One of the first things I hear from new clients who are in career transition is:
“I can’t customize my resume to every job ad I respond to. That’s impossible!”
Everybody wants one resume that they can use to apply to multiple jobs. The problem with that: you can send out endless resumes to apply for dozens and dozens of jobs, but your generic resume won’t make it to the top of anyone’s list. So you’ll never get to the interview stage.
To ease the transition, the first thing I do with a new client is polish and perfect the generic resume. We make sure there is clear, concise, descriptive information; we use strong action verbs that describe what clients really did (and avoid weak verbs like “helped,” “supported,” “assisted with”); we add quantifiable information wherever possible.
Once the generic resume is perfected, we move on to the dreaded customization:
First, this requires a careful reading of the job ad.
Then on a second reading, we highlight keywords in the ad.
If it’s a good match for the candidate, there will be obvious places to make substitutions on the first past through the resume (change “projections” to “forecasts” or change “communicated with” to “acted as liaison”).
On the second pass, you really have to step back and think differently about your skills and experience to identify ways in which your profile matches the job requirements and qualifications (if the job requires a certain type of evaluation and analysis, you might have a different experience, but one in which you developed the requisite evaluative and analytical skills; if so, you have to work that into your resume).
By the 4th application, customization is second nature–you won’t need any help to keep sending out applications regularly. Maybe you’ll be submitting 2-4 applications each week instead of 10-20, but at least each one is customized. Soon you’ll need to start carving out time for interviews.
One way to shift your perspective as you get started on customizing your resume is to use Grammarly‘s infographic (below). This shows you ways to think differently about how you frame your resume as well as keywords that you might use to customize it. Note the overarching perspective: the successful candidate makes the process about the employers–their organization, their perspective, and their unmet needs. Then you can craft your resume using powerful words that illustrate how you meet the employers’ needs.
Here are two final takeaways:
Word choice really does matter–down to the individual job application.
The application and interview processes are not about you; they are about the organization, its needs, and finally your ability to meet those needs.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org