Resume Customization

One of the questions I get asked most often is: “Do I need to customize my resume for each job that I apply for?”
Unless you are applying for only one specific kind of job with little variance to the functions you want to perform (and even then so), the answer is Yes, you do need to customize!  Or, if you’ve only held a particular type of job in one industry for a long time, and are looking for another similar job, you might be able to get away without customizing your resume, but I still don’t recommend it.
Customizing your documents for each job you apply for is essential.  You may not need to completely rewrite your resume or cover letter, but you should specifically address each employer’s needs as closely as possible, and usually that will mean – at the very least – moving things around.
Not all employers will describe their needs in the same way, even when they refer to a position by the same title.  Being able to adjust your thinking and your presentation to address the employer’s needs therefore becomes a necessity. It is always to your benefit to list your skills and experience that most closely match the specific needs of an employer.  And when you address the employer’s needs in a similar fashion to the way the job qualifications are listed, you stand a much higher chance of getting asked to come in for an interview because you’ve demonstrated you understand their particular needs.
Employers mostly want to know that you understand what they do, the business and industry they’re in, and that you know what it takes to do the job you’re applying for. The closer your resume and cover letter address how you can do what they need done, the better your chances of being asked to an interview, and getting hired!
One recent client who was looking for an editorial position, told me she was sending out the same resume to every publisher with a job announcement.  She already has several years of magazine writing and editing experience under her belt, and is feeling confident she can do what an employer needs done.  When I asked her if all the companies of interest were looking for the same skills and experience, she said “No!” but then added, “Since they are all ultimately looking for the same skills – the ability to research, write and edit – why do I need to tell each of them in a different way?”
It’s a good question, and a common one.  I explained to her that since each employer puts their own emphasis on different functions – even though they probably do all want the same things – each of her submissions should reflect what each employer needs.  While the overall content of her resume might be the same – or quite similar – one easily achieved solution is changing the order of her accomplishment statements within her Experience section to put the requested skills to the forefront.  The jobs she has held will remain listed chronologically, but her functional statements under each of those jobs could be moved around to show the needed emphasis.
And, in the context of a writer presenting her resume, she still needed to display her ability to write creatively, so I suggested she use the opportunity to look at her experience and skills more objectively, and find a way to express her qualities strictly in terms of the needs of the employer.
Sure, like most people, she found it hard at first to be objective about herself.  But after a few tries, she realized that as a writer, she could look at the information she wanted to get across to the employer as if it were about someone else, not about her, allowing her to find the objectivity she needed to effectively address the employers’ needs.
Writing about yourself is hard!  It takes practice to gain the perspective of seeing your credentials as you want others to see them.  Try pretending that you’re writing about someone else when you’re doing your cover letters and resumes. See if that helps you present your information in a different way.  Your submissions must demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of what the employer needs, and customizing your documents is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from other applicants.
If you’re still having trouble finding ways to express your relevance and skills,  get in touch and we’ll see if we can help.
Good luck!
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