How do I customize my resume?

It’s a common piece of advice: “Customize your resume each time you apply to a job.” But what does it mean? It just means that you need to edit your resume to highlight what is most important each time you apply to a job. Here’s how to do it without spending too much time, without being dishonest, and without looking like a completely different person each time you apply to a job.

1. Scan the job description for key words that you should highlight in your resume. These words can be skills, requirements, experiences, certifications – basically anything that seems to be important to the employer when they describe who they are looking for. Customizing your resume is about including the right elements and making sure they are visible – not inventing experience, skills, or knowledge you don’t have. The key for customizing is that you are just bringing important elements to the forefront.

2. Have a “Highlighted Skills” section at the top of your resume. A three column list of skills near the beginning of your resume is an easy way to bring skills to the attention of an employer. It is also an easy place to begin customizing your resume when you apply for a job. Once you’ve discovered the most essential requirements, update this section first.

3. Use your highlighted skills updates as a guide. Once you’ve updated the skill section – use that list as a guide to review the rest of your resume. Make sure that those key skills rise to the top of your bullet-ed lists for each position on your resume, so employers can easily see in which positions you used those skills.

Okay – I’m about to change gears here. I’ve given you three tips above that will help you quickly customize your resume -so that you are free to do the stuff that really matters in your job search. Which leads me to tip #4…

4. Don’t spend all of your time on your resume (here’s why). Get a Referral.Now that you’ve tailored your resume and have a good idea of what is important to the employer – also speak to a current employee and get a referral. The referral is the most important part. A referral will get your resume looked at and has a good chance of getting you a call for an interview. I’ll talk about cultivating referrals in my next post. Breathe, it’s simpler than you think.

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