How to Tailor Your Resume for a Job in 3 Steps

Should you customize your resume for each job application? Yes! Here’s why updating your resume is a good idea.

By Erin Coursey, iHire | February 05, 2019

Woman taking notes, working on laptop

Most experts recommend tailoring or updating your resume for each job application you submit. For many job seekers, however, this just seems much too time-consuming to fit into their busy schedules.

Really, should you customize your resume for each job application? Do you need a resume for every job?

The simple answer is yes, you do. But customizing your resume does not mean you have to recreate it from scratch! Start with the basic document, which should include all of the general details on your career. Then you can begin updating your resume in three simple steps.


Professional preparing to tailor his resume for a specific job application


1. Do the Prep Work

When it comes to determining how to tailor your resume for a job, the first step is research. You need to familiarize yourself with the specifics of this job ad and the expectations it comes with. Set yourself up for success by completing these tasks:

  • Identifying keywords: Of all things to include in a resume, keywords are some of the most important. Without the right terms, your resume may not make it past the employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS). Grab a highlighter and start marking the most essential phrases from the job posting.
  • Investigating the employer: You will need to do this if you make it to the interview, but you can also boost your chances of getting a call back by researching prospective employers ahead of time. If you find any particularly prominent philosophical statements or company values, jot them down. Incorporating these principles in your resume will show hiring managers that you’ll be a great culture fit for their organization.
  • Determine what makes this position different than others you’ve applied to: Every job is a unique combination of company culture, job responsibilities, and benefits. The best way to stand out from the crowd is to address how you are especially qualified for the particular role in question, not simply for your general field. This is why the answer to the question “should you customize your resume for each job application?” will always be “yes.”


Job seeker working on updating his resume


2. Update Select Parts of Your Resume

Remember: while you do need a tailored resume for every job application, you don’t need to rewrite the entire document. There are three basic things to include in a resume that should change depending on the specific job posting: the core competencies, summary, and the order of your accomplishments.

  • Summary: Tailor this section based on your employer research and knowledge of the specific position. How has your career so far aligned with the company values you uncovered? What qualities do you have that make you the right fit for this organization?  Why are you the best candidate for this role?
  • Core competencies: If you are too pressed for time for fully updating your resume, you should at least tailor your core competencies. It’s quick and easy to integrate job-specific keywords to create a skills section that will both get you past the ATS and highlight your top strengths for human readers.
  • Order of accomplishments: Whether your accomplishments are listed beneath your previous job descriptions or in a career highlights section, resume best practices dictate that they should always be organized with the most striking achievements at the top of the list and less impressive ones at the bottom. Which accomplishments are most impressive to individual hiring managers may differ based on the specific requirements and expectations for the opening. Review the order of your bullet points in light of the unique qualities of each job posting and rearrange them as necessary.​


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3. Go Back and Polish

You should always proofread and edit after updating your resume to avoid sloppy mistakes and ensure that you are meeting resume best practices. More than 50% of hiring managers will immediately throw out your application if it includes spelling errors, grammar slip-ups, or too many clichés.

Finally, plug your new, customized resume into iScore Resume Match and see how well it matches up to the specific job posting. Not sure how to tailor your resume for a job and fix the issues found in your resume? Get in touch with iHire’s team of certified resume writers for the expert help you need!