A couple of days ago, I described my frustration at the lack of personalized responses to my ad for a designer. Commenter Mose suggested that instead of just venting, I actually explain how to customize your resume. Good idea! So I've taken a resume I had on my desk (disguised of course) and we're going to customize it to fit a specific job description.

This job seeker is a business development executive who has been selling high tech equipment for the last 10 years. The equipment is sold to a number of different industries and organizations, including the military, manufacturing and health care.


Here you'll see that we focused on his technology expertise, his international experience and his ability to drive revenue gains - all things which are backed up throughout his resume, but none of which tie him to just one industry.

But now he has to actually use this resume to write to people in very specific industries, and they are looking for clues that he will be a good fit. Which means they need to see that he has the industry background and relevant experience to do a great job for them.

Customizing Your Resume Step 1

Examine the job description. Print it out and go through it looking for the key points. Don't just look at the qualifications list because recruiters don't always write everything they're thinking. Look also at the responsibilities, because that will give you clues to key requirements. Here is part of a job posting that I snagged from the web.


You'll see that I have highlighted key points that we need to emphasize in the resume.

Customize Your Resume Step 2

Now look at your own resume and look for areas you can change in order to emphasize the key points you identified in the job description. For example, look back at David's resume introduction. The job posting was titled 'Business Development Executive' so I will remove the reference to 'sales' in the title. I will also change the sub-header and the areas of expertise.

Notice that they use the word 'consultative sales' twice in the job posting. This is obviously very important to them and yet we haven't used that term anywhere in the introduction. David does work this way, so we need to stress that fact. They are looking for someone to 'aggressively grow' their business - this suggests that strong, driving language will appeal to them.

Looking further down his resume, I see that we can put more emphasis on the health care industry and minimize the focus on the other areas (military and manufacturing) because these just muddy the message.

I also see that they use the word 'account penetration' twice, which suggests they have issues in this area. David is very strong here, but we haven't written about his successes using those words, so we will need to make that change.

I will continue to go through the resume this way looking for any opportunity to highlight how David fits this position, but for the sake of this blog post, I hope this is enough for you to get the idea.

Here is part of the revised resume:


See how much more appealing it is? It's hard to imagine a recruiter not wanting to interview David given how well he fits the job requirements. I continued to make changes throughout the resume to ensure that his suitability was clear. But one thing I didn't do - and would never do - is to lie. Sometimes, job postings will list skills you don't have - that's OK. Just work on stressing what you can do without ever making up things that are untrue, because that will always come back to bite you.

Some people think this kind of messaging is best left for the cover letter, but honestly lots of people never even read cover letters, so you have to do it right in the resume.

Making these kind of changes can be the difference between getting an interview and not, so take the time do it right!

Posted on March 13, 2009