Tailoring Resumes to Target Specific Job Openings

In today’s competitive job market applicants are now competing against hundreds of others with similar qualifications. No longer can you simply state Education and Professional Experience and hope to get an interview. Hiring managers have neither the time – nor the inclination – to search for an applicant’s skills as they relate to that particular opening. It is now the responsibility of the job seeker to showcase relevant skills for each resume submission.


  1. Use online resources to determine job requirements within the targeted industry: Search online job sites such as HotJobs or online versions of newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Times for employment openings. Within these postings will be the job requirements. Each requirement that matches your qualifications should be included in the opening summary of the resume. This provides immediate and relevant data to a hiring manager. It tells them that you are a serious contender for the position, because you have the skills and background to do the job.
  2. Prioritize data within the resume that meets the requirements stated within the job opening: For example, if the opening is for an IT professional, then all relevant computer skills (including years of experience and certifications) should be presented at the beginning of the resume, preferably showcased in a separate section immediately following the Qualifications Summary. Don’t hope that hiring managers will search for this data – they won’t.
  3. Determine what’s most important to the employer – educational background or professional experience – and list it in that order: The most important section should follow the opening summary. However, if the posting does not specify that experience is required, and the only experience in the field is of an academic nature, then Education should always be placed before non-related Professional Experience. The key is to place relevant information first.
  4. Pull out industry jargon (also known as keywords) from the job posting: For example, a posting for a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) would include key words such as GAAP, tax audits, IRS, reconciliations, financial statements, etc. When a candidate’s experience matches those keywords, then they should be included in the opening summary of the resume. (eg: “Additional skills in GAAP, tax audits, other IRS-related matters, reconciliations, and financial statements.”) Failure to provide keywords, especially when submitting to large corporations that use scanning software to search for this industry jargon, will result in the resume being dismissed.
  5. Use the appropriate formatting and tone as it relates to the targeted job: A sales professional, for example, may use a more stylish format and perhaps a more casual approach in wording, if appropriate to the targeted industry. If that industry were pharmaceuticals or educational book publishing, a conservative approach would be employed. The entertainment field or high fashion would warrant a more stylish/casual approach.
  6. Include ONLY what is relevant to the targeted position: If the candidate has numerous degrees in different fields (i.e. Biology, Marketing, Art History), but is seeking a position as a Biologist, only that degree should be listed. Resumes do not contain an exhaustive listing of all academic pursuits or jobs worked. They should only contain what is essential as it relates to the targeted position.
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