Tailor your resume for the job at hand

tailor resume paticia-serna

(Image: Patricia Serna)

Everyone knows that you can't throw a single resume at a bunch of job openings and hope that something sticks. This has led to the common misconception that you need more than one resume to land a new role.

The truth is, you only need ONE resume that you tailor (or customize) for each job description. Let's talk about how to tailor your resume to a specific job description.

A “keyword-rich” resume is a tailored resume

Every resume writer will tell you that it's important to have an accomplishment-driven resume that's keyword-rich. All job descriptions have specific duties listed that are requirements of the job they seek to fill.

That means the job seekers who stand out among other candidates are the ones who take the time to make their resume match the job description's keywords.

Your hard skills and soft skills are your keywords

The first step in building your resume doesn't begin with your resume – that's putting the cart before the horse. You first have to know which skills you possess.

The best way to identify your skills is to make a list. Obviously, you know what your skills are, but having them written out helps when it's time to wordsmith your resume.

▸ Hard skills: These are skills that you've acquired over the course of your career. These are often measurable and are obtained through education and experience. Some examples include project management, technical skills, marketing, presentations, and financial analysis.

▸ Soft skills: Soft skills are a reflection of the personality and character traits which allow you to perform your job well. Some examples include leadership, emotional intelligence, being a team player, adaptability, and work ethic.

Compare your skills to a job description

Let's take a look at the Medical Assistant job description found in the article entitled “Sample Job Descriptions to Help You Enhance Your Resume.”

▸ Job description title

Just like the title of the job description is the first thing you notice, the title or headline of your resume will be the first thing a hiring manager notices. The term “Medical Assistant” should also appear in the title or headline of your resume.

▸ Position summary

After the title, you'll see a paragraph or two with a high-level overview of the position. This is an excellent place for finding keywords. Here are some of the relevant keywords in the Medical Assistant job description:

  • Examine, treat, and interview patients
  • Measure vital signs
  • Patient charts
  • Blood samples
  • Prepare lab specimens
  • Costs of care
  • Dictation
  • Greet visitors
  • Medical assistant certificate

How many of the keywords can you correlate with items on your list of hard and soft skills?

▸ Responsibilities of the job

After the position summary, there's almost always a bulleted list of responsibilities; these are key tasks that you must perform on a daily basis. As you go through these bullets, you'll see a lot of information repeated from the summary.

While you don't want to be repetitive on your resume – redundancy is frowned upon – you do want to put proper emphasis on the appropriate keywords.

In revisiting the job description for Medical Assistant, the first five bullets relay the same basic information from the summary. However, you'll notice that the bullets provide more detail.

For example, while you already know that you will have to greet visitors, the bullets show that not only do you have to greet them, but you must also accompany them to the exam room. This means that patient relations is a key component of the job.

▸ Job qualifications

While the Medical Assistant job description that we're using here doesn't specifically state the qualifications required, you'll often need to review this section of the job description for relevant information. This is where you'll find out the number of years of experience and the level of education you need, among other things.

It's not enough to simply list skills

As you weave your skills into the verbiage of your resume, avoid copying and pasting directly from the job description. You have to provide details and, more importantly, the accomplishments you made surrounding those skills.

Many people get overwhelmed when having to come up with achievements, but it isn't a difficult thing to do. Let's look at an example.

The Medical Assistant job description says that one of the skills you need is the ability to take and record vital signs. One great way to note this skill using an achievement:

Employed advanced knowledge of patient interaction, medical office procedures, and charting to take and record the vital signs of approximately 20 patients per day.

How do you know if you've got a properly tailored resume?

The best way to know whether your resume is ready is with a TopResume review – it's free! – which tests whether it will pass an ATS scan, has the right keywords, is aesthetically pleasing to a hiring manager, and positions you as the candidate companies seek. And if it still needs work,  TopResume’s professional resume writers can also help you craft the perfect document.

Marsha Hebert is a freelance writer and the owner/operator of Always Typing, which provides resume- and cover letter-writing services for jobseekers.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on TopResume.

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