8 Simple Ways to Customize Your Resume

Last Updated Feb 3, 2011 11:20 AM EST

Generic resumes don't work. Virtually any career coach or HR professional will tell you that to stand out from the piles of applications, you need to customize your resume to the job you want. Most job hunters will protest that they don't have an unlimited amount of time to spend crafting their resume. True, but customizing your resume doesn't have to be an arduous, time-suck. What follows are eight simple steps to creating a resume that will stand out.
  1. Identify the key phrases. Print out that job posting, or save it to your desktop. Then highlight the key phrases: "High energy environment," "Work with key leadership and clients," "Frequent travel,'' "HTML Experience."
  2. Make your language match. Now go through your resume and replace what you've written with these key phrases where it makes sense. Note! This is not lying. This is about careful word choice. Your resume says, "Met regularly with key leadership teams," but the job posting says, "Interfaces with senior management," so use their language instead. Both mean the same thing. Studying the job post's key phrases may also remind you of important skills or experience you may have left out. "Oh--they want someone with Six Sigma Experience? I have that!"
  3. Make every word count. Items that aren't directly relevant to this job should be deleted, or moved to the bottom of each section. That temp job in another industry? Gone. Likewise, look to condense and reduce the clutter. You don't want the recruiter or hiring manager to spend so much time reading about things that don't matter that they gloss over the things that do matter.Those three jobs at Brand X should be lumped together or highlight only the most impressive job. Remember: What you edit out for one application may prove useful for another.
  4. Give the right skills top billing. If you're applying for a project manager position, make sure your mad project management skills are prominent, but if the next application is for an analyst role, highlight your analytical skills in that resume. Is this a job that requires doing complex computer work? Itemize the software you know and what you have done with it right at the top of the resume. You want the human who sees this to immediately say, "Hey, she knows [blah blah blah] program!"
  5. Think outside the resume. As a general rule, your resume should only be about your career and your education. However, what if you're applying for an accounting position for an interior design firm? Then that flower decorating class you took for fun should find its way onto your resume. An interior design firm may find it appealing that you're not only great with numbers but interested in design. That's an advantage over your competitors.
  6. Don't get carried away. You should be tweaking your resume so that it accurately reflects the experience you have that matches the job requirements. Don't lie and don't exaggerate because you may not like the consequences. As long as you are honest, you won't have to worry about an employer seeing two different versions of your resume . Any reasonably savvy recruiter or hiring manager will understand exactly what you're doing.
  7. Proofread it--over and over and over and over again. One set of eyes (especially yours--it's very difficult to spot your own mistakes) is not enough. Ask at least 3 other people to look it over. Check for they're/there/their, your/you're and rogue apostrophes. Spell check will not discover those kinds of mistakes, and grammar checks are almost worthless when it comes to a resume since you're not using complete sentences. If your resume is in a language other than your native language, get a native speaker to proofread it.
  8. Celebrate! You've got a first-rate custom resume, and there's a bonus: The time you spent writing it was great preparation for an interview as now. After all, you've studied the job posting, figured out how your experience applies to the job, and thought about extra experiences that enhance you as a candidate. If you have to create another one, you'll do it in half the time.
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Resume by The CV Inn, Flickr cc 2.0