How to customize your resume for a job to stand out? Comprehensive tutorial & tips from an executive recruiter

Summary:


This is a comprehensive tutorial from an Executive Recruiter's point of view to show you how to tailor your resume for each job you're applying for with many tips & examples hidden underneath. It'll make you stand out from the crowd of job applicants who keep sending the same resume to hundreds of jobs and hardly get any interviews...

Note: Click "the link ➣" in each box below to show/hide more tips on resume & jobs

For most job seekers, your resume and cover letter are the only way for you to communicate with the hiring company when you're applying for a job.  To increase your chances of getting job interviews, you should focus on quality not quantity, and customize your resume with effective strategies. You’ll learn my strategies in details on how to customize your resume for a job in five steps: I. Customize resume content, II. Optimize resume keywords, III. Make the best first impression, IV. Make your resume ATS friendly, and V. Create reusable templates.

I have been on both sides of the job market for a long time (details on About Us) as an engineer in three countries, as an executive recruiter running my international recruiting firm in the Bay Area and hiring for tech companies in the US and China, and as a career coach for seasoned and young professionals. I’d like to share my insights on jobs here at MichelleYouBiz.com to help you prepare for your next career move. Keep reading to learn more and follow us for free career advice.

【简历定制指南】


如何在找工作时鹤立鸡群?

定制简历有方,就可事半功倍!

转发给亲朋好友,助其职场成功✌️!


How to customize resume to stand out - comprehensive tutorial tips from executive recruiter Michelle You © MichelleYouBiz.com
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Why customize your resume


You may look okay in a one-size-fits-all suit, but wearing a tailored suit definitely will make you look great and stand out from the crowd by showing off your best features without exposing your weak spots. Similarly, when you customize your resume for each job you’re applying for, you’re presenting yourself in a tailored suit for each potential employer, you can highlight your specific qualifications targeting each job, and stand out from the crowd of job applicants who don't put efforts on customizing their resumes or just don't know how to do it. 

Tailoring your resume for each job may take a lot of time and effort, but if you use the following procedures I've developed with effective strategies, you can do it more efficiently to produce well polished resumes, and significantly increase your chances of getting a job interview for each job you’re applying for. Let's start from what jobs you should apply for.

Focus on quality jobs


How well you can customize your resume depends on how thoroughly you understand each specific job, and both demand a lot of time and effort. So, it’s important to focus on quality jobs that fit you well instead of applying for hundreds of jobs that you’re not sure about.

Before you start, you need to make sure you already have a master resume which contains ALL information relevant to the jobs you want to apply for. Check out this blog post to learn how to create your master resume if you haven't done so. Then, look for your first job to apply for online.

After you've found the first job you want to apply for, do the following:

1) Read the job description from the top to bottom very thoroughly, make sure you fully understand the job description and believe that the job really fits you well. Read this post on how to read a job description, secrets behind the JDs and my tips and strategies for job seekers.

2) Find more information about the job, talk to people who know the company if possible, or search online for information about the company, their products, the team, hiring manager, online reviews, etc.

3) Study the job description with all the information you have collected to make sure you fully understand the JD, then follow the five steps below to tailor your resume for each specific job.




Five Steps to Customize Your Resume


I. Customize resume contents


Use the job description as your guidance, based on your understanding about the job, use your master resume as your template, rewrite the content of your resume for this specific job by following the principles below:

1) Remove all contents that are irrelevant to this job.
2) Highlight your skills that are essential to this job.
3) Describe the most relevant projects and your achievements and impacts.
4) Mention other relevant skills and experiences with less details.
5) Condense the contents into 1-2 pages, maximum 3 pages if you have a lot of relevant experiences.


Resume tips from Michelle You ➣ (click the link to show/hide)

For subsequent jobs in the same category as the first job you’re applying for, you don’t have to use the master resume to rewrite your resume anymore. Instead, you’ll use the JD as your guidance, based on your understanding about the job, use the resume template you've created for this job category (detailed hereafter), just twist a little bit here and there to tailor your resume for similar jobs.




II. Optimize resume keywords


1. Make sure you have matched all the keywords used in the job description if possible. Repeatedly use the keywords in your resume for the essential skills required by the job, but use them naturally, do not stuff these keywords in your resume and play tricks, it would backfire and hurt yourself. 

Job & Resume Tips 💬 from Michelle You (click the links below to show/hide):
My solution for you is to get a book to learn the skill for one to two days and then make your decision based on the following rules:

1) If it’s easy for you to master the basic concept of the technology or tool, and your other essential skills are very strong, you can state in your resume that you have basic knowledge of this skill and add the relevant keywords into your resume; and then continue learning the skill. This way, you'll make yourself a better job candidate during your job hunting.

2) On the other hand, if it’s too hard for you to grasp the concept within such a short period of time, it’s better for you to move on to another job that fits you well.


There are two options for you:

a) Just leave it out of your resume, it won’t hurt you too much.

b) If you have enough time, grab a book to learn the skill for a day or two and then make your decision based on the following rules:
    1) If it’s easy for you to master the basic concept of the technology or tool, you can state in your resume that you have basic knowledge of this skill and add the relevant keywords into your resume; and then continue learning the skill. This way, you'll make yourself a better job candidate during your job hunting.
    2) But, if it’s too hard for you to grasp the concept within such a short period of time, just leave it out of your resume.


There is a huge difference between marketing yourself and lying about your skills, experiences or education in your resume. You may get a job interview with fake information in your resume, but once people find out that you have lied about one thing on your resume during an interview, you will lose your credibility completely, and it’ll be very hard to convince people to believe that your other real experiences and skills are true. 

2. Spell out each acronym at least once, and use technical terms the same way as they have been used in the job description.

For example, before you use “AI” throughout your resume, use “Artificial Intelligence (AI)” first. But, if the full term “Artificial Intelligence” instead of “AI” has been repeated throughout the job description, you should use the full term more often too. You should clarify any abbreviation with a full name, for example, Electronic Engineering (EE), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and etc. 


3. Mimic the job titles and job functions in the job description, but only do it within reason.
For example, if your current job title is Java Engineer and you’re applying for a “Software Engineer” job, then you may match it in your resume by changing your job title to “Software Engineer” with details about your strength in Java as well as C++ if that’s the fact. But only do it within reason, don’t stretch it too far and never lie about your experience or your education, otherwise, you’ll lose your credibility in the job market and hurt yourself in the long run.


III. Make the best first impression


Usually, like most other recruiters and hiring managers, as an executive recruiter, I would take less than 10 seconds to read a resume and decide whether I should continue reading the rest of the resume or move on to another job applicant. So, it's important to reorganize your resume to make the best first impression possible in the first few seconds to the recruiter, hiring manager or anyone who will read your resume. 

More Tips 💬 from Michelle You 👇 (click the links below to show/hide)
The information right below your contact information on the first page of your resume is the most important content to make your first impression. You should use this part of the resume as your “marketing billboard” to highlight the most critical information that is beneficial for your job application. This information must be in line with the job you’re applying for, and may vary depending on your background and seniority.


There are many ways to promote yourself on your “marketing billboard”. For example, you can write a brief summary highlighting your best qualifications for this specific job, and/or list your relevant essential skills upfront for this specific job.  

If you’re fresh out of a prestigious college, your education relevant to the job may be your most proud thing to show off there, as well as your other strengths for this specific job. 

On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned professional, which school you have attended may not be as important as the professional experiences you had, so instead, you may want to show off your accomplishments and skills there that are closely related to the job you’re applying for.

There is an easy way to test if you have done a good billboard marketing job on your resume - just show your resume to your friends and family, and let them tell you their first impression of your resume within the first 10 seconds. Make necessary adjustments repeatedly to polish your resume.  


Spending more time to fine tune your “marketing billboard” for the best first impression possible. Once you catch the viewer's eyes in the first few seconds, most likely, they will continue reading the rest of your resume, and you will have a much better chance to get a job interview.

IV. Make your resume ATS friendly


Nowadays, many qualified job seekers can't get a job interview because their resumes are not ATS friendly, or more broadly, not software friendly. Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software that manages the recruiting and hiring process, including job postings and job applications. Most large companies are using ATS nowadays, smaller companies are catching up too.

Even if some employers are not using any ATS, they may use other tools to organize and search information from resumes they have received. So, it’s important for you to make sure that your resume can successfully pass through ATS or any search tool before a human will read it.

The best way to deal with any software is to follow one fundamental principle - keep things simple and follow the most standard approaches as detailed in the tips below. 


If you follow my advice hereinabove to customize resume content and optimize resume keywords, your resume will be both human and ATS friendly in terms of content and keywords.

To make sure your resume’s formatting is also ATS friendly, so that your resume will be processed correctly without missing any information or messing up any formatting, follow the steps below:

1) Use the most common and traditional resume template - the reverse-chronological resume format is preferred.

2) Keep your resume’s formatting simple, as if you’re writing it on a typewriter not a fancy word processor - everything flows sequentially, no images, tables, columns or charts, header and footer should be avoided too.

3) Choose one of the commonly used fonts for the entire resume. For example, Times New Roman or Arial, they may be the most reliable fonts accepted by any new or old software.

4) Font size 11-12pt may be an optimal choice. It's hard for human eyes if the fonts are too small, but you’ll have less space if the fonts are too big.

5) Avoid foreign characters and special characters that you can’t find on a standard US English keyboard.

6) Use standard phrases for resume headings that an ATS will be looking for, such as “Experience”, “Work Experience”, or “Professional Experience”, instead of an uncommon heading. 

7) Use this simple way to check if your resume’s formatting is ATS friendly: copy and paste your resume into a basic text editor such as NotePad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac, and make sure your resume can be displayed properly there.

8) Save your resume into two files: a Word file, .docx format is preferred; and a PDF file, make sure texts are selectable, and never save your resume as an image.

9)Always submit your resume in the file format instructed in the job description.

10) If there is no instruction on resume’s file format, and 
(i) if you’re applying through emails, then send both Word and PDF files and let them choose.
(ii) if you're applying online where usually only one file can be attached, then, sending your Word file in .docx format will be the safest bet, as long as you follow the formatting tips hereinabove.

11) If you’re an artist or designer, instead of being creative on your resume formatting, creating the best portfolio possible will be more helpful for your job application.


V. Create reusable resume templates


You’ll need to spend a lot of time and effort to create a customized resume for the first job you’re applying for. But then, your life will be much easier, you just need to save this customized resume as a resume template for all subsequent jobs in the same job category.

If you’re also looking for jobs in another different job category, you need to create a customized resume as a template for jobs in that category.

For example, if you want to apply for both Data Scientist and Data Engineer jobs, you need to follow the above steps to create a customized resume for the first data scientist job you’re applying for, and save the file as a “resume template for data scientist jobs”.

Then for the subsequent jobs as Data Scientist, you’ll use the JD as your guidance, based on your understanding about each job, use your “resume template for data scientist jobs”, just twist a little bit here and there to customize your resume for similar jobs.

When you’re applying for the first data engineer job, you should use your master resume as a template to create a customized resume for this job, then save it as your “resume template for data engineer jobs” for all subsequent jobs in the data engineer category. Do not use your resume for data scientist jobs to apply for data engineer jobs, they are different jobs and should be separated into different job categories.

Furthermore, the job requirements for a data scientist at Bank of America may be quite different from a data scientist at Amazon, you may need to further categorize these jobs you’re applying for. For example, you may need to create a resume template for “data scientist jobs - banking”, and another resume template for “data scientist jobs - eCommerce”, and so on. 


Other things to do


There are some other things to do before you apply for a job online, including: writing a tailored cover letter, proofreading everything, matching your LinkedIn profile, and finding an internal reference if possible. Check details in the following tips.  



1) Write a tailored cover letter for each job.

After you have a thorough understanding about the job you're applying for and created a customized resume, it'll be easier for you to write a cover letter tailored for this specific job. A cover letter is more personal than your resume, and will reveal your personality through your writing style. Write with your passion for this job and convince them why you're the best candidate for this job. 

Usually, you’ll find a brief instruction about cover letters in the job description. So, again, it’s important to read the job description carefully and follow the instructions.

2) Proofread your resume and cover letter. Check spelling and grammar, make sure your resume and cover letter are error-free before you send them out. One small mistake might ruin your job opportunity completely.

3) Matching your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is consistent with your resumes you have submitted. The easiest way to do that is to keep your LinkedIn profile with enough but not too much details, and highlight all your skills on your master resume. Also make sure your other social media presence won’t cause troubles to your job applications.

4) Find an internal referral if possible. Most of the hiring are done through internal referrals, particularly at big companies. Find someone you know at the company you're applying for, a professional in the same field would be the best referral for you. Otherwise, following the instructions on the job description to apply for the job directly.

5) Continue looking for another job until you land a job. 

In short, if you can focus on jobs that fit you well, use the above system and strategies to tailor your resume and cover letter for each job, you’ll significantly increase your chances of getting job interviews and landing a job faster.


There is a lot of information to digest, you may want to bookmark this page for your future reference. I hope this post will help you land your dream job, or help your family members and friends in the job market. Follow us for more free career advice like this.


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