Throughout your job search, you’ve probably heard this piece of advice repeatedly: “Update your resume for every application.” But you likely just put in a ton of effort into getting your resume just right. What exactly needs be changed?
While the task may seem time-consuming or even overwhelming, tailoring your resume to a specific job is actually quite straightforward. And according to iHire’s Certified Master Resume Writer, Sidney Green, it is always well worth the effort.
“The good news is this: Modifying your resume according to a job description does not require a complete overhaul of all the hard work you’ve already done,” Sidney started. “To change your resume to fit a specific job, you should focus on three main areas within the document: the Career Target title, Summary, and Key Skills.”
The secret to updating those three resume sections? Focusing on keywords.
With today’s employers relying heavily on applicant tracking systems (ATS), using the right keywords is essential to staying out of the resume black hole. An ATS is a type of automated recruitment software that makes the hiring process smoother for employers by filtering out approximately 75% of the resumes submitted. If a resume does not contain certain keywords, the ATS will not move a candidate onto the next hiring round. That's why customizing your resume to contain the keywords an ATS is scanning for is a smart strategy. To break through the ATS barrier, start by customizing the following three sections of your resume:
1. “Career Target” Title
This first step to tailoring your resume to a specific job is also the simplest: Change the title of your resume, also known as your “career target.”
“The career target is essentially your ‘call-to-action’ for the employer. It lets the hiring manager know what the candidate is applying for, so it’s important to change this based on the job title you’re interested in pursuing,” Sidney said. “For example, if you’re applying for a Senior Video Producer role, the career target should read ‘Senior Video Producer.’ If you’re applying for an IT Technician, the career target should read ‘IT Technician.’ You get the idea.”
“The ticket to updating the summary of your resume is to note the keywords used in the job description,” Sidney advised. “So, for example, if the introductory line of your resume says, ‘Creative, versatile, and results-driven Senior Video Producer with extensive experience in filming, pre-/post-production, and scriptwriting,’ the keywords in that sentence are results-driven, filming, pre-/post-production, and scriptwriting.”
But what if the keywords currently used in your summary aren’t in the job description?
“If these keywords are not in the job description for the position you’re applying for, identify keywords that are in the posting that align with skills you possess, and substitute those skills for the existing ones,” Sidney elaborated.
If you work to align your resume’s summary with the qualifications the company is seeking, you’ll increase your chances of getting past the ATS (and hopefully, get a call from a hiring manager for an interview).
3. Key Skills
Like the summary section, keywords are the key to tailoring the skills section of your resume. However, you should also heed Sidney’s advice and avoid copying from the job description, word-for-word:
“If you see that ‘technical direction’ is not a keyword noted in the job description’s list of required candidate skills but ‘project management’ is, swap those out in your resume. However, it’s crucial not to copy and paste every keyword from the job ad into your key skills, especially if it’s a skill you do not have or couldn’t elaborate on in an interview. Instead, make sure these keywords are relevant to you and what you have done and can do for the potential employer.”
You heard it straight from the resume writing expert: With just a few quick revisions to your resume, you can significantly increase your chances of catching the attention of hiring managers and landing more interviews.
Don't have a resume to modify yet? Build your own from scratch using our Resume Writing Playbook.