You’ve probably read somewhere that you should “tailor your resume.”

Okay. What does this mean and why should you care?

Let me paint a picture for you.

It’s Christmas, and you’ve gotten a pair of black socks. Again. You even made a list this year containing all the things you want and need. But you got black socks anyway. You don’t want or need black socks.

Sending an untailored resume is like giving a hiring manager a pair of black socks for Christmas.

They made a list of everything they want and need.

Hint: it’s called a job description.

But you gave them black socks anyway.

So, unless you want your resume to go the way of unwanted socks, you need to tailor it. The good news is that tailoring a resume to match a job description is a piece of cake.


1. How to Tailor a Resume to a Job Description

So what is it that hiring managers want? Skills.

A typical job description is nothing more than a list of skills and experience that a hiring manager wants an ideal candidate to have. So, the skills listed in the job description are your keywords.

These keywords also make it easier for hiring managers to weed out irrelevant resumes quickly and painlessly. They must sift through hundreds of black sock resumes, so they only spend an average of six seconds scanning each for their buzzwords.  

Logic follows that your resume should make good use of the keyword skills from the job description.

So, how do you make a resume keyword friendly?


2. Decide Which Keywords To Prioritize

For starters, you will probably find it helpful if you create a master list of your skills.

Think of all of the things you’ve learned in past jobs. Everything. Even the burger flipping you did in high school.

Write them down and consider ranking them from strongest to weakest or from most impressive to trivial. It will give you an idea of which skills you feel are important.

Now, go through the job description and highlight every skill that’s listed there.

To get a sense of what skills are crucial for the role, try to find at least two or three other job descriptions. Make a note of skills that appear across multiple job listings.

You can also have a look at professionals’ LinkedIn profiles to see what people put in their skills section. Again, repeat skills are either mandatory or very desirable.

Select a couple that match your strongest, most impressive skills and make sure that these show up in the top third of your resume (either in the resume summary or your experience section) and that they show up again at the top of the list in your skills section.


3. Categorize Your Skills in Three Easy Steps

You can categorize the remaining skills as such:

  • Job-related – skills that are mandatory for the job.
  • Transferable – skills that roll over from one job to the next.
  • Adaptive – survival skills used for optimizing basic human interactions.

The job-related skills, while mandatory, are usually not your most impressive skills. The key is making them easy to find so that a hiring manager can mentally tick them off as quickly as possible.

Job-related skills include things like the ability to operate a particular piece of machinery or work in a specific programming language. You either have the skill or you don’t. Put them near the top of your resume in your experience section and draw attention to them with numbers and achievements.

Your transferable skills are things like your ability to use Microsoft Office. They are usually commonplace, and they should go in your skills section.

Finally, adaptive skills are often the vague adjectives you can find scattered throughout the job offer. They include things like “disciplined” or “discrete.” While intangible, adaptive skills are often very desirable because they are self-learned.

If these skills rank high on your personal list, then they should go in prominent places on your resume. Again, try to offset them with accomplishments to illustrate how using them allows you to create real value in the workplace.


4. Check Your Accuracy and Consider a Rewrite

Want to make sure you did a good job?

There are a couple of tricks to see how well you added keywords to your resume. The first is to upload your resume to a cloud generator to identify the most prominent keywords.

If they aren’t your keywords, you may want to consider a rewrite.

Another tool that works well is Jobscan. The app works on the same premise as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Many hiring managers are now using ATS to manage their workload. The system matches keywords from the job description with keywords in your resume.

That’s why it is also important to add some of the keywords from the job description verbatim.

When you use Jobscan, you drop both your job offer and your newly tailored resume into the tool, and it will automatically compare the two texts. Ideally, you want to see an 80% or higher matching rate.

If not, Jobscan also provides some great tips to help you further optimize your resume.


Key Takeaway

Tailoring a resume isn’t very difficult once you know what it is and what you’re doing. The important thing is to take the extra time to get it done.

In the age of personalization, it isn’t enough to send one generic resume out to ten employers.
Now, you have to send ten resumes out to ten employers. Otherwise, hiring managers will feel the same disappointment when they look at your resume as they do upon receiving black socks at Christmas.


About the Writer

Natalie is a career expert and blogger. She writes about how to create successful resumes so that you can land your dream job. Follow her on Twitter @Natalie_Severt

Get everything you need to create a career you love by signing up for the newsletter.

The following two tabs change content below.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

3 Comments on How to Make Your Resume Match a Job Description

  1. Dan
    September 20, 2016 at 10:50 pm (5 years ago)

    That is a very good article. Though I wonder about this. In my field, most of my jobs are listed on job boards. Every description is different. Most boards only allow you to store one CV. If I am subscribed to several boards, that send me several job alerts each, every day. In reality where do I have time or even the motivation to tailor each and every reply/application, every day? One or two yes but I can have days where I respond to 8, 10 or even 12 job alerts. If I don’t reply pretty quick then the other 399 applicants will respond before I do.

    • Sarah Landrum
      September 22, 2016 at 1:52 pm (5 years ago)

      Great point, Dan! When it comes down to it, you can’t tailor your resume for that many applications per day. I recommend finding the standout opportunities that you want the most and tailoring your resume for them!


1Pingbacks & Trackbacks on How to Make Your Resume Match a Job Description

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *