Many jobseekers expend significant time and energy fine-polishing their resumes, wordsmithing the document until it is “perfect.” They then make a huge mistake by using that exact same resume for each and every job application.
You wouldn’t send the same greeting card for every life occasion. Likewise, you shouldn’t send the same resume to every prospective employer!
Your resume is a living, fluid document that should be customized for each job application. It’s not enough to simply add the company’s name in the “career objective” section; the best resumes are built around the specific needs, requirements and hiring practices of the job at-hand.
Here are three reasons why you need to customize your resume for each job:
1. Customization helps you focus on the employer’s specific needs
It’s simple… organizations hire because they are looking to solve a problem; if they didn’t have a problem, they wouldn’t invest in new staff. As a jobseeker, you want to position yourself as the one, can’t-miss, sure-fire solution the organization absolutely must hire to solve its most pressing needs.
You need to make sure that your resume addresses the employer’s specific challenges and pain-points–otherwise you’re selling a solution the organization doesn’t need.
Dig deep into the job announcement, the company website, and other information sources to figure out the specific problem or problems the organization is looking to solve. Then frame your relevant professional experience and education as tools that will help you solve these acute pain points. Highlight how you’ve solved similar issues in the past. Show how everything you’ve done up to this point in your career positions you as the problem-solver the organization can’t live without.
Don’t be modest or subtle in aligning your skills to the challenge of the job; as Jenny Foss notes, you want your applicable skills to be “smack-in-the-forehead” obvious to the reader.
2. Customization helps you pass applicant tracking systems
Increasing numbers of employers use applicant tracking systems as part of the hiring process. On average, these systems automatically screen out more than 70% of all submitted applications without any human review.
The best way to survive this cruel automated culling is to ensure your resume has keywords and phrases that align with job posting. Applicant tracking systems are generally keyword based, so the more keywords in your resume, specific to the job posting, the better your chances of success.
Again, you want to analyze the job announcement–and even language from the organization’s other marketing materials–to glean the relevant keywords and phrases. Then make sure your resume includes these terms, preferably multiple times. And remember to copy the keywords, verbatim; even small changes in verb tense or word order can negatively impact your score. (When it comes to applicant tracking systems, project management ≄ project manager ≄ managed projects!)
3. Customization shows you’re invested in the opportunity
It’s fast and easy to shoot off a generic resume and cover letter. Customizing your resume around a specific job is much more of a project–expect at least an hour to do a thorough job. But what you lose in time, you make up for in impact. Your hard work shows!
A well written, customized resume evinces as a certain level of commitment to the opportunity. It shows the hiring manager that you’ve done your research, that you understand the organization, and that know how you can contribute as an employee. It positions you as a serious candidate, not someone applying to each and every job they find.