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Why you should tailor your resume – and four ways to do it

When you’re up against hundreds of qualified applicants, all vying for your dream job, there’s one simple – but often overlooked – way to stand out:

Tailor your resume.

It’s obviously tempting to send out the same resume with each application – especially if you’ve already spent hours crafting key selection criteria responses and a great cover letter. But, don’t get caught out.

Some hiring managers will look at your resume first – and if it doesn’t grab their attention or match their expectations, it could negatively influence the rest of your application, or at worst, see it tossed aside.

So, here are four things you can do to set your resume apart from the rest, and help you land an interview.

1. Match your responsibilities to those listed in the position description

One of the best ways to show you’re right for the job is to prove that you’ve got the right experience.

Read through the job’s position description and note down specifically what the job entails. Then, for each role listed in your resume, list the responsibilities you had that match those in the position description. Similarly, avoid taking up precious space by deleting any responsibilities that aren’t relevant.

In doing this, you’ll prove that you’ve got the experience to hit the ground running if you do get the job.

For example: You may be applying for an admin job, and one of the responsibilities in the position description is: “Provide fundraising administration support including developing processes and procedures for recording donations.”

In this case, you might list under a previous role: “Developed and documented a procedures manual for the processing of incoming donations.”

Obviously don’t list experience unless you really have it – thorough employers will check with referees to make sure that your CV reflects your responsibilities in the role, so stretching the truth could also lose you the job.

2. List accomplishments that relate to those responsibilities

Once you’ve shown you have relevant experience, you can add to this by demonstrating how you’ve excelled in the past. That means thinking of all of the great – and relevant ­– things you’ve achieved in previous jobs.

Organisations want to know that you’ll not only be competent if they hire you, but that you can get great results for them and help the organisation to be even better at what they do.

For example: You may be applying for a communications job with a position description that requires: “Experience writing content for a mental health consumer audience.”

In this case, you might list under a previous role:  “Wrote 20 successful blog posts focused on mental health issues over a 6 month period.”

3. Indicate that you understand the needs of the organisation and can meet them

A candidate who really stands out is one who has taken the time to understand an organisation outside just the job ad and position description.

Whilst requiring a little more effort, you can alter your resume so that it shows you as someone who will be advantageous to the organisation more broadly.

For example, you might do some research and find out that the organisation has been growing rapidly. In this instance, giving an example of a previous role where you managed or dealt effectively with organisational growth or change could help your CV stand out to a hiring manager.

A few sources you can seek out to help you get a broader understanding of the organisation include:

  • The organisation’s website;
  • Annual reports;
  • Press releases
  • Social media.

4. Use their lingo

Finally – and perhaps most difficult to implement, but still potentially helpful – is to pay careful attention to the way that an organisation’s job ads and website are worded – then try to reflect that language in your own application.

This is particularly important when it comes to the organisation’s name, the way it describes the role, and how it describes its work more broadly.

If an organisation is very formal in the way that it communicates, be wary of using playful and fun language.

Or if an organisation uses a very casual, fun language on it’s website and job ad, then being more casual with your own language will reflect their own culture back to them.

This is important because it will help the organisation identify you as a good cultural fit, as well as showing that you understand the job and the work of the organisation.

This could be as simple as describing your previous employer as an  “organisation” instead of a “company” if you’re moving from the private sector to the NFP world, or ensuring that you use the same words to describe clients or stakeholders as they do. For example, writing “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “homeless people” in preparing to apply for a role with an organisation working on issues of homelessness.

Do you tailor your resume for each job you apply for? Are there any other things that you think work particularly well?

This post is based on an article that originally appeared on Idealist Careers.

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