You've been told to tailor your resume for each job application, but what does that mean? Learn how to update your resume for each job and why it matters.

May 21, 2020 12:53 pm

By Shelley Hunter

Why Tailoring Your Resume is Important

I know it's a pain to update your resume for every job application but doing so is essential. In fact, targeting specific jobs with variations of your resume is more important now than ever before and here's why:

Resumes Get Searched Electronically 

Before the job search process turned digital, you sent your resume along with a cover letter to a prospective employer. Then a PERSON would read the letter and scan the resume for a potential fit. But nowadays, a computer takes that first pass. If your resume does not have the keywords the search engine is looking for, you'll never get called in for an interview. So you have to update your resume to match what the computer is searching for just to have a chance of being selected.

YOU Need to Make an Honest Assessment Yourself 

That "easy submit" button on most job search websites makes it TOO easy to blindly submit your generic resume to every opportunity within the ballpark of what you want to do. But throwing your resume at a bunch of jobs that don't truly fit your skillset is a waste of time and doing so can be detrimental to your confidence level if you don't hear back from anyone. I believe that going through the exercise of tailoring your resume will help you to get clarity on what you have to offer an employer.

Though you may not meet every requirement of a job posting, I encourage you to put your effort towards those jobs that are a relatively good fit. And if you see a job that you really want, then spending the extra time to update your resume to match it will be well worth the effort.

woman handing a resume

How to Tailor Your Resume for a Job

When you're just starting the job search, it's natural to focus your resume on those elements of your work and life experience that you believe will be most marketable. But as you start to explore job postings, you're likely to see other jobs of interest. Unless you guessed correctly when you created your resume the first time, you will for sure need to make some updates to target the jobs you really want.

Here's the process I use to tailor a resume to a specific job:

Read Each Requirement...and be honest with yourself

As you go through the job requirements, be honest about your abilities to meet the employers needs. If the company wants someone with social media experience and all you've ever done is post to your personal Instagram account, then you're not really a fit. You can still hit "apply" and send your application (along with a prayer), but don't expect to get a call back.

Address Each Requirement in Your Resume

For each requirement that you can fulfill, update your resume with a detailed description to prove that you have the skills necessary. For example, if the job requires customer service experience, your resume might say something like, "5 years working in a fast-paced customer service environment, handling inbound phone calls, emails, and social media postings. Met and exceeded service level agreements while maintaining a positive and professional attitude towards customers at all times." If the posting lists specific systems or processes, include your experience with those tools as well.

Use the Same Words

Since your resume is being scanned by a computer, the words must match the search terms the employer is using. For example, if the job posting asks for a mobile app developer but your resume says you spent five years as an iOS developer, your application may not be picked up even though you have the experience necessary, Take the time to update your application with the words the employer uses.

Address Shortcomings in your Cover Letter

If you are short just a few items on the list of job requirements, you might address those gaps in a cover letter. For example, you might say, "though I do not have experience working on a professional social media account, I post on several personal social media accounts and use a variety of apps (e.g. Canva, Boomerang, etc.) to format posts with filters, text, video, and more. I have also taken a couple of online classes to be prepared for this type of work. (It might not help, but adding these words to your application may increase the chances of getting through an initial selection.)

Read these blog posts If you want to list missionary work on a resume or a church calling on a resume. You'll find tips for making each more relevant to the workplace.

Though tailoring your resume to specific jobs takes extra work, I think it's better to submit 5 quality applications over 100 generic ones. Not only do you improve your chances of getting picked for an interview, but you should also increase in confidence as you discover that you are well qualified for a few jobs you really want.

And if you aren't qualified, consider ways in which you might obtain the needed experience such as volunteering to do similar work, taking a class, or taking a lower-level position to gain basic skills.

That's what I think, anyway.


Shelley Hunter

About the author

Shelley Hunter is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with a passion for helping people up-level their careers, return to the workforce with confidence, and identify their strengths so they can find the career they were born to do. She is also a work-at-home mom who left a traditional career as a programmer to be unapologetically home with her kids.

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