5 ways to customize your resume to get the interview

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jan 29

So many times we get caught in the heat of the job search moment.  We saw a position online and we clicked to send our resume.  How many times have you neglected to customize your resume before sending it out to apply for a specific position?  If you’re sending the same resume to every single job then you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping.  If you’ve sent out 100 resumes and have received no responses or only one response it’s time to reassess your job search strategy and take a good long look at your resume submission practices.  In this article we’ll discuss five ways to customize your resume to ensure you’ve positioned yourself as the hiring organization’s coveted ‘candidate of choice’.  It means they picked you over everyone else because you were JUST THAT GOOD!

Read the job description

Better yet, don’t just read it—STUDY IT.  What are they looking for?  Do you have those skills, qualifications, experiences?  You do?  Now look at your resume; are you showing them that you have what they’re looking for?  You can’t assume that just because you think you’re qualified for the position that the employer will too.  You need to spell it out for them in plain, easy-to-find formatting.  Take key points from the job description and then explain in your resume how you’ve met, exceeded, or had experience with them.  When possible, don’t just tell them—show them through quantifiable accomplishments and contributions.

Use a detective’s eye and pull out keywords and critical requirements

If the position reads: ‘REQUIRED SKILLS’ … and has a list of ten things, then you’d better address those ten things somewhere in your resume.  If they are crucial to the job, you’d better address them first.  If there are certain keywords that are relevant to the position (business-to-business sales, strategic operations, accounts payable, budget management), then make sure those keywords are in your resume.

Never, never, NEVER use an objective

They are self-serving and do not provide the hiring manager with the crucial information he or she needs to make an informed decision about whether to call you for an interview.  Here is a prime example: Who, after reading this: “To obtain a position with a stable company where I can utilize my experience and education” is going to jump out of their chair and run to the phone to call and schedule an interview?  Does anything about that statement make you want to hire that person?  Does it tell you anything even remotely related to what they do, who they are, why they’re qualified?  No.  It doesn’t address any of those things.  And besides, do you think they haven’t read THAT a thousand times this week?

Develop your personal brand and USE IT

What are you known for in the working world?  What reputation do you have?  What qualifications do you bring?  And what can you do better than anyone else?  Your personal brand is a combination of who you are, what you do, your talent, passion, and vision for your career, and the organizations that you lead or spend your valuable time working for.  No two people will ever have the same brand.  Your personal branding statement should immediately tell the hiring manager what they can expect from you as an employee and the value you will create or bring to their organization.  Set yourself apart with a powerful branding statement and it will motivate the reader to take immediate action—they’ll call you!

Wow them with a powerful, effective, and personally branded cover letter

Ah, the great debate … to cover letter or not to cover letter.  If it meant the difference between getting the interview and not getting the interview wouldn’t you include it?  Consider it an insurance policy.  Use it; you may not need it, but use it anyway.  Better safe than sorry.  And for goodness’ sake … CUSTOMIZE your cover letter.  A great cover letter distinguishes you from other job seekers; it powerfully positions you as the employer’s candidate of choice, and it prompts the reader to take immediate action.

Here are two more tips to ensure you are adequately positioning yourself as the candidate of choice: When submitting a resume via e-mail, always copy and paste the cover letter into the body of the e-mail.  People will read the e-mail but won’t open the cover letter attachment.  Secondly, use a PS.  People always read a PS.  Think of something creative, memorable, and applicable.  At the very least, write something like: PS: Thank you for your time and consideration of my credentials for the position of XYZ.  I will follow up with you in two weeks to confirm your receipt of my information and to discuss the next step in the process.

There are many ways you can position yourself for success, but they all involve hard work, dedication, and above all else, customization.  If you’re in business you know one price quote does not fit all … different services mean different prices.  It is the same with job openings.  Different position, different company, different requirements.  One resume does not fit all.  Don’t be afraid to change it.  It’s OK to have more than one resume; in fact, in this job market, it’s a must!

PS:  Always follow up with a thank you letter after each interview.  It’s common courtesy, yet no one ever does it.  Just one more way to strategically position yourself ahead of the pack.


Jessica Holbrook is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, and presenter. She has written more than 100 articles that are featured on some of the best career advice Web sites today.

As CEO of Great Resumes Fast, Jessica enjoys collaborating with forward-thinking professionals and executives, identifying their personal brand and value proposition and leveraging their unique talent, passion, and vision to position them as a leader in their industry. Her passion is helping professionals and executives uncover what makes them stand out in the crowd.

For a free resume analysis, e-mail your resume to [email protected] For a free telephone consultation, call toll free at 1.877.875.7706.

  • I agreed you 😉

  • […] 5 ways to customize your resume to get the interviewJan 29, 2010 … If you’re sending the same resume to every single job then you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping. These 5 customizations maximize … […]

  • The problem with sending the same resume to all comers is that every job is a bit different in terms of what the hiring manager is looking for in a job candidate. If you have a CV, a comprehensive document of your accomplishments (or, in US terms, a very, very long resume), it hides your best match to the job.

    As well, what you think is not important could be critical for a job. For example, I applied to a State Government PM position and was asked if I had any State Government experience. I had — some seven years worth of working with the State Government. That's a big advantage if you were in the State Government looking to hire someone; I didn't think it needed to be on the resume and certainly not on every job submission. Yet for that particular job, it was important to add to the resume.

    Even if you do a great cover letter, the next step for the person looking at the cover letter is to look at the resume and find the stuff in there that proves what you said in the cover letter.

    Wish there were a good set of rules for this stuff…

    • Mudi Atjeh says:

      Dear Scot,

      your article is very interesting, well,  related to the article i.e. customize our Cv to every job that is being published in any NGOs or private Companies.

      My question: if we are applying, say for example a Coordinator Position, but we only have one or two years experience to similar position while others are not similar, do you think when we customize our cv we should not put other experiences which is not related to the jobs that we are applying for?

      Many thanks for your response and look forward to hearing from you

      • You should put in all of your experiences. What you need to do is find similar job skills from your old positions that would apply to your new one you are applying for. For example, how you work with a team is a job skill from one job that can apply to another.

        So list all the experiences. Then be prepared to answer why you are changing your direction in your work.

        Good luck!

  • Bugry says:

    I think that you should NOT taylor or customize your resume, that's what the cov letter is about, send the SAME resume to all compamies, show the TRUE yourself, show the company your essence, not some flashy blabla to get you in

  • Cam – thanks for the long reply.

    I think you have captured the bigger job search process while this article looks particularly at one aspect of the job search: learning how to customize a resume to suit the job with your applicable skills.

    The deal is, you need to attack all parts of the job search process to land your next gig, not just the resume.

    Some overall comments:

    1. The vast majority of jobs are found (not landed, but found) through your business network. So “pounding the pavement” is needed; people need to build a large, diverse professional network that they interact with and support. I've written much about this (and more to come), so I won't go into it here.

    2. You need to modify your resume to match the job description with appropriate results from your work. This article shows how to do that. While most advice tells you that you must stand out, which is true, what you really need at the resume stage is to match enough of the job description so that your resume doesn't get thrown into the wastebasket. Standing out comes later in the decision to have you do a screening interview.

    3. In my experience, most people will not submit a customized resume to the job description. It takes too much effort to do so or they don't understand the need to do so. This automatically puts customized resumes into a better position to get the job. You won't be constantly raising the bar because most people are not doing the work. That's why “cubicle warriors” stand out; they will make the effort when most people won't.

    4. You are very correct in that your resume must show results that affect the business in revenue, expense or productivity.

    5. Finally, remember the purpose of the resume is to get the interview. Just the interview. It's not to land the job, it is not to get hired, not to increase your professional network, not to determine the culture of the company….no, just to get the interview. Interviews have their own set of challenges, but the resume is not meant to address them. Too many pundits tout the resume as the way to land the job when the truth of the matter is all a resume can do is get you a shot at an interview. A big thing, but it is not everything.

    Thanks for taking the time to do your comment; it is appreciated.

  • Cam says:

    I find this kind of interesting, many many people post that you have to stand out. But if your suggesting this to people and everyone participates in the process of standing out does not mean that you will have to raise the bar in terms of standing out? I guess technically articles like this and others should be secrets. One book I am reading is called Guerrilla marketing for Job hunters 2.0 and they suggest standing out too. Radically changing your resume to suit jobs, but more so not only applying through HR (who often do not have hiring authority) but to locate senior management and apply through them.

    I have been finding that jobs are out there but being bold is very important, so many companies put up digital road blocks to filter candidates. And even if you have the key words defined in the job posting your not always going to get called in because frankly everyone else is altering their resume and tweaking their keywords.

    I believe that eventually job finding will regress back to the way it use to be, you picked yourself up and pounded the streets talking to and approaching everyone within your area of interest. I think we as humans have gotten lazy and separated the inter-personal approach from business. Strange how business wants bold sales staff to get out there and be in client's faces but at the same time shuts off the same approach for job searchers. No one likes the canvasser that calls at dinner time wanting to sell you another plan, but at the same time someone who is out of work is just trying to feed his family, we often treat them with the same respect as a panhandler.

    Judging by the lack of Humanity I have found in my job search, I believe that this is why there is so much poverty in the world. I use to work in outreach and frankly rather than picking up a fellow human being a person who is working would rather drive past, roll up the window, tint the glass and now pay attention. But anyone could be in that situation at any time in their life, and if you shut out someone now chances are you will need them later on. So many people paint a bleak picture of others because they are fearful of foundational things that happen to them in their lives, they have no truth to support this with the new person they are running on autopilot.

    So regardless of what is on your resume, you still have to be able to write in such a way that you do not trigger some flags in the person reading that drums up unproven fears. And i guess this is why approaching senior management and hiring people is more important, often these individuals are gifted at knowing people and make hiring decisions with ease. So I think your resume need to drive home salable accomplishments things that bring in value and off set wage. Like landing a big sale against all odds, or reduction of internal costs to make the company more profitable. Because at the end of the day business is about profits, and if you can't demonstrate your worth your wage then why hire.

  • […] when it comes to selecting candidates with the best qualifications and results. After all, every job posting brings about hundreds or thousands of resumes. Plus, recruiters are constantly surveying resumes […]

  • […] your resume to land the job for you. Nope. Resumes are designed for one thing and one thing only: to get you an interview. Now, it may be a phone screening interview or it may be a face-to-face interview. But a resume […]

  • […] idea, then, is to ensure your resume most closely matches up with the search criteria of the recruiter because it will move your resume higher in the list of matching resumes to the […]

  • […] From Cube Rules: 5 ways to customize your resume to get the interview “If you’re sending the same resume to every single job then you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping.  If you’ve sent out 100 resumes and have received no responses or only one response it’s time to reassess your job search strategy and take a good long look at your resume submission practices.” […]

  • Great article Jessica with very action-oriented advice. Well done!

  • This is a great article Jessica with very action-oriented advice. Well done!

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