s just building rapport with the person that I’m speaking to. To learn, why aren’t they claiming the accomplishment? Were they culturalized to be a team player, and they just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do in integrity to claim it?

But what I say to people is the resume is about you. It’s about getting the interview, and the interview is about getting the job. And so, in that resume, you can say language that doesn’t necessarily claim that you did this task all by yourself. You can say “key team member” in this project.

And so, what I do is I talk with them about what language feels comfortable for them, and also I just come out and say, you know, you don’t have to think about the team in that moment. Think about what it was that you did, what you contributed, and what the results were, and then, let’s think about the language.

So when they get that comfort level that I’m going to represent them properly and say, look, don’t hold back; tell me what your day was like, tell me what it is that you did, and then we just volley back and forth until I get them at a comfort level that they feel like, when they’re in the interview, they can address the accomplishment that they claimed on the paper. Does that make sense?

Mac Prichard:

It makes perfect sense, and I’m curious too, Heather. Aside from being uncomfortable about talking about accomplishments, are there any other barriers in your work, helping people with their resumes that you’ve identified that stop people from targeting their resumes effectively?

Heather McBride:

Well, they are, oftentimes, too worried about what that past employer or their current employer is going to think if they put it on their resume or they put it on their LinkedIn, specifically. And I say, if we find the right wording, you need to not worry about that employer or that past employer and what they’re going to think. People care so much about what other people think about them that they let that fear and that concern control what they put on the paper.

And so resume writing or working with somebody is not just about getting that content on the paper. It’s about them realizing that, yes, everything we have here really is what you did. You did way more than we’re even talking about, and it’s okay to claim it. It’s okay to brag. It’s okay to not be humble when you’re in a job search.

And so, it’s really just like talking through their internal barriers to release all of that goodness that they have in them and everything that they’ve done for that employer, and the PTSD that they may have experienced in a, possibly, a difficult job setting. So, it’s really just getting them through that so that we can move into the present.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about the specific steps that you can take to target your resume. We’re gonna take a break first, though, and when we come back, Heather Mcbride will continue to share her advice on why you need a targeted resume to get the job interview and how to do it. Stay with us.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Heather McBride.

She’s a resume writer and a human resources consultant. Heather has helped hundreds of people across the globe get the job of their dreams

And she joins us from Eugene, Oregon.

Heather, before the break, we were talking about why you need a targeted resume to get the interview, and you’ve got a list of tips about how to target your resume, and I’d like to walk through them.

The first one on your list is an applicant needs to know how to plug and play the skill sets an employer wants. What do you mean here, Heather? And how does this help you as an applicant?

Heather McBride:

When you have a resume that’s formatted that allows you to plug and play the keywords or the skill sets that address the Applicant Tracking System, you’re going to have a much better chance of getting that interview, and there are a lot of ways to do it.

But having a section in your resume where you can plug and play those keywords in and out, using the language that the employer uses in their job posting, you’re going to address the three gatekeepers. Not just the Applicant Tracking System.

You’re going to make it easier for the resume screener or that power player like the administrative assistant or the recruiter that’s looking at your resume, scanning quickly to see if they even want to let the hiring leader look at the resume And then that other gatekeeper, obviously, is the hiring leader and if the format of the resume allows them to quickly see that you have the skill sets that they’re looking for, you’re more likely to get that interview with that hiring leader.

Mac Prichard:

So, what’s your best advice, Heather, to understand what skill sets those three gatekeepers are gonna look at? How do you figure that out? And then, once you do, how do you put it in your resume?

Heather McBride:

The key is the job posting, and that job posting will typically say what the job duties will be, what the general, the summary of that, the goal of that job is. And then, there will be a qualification section or minimum requirements, and inside of that job posting is everything that you need. And I want to say if it’s not, then you can look for a similar job posting that’s a little bit more well-written and get your clues there, too.

So what you do is, you deconstruct that job posting. What I’ll do is I’ll print it out, I’ll use a highlighter, and I’ll highlight all of the skill sets, and then it will be in the language that they use in their culture or for that particular industry. And then, you take, you extract those skill words, and you put it in your area of expertise or areas of experience, and there’ll be other places on your resume where you’ll be addressing those skill sets.

But just like LinkedIn has a skills section that a recruiter can do a boolean and search for and find you because of the skill sets that you have; that’s exactly what happens on the resume when it goes through an Applicant Tracking System. It’ll compare that job posting to your resume and look for a percentage of words, and then it will get to that human eye.

So, deconstructing that job posting and highlighting those skill sets and putting them in your resume, the way they say them basically addresses the Applicant Tracking System and shows them that you have what they’re looking for.

Mac Prichard:

Do you recommend, once you’ve identified the skills in the job posting, that you put them in a separate section all by themselves in your resume? Or do you also encourage people to put them in the description of your past responsibilities and accomplishments? What’s the most effective approach?

Heather McBride:

Well, a little redundancy is effective because people will read the professional summary. They’ll read that separate section of areas of expertise or experience, and that’s where I say put it, and typically, I’ll put it in three columns, and then I will look for opportunities in the past experience to elaborate on that skill set. Sometimes I don’t, but most of the time, the elaboration happens in the professional experience piece, where I talk about what the day-to-day is and their accomplishments.

So, it’s kind of like, when you do that redundancy, then the person reading your resume says, okay, yes, that person has the skill, this person has the skill sets that I’m looking for. And so, it just reinforces it.

But, to answer the main question, yes. I do say have a different section. But don’t make it so that it’s like this big word cloud that you smacked onto your resume, and that’s all that it is.

Mac Prichard:

What happens when you do this? You put that skill set in your resume, and you’ve gotten past the automated Tracking System, and now your resume is in front of those other two gatekeepers. You said it could be an administrative assistant or recruiter and then the hiring leader. What are those gatekeepers doing when they look at your resume, and they look at that skill set?

Heather McBride:

Well, they’re just looking to make sure that it’s going to be worth my time to talk to the person. And always think of the resume as not the thing that gets you the job, but that gets you into that interview, and just be certain that everything that you’ve put on your resume that you can talk to.

Now, that leads to, like, the third point here of pushing the envelope on your skill set, and I say, sometimes you have to do that so that you can get in that room and then let them decide if you have enough of that skill set to make it worth their time to consider you further.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so we’ve talked about three tips now; you identify that skill set, deconstruct the job posting to understand what skills matter to the gatekeepers, and the third one that you’ve made is, push the envelope on your skill set. What do you mean by that, Heather, pushing the envelope? What do you have in mind there? And how is that gonna help you create a resume that’s gonna get you the interview?

Heather McBride:

Well, I’ll just give like a really easy example, and that is people – well, job postings will say proficiency in Microsoft word excel, or PowerPoint, or some other software, and I say, and my clients will say, you know, I don’t really use excel that much. And I said, do you use Excel? Then we put it on the resume. Then, let them figure out if you have enough advanced skills in Excel. Not putting it on your resume basically says I don’t have any Excel experience.

So, proficiency isn’t as important when it comes to software. All that matters is that you’ve worked in it and then, hey, I say, before the interview, if Excel was important, get on YoutTube, or get on LinkedIn and take a little bit of a training course. So, you’ll be ready for it when you get into the interview.

Mac Prichard:

And this hearkens back to the point you were making in the first segment, which is don’t be humble. Talk about your skills and accomplishments, and obviously, be factual. But, again, it’s okay. You don’t have to be modest.

I know another tip you have for creating a targeted resume that’s gonna get you an interview is to track your accomplishments. Tell us why it’s important to not only track your accomplishments but to put them into your resume and how that’s gonna help you.

Heather McBride:

Tracking your accomplishments is probably the number one thing a person can do to keep the memory of everything they’ve done, so that when they’re working on their resume, you can pull accomplishments out of that document and make sure that they’re relevant to the skill set that you’re addressing. And what I mean by that is literally have a Word or Excel document and every month, calendar out that you’re going to spend five minutes in this document, remembering what you accomplished that month, and do it in the STAR method.

Make sure you put what the situation was, what the task and actions that you took, and what were the results in a qualitative or quantitative fashion. And then you won’t have that problem when you’re working on your resume of trying to remember what you did with that employer five years ago, and you’ll be able to quickly pull the accomplishment out and turn it into a bullet point, specifically if it’s a desired skill set that that job posting is asking for.

Mac Prichard:

What do you do, Heather, if you didn’t keep that spreadsheet, and now you do have to create that targeted resume that you hope will get you the interview? How do you go back in time and document those accomplishments?

Heather McBride:

What I do is I just try to jog people’s memory, and the first thing I’ll say is, think about what you were doing day-to-day at that place. Ask yourself, remind yourself. What did you do? What did you do in the spring? What did you do in the fall? And then I’ll say, okay, you had this responsibility. Tell me about what you did in that specific responsibility. So, I just ask questions until I jog their memory enough.

But if anyone’s listening to this particular podcast and they didn’t keep track of their accomplishments, it’s not too late. I say spend a little time every week to think back and recreate your accomplishments now in preparation for the future.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Heather. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Heather McBride:

Well, I’ve been working on a resume book for quite some time now, utilizing my blogs and such, and I think that I’m going to have something for readers in the near future.

Mac Prichard:

I know listeners can learn more about you and your services by visiting your website, and that URL is inclarity360.com, and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn and, as always, I’ll hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job when they do contact you.

Now, Heather, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need a targeted resume to get the interview?   

Heather McBride:

I think that it’s just important to remember that everything on your resume should be relevant to the job posting you’re applying for. If you make it relevant, you’re going to have a better chance of getting that interview.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Connie Steele.

She’s a future of work expert, a career strategist, and the author of Building the Business of You.

Connie studies the changing workforce and what it takes to be successful in the new world of work and life.

Fear can take many forms when you look for work. It can stop you from applying for jobs, going to interviews, or even sharing your goals with others.

Join us next Wednesday when Connie Steele and I talk about how to overcome fear holding you back in your job search.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

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This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.