Past Issues

August 15, 2016

CareerFitness: Optimize Your Resumes

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CareerFitness: Optimize Your Resumes

Peter Weddle, Author of the new guide to the secrets of job search and career success, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System

No, that's not a typo. You don't have a single resume. You have many. In fact, the key to landing a great job is to have a unique and tailored resume for each job to which you apply. That's the first of two-part tip that will optimize your resumes for success.

Part 1: Tailor Your Resume To Each Job Ad

Smart job seekers don't waste their time shotgunning out the same resume to dozens of different jobs. Just as no one wants to be treated as a cookie cutter applicant, no organization worth working for whether it's a global conglomerate, a college or university or a local cookie shop wants to be thought of as a cookie cutter employer. Yet, that's exactly the impression a job seeker gives them when they apply with what is clearly a generic resume.

So, what happens to such documents? They're ignored. And, so are the people who sent them. They have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a job offer.

The first tip for optimizing your resumes, therefore, is to tailor that document to the specific requirements stated in each (and every) job posting to which you respond. What does tailoring mean? Organizations have different cultures, values, goals and expectations, so jobs in those organizations even jobs with the exact same title almost always emphasize different aspects of the work.

One employer, for example, might focus on the need for teamwork and several years of experience in performing a job, while another might emphasize the ability to work alone and produce quantifiable results for the very same kind of position. A tailored resume will reflect those differences in the presentation of a job seeker's skills, experience and accomplishments.

Part 2: Tailor Each Version Using The Language In The Job Posting

The English language has many different ways to convey the exact same information. There is no standard definition of the tasks involved in a sales job, an engineering job, a teaching job or even a C++ programmer job. As a consequence, each job description is unique in the way it articulates what work must be done, how it is to be accomplished and with what outcomes.

Now, for most job seekers, that means they describe their experience and accomplishments using the vocabulary and phrasing that are most familiar to them. And, that's a problem for two reasons.

  • First, when resumes are received, many employers now store them in computer databases that are searched by recruiters to identify potentially qualified applicants. If a recruiter conducts that search using a set of words that are different from those on a job seeker's resume, that job seeker will be ignored by the computer, even if they are qualified for the job.
  • Second, people best recognize important information when it is expressed in language they understand and are comfortable with. Moreover, recruiters are often not experts in the career fields for which they recruit; they evaluate applicants for even highly skilled positions, but they themselves have not worked in such jobs. For that reason, they rely on the vocabulary of the hiring manager to determine if an applicant is qualified for a specific opening.
Therefore, the second of this two-part tip for optimizing your resumes is to tailor each version using the language that appears in the employer's job posting. You must have the skills and experience you're describing, of course, but if you do, present those qualifications with the vocabulary and phrasing the recruiter and hiring manager will recognize and understand.

Thanks for reading,

Described by The Washington Post as "a man filled with ingenious ideas," Peter Weddle has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and He's also written and edited over two dozen books. Check out his blockbuster guide to the secrets of job search and career success called Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System.

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