When you’re updating your resume, you have to fight the impulse to dive in and start writing. Most people want to update once and be done with it, then send the same document to a slew of employers.
This may seem like a time-saver, but it really can cripple your job hunt. Employers, like the rest of us, want to feel special. If you send the same resume you sent to their competitors, they’ll feel it in their recruiter-bones. Their eyes will glaze over and you won’t get called in for that interview.
Convince Them, Fast
A typical recruiter or hiring manager takes 6 seconds to read your resume. In the time it takes to tie your shoe, your fate could be decided with a company. Depressing? Sure, but facing that reality means you can position your document to stay in the game.
You have to speak their language from the start. You have to be up-to-date and you have to sound like you’d fit into the culture. You may want to rely on your cover letter to get you in the door, but many of them don’t get read. Reading the job ad closely can help give you the edge over the competition.
Read 5-10 job descriptions on indeed.com or LinkedIn. And when I say read, I mean read it like your career depends on it, because it does. Get out the highlighter. Find common ground in the ads, themes, and also note what is particular to that company or position. The devil is really in the details with job hunts.
Know at the Top of the Wish List
I recently read over some job advertisements for a client targeting entry-level HR positions. The usual skills were there: Microsoft Office suite, organizational skills, the ability to multitask. But the one listed on the top every time was the quality of being trustworthy. In this job, workers have access to confidential documents listing people’s salaries and benefits packages.
This should get you thinking. How do you gain trust in your current role? What is entrusted to you? Do you have keys to secret rooms, literally or proverbially?
If a skill or quality is on the top of an employer’s list, it should be on the top of your list of accomplishments in each job in your work history. Give those details to earn their trust.
Match Their Style
How formal is the writing in the job advertisement? Is it very buttoned up, loaded with industry acronyms, or is it packed with jokes and more laid-back in tone? Match their tone with your resume.
Under Armour is a great example of this. Here’s a blurb from their jobs page:
“Working with us means one key thing: no matter what you do, you see every day and every project as a chance to push your field forward. Here, we’re looking for people who do more than good work. We’re looking for the Best in Every Game.”
Guess what? A corny sports metaphor might fit right in on your summary section at the top of your resume. Don’t be afraid to include a phrase word-for-word.
For instance, instead of:
IT executive with 15+ years of success in marketing, product development, specializing in process improvement during corporate mergers.
IT executive with a history of pushing my field forward….
[then add details about process improvements, etc]
Now, that same phrasing might annoy the heck out of this company, so be careful to rephrase for the next application if needed.
For instance, this DC law firm highlights “exceptional opportunities in a collegial and exciting environment.” You can tell that the hiring manager might not want to hear about how you moved the ball downfield.
You May Need to Follow Special Instructions
Do they have special instructions, like including your resume and cover letter as a single PDF document? Yeah, do that. It could be a test to see how well you follow instructions. Are you instructed not to call? Make sure your cover letter doesn’t close with “I’ll follow up with a call next week.” This could put you in the circular file.
A note on weird titles. Sometimes a company gets a little… creative with their titles. For instance, Microsoft was reported to have a Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence (basically a cloud research position). You could include it at the top of your personalized resume, like so:
Target: Galactic Viceroy of ….
Or you could just reference it in your cover letter. But chances are, if the company is bothering to offer this type of job, they want someone with a sense of humor. Make sure you show that in your applications in small ways.
With a close reading, you’ll pick up so many clues. Think of it as detective work. You’re looking for clues to getting this job, and you’ll tailor your document to prove you’re the perfect fit.