Dear Matt: I've been reading about the importance of tailoring a résumé to a job description. What does that mean? How can I possibly change each résumé? Who has the time -- and why do I need to do this?
Matt says: If you don't have the time to show a potential employer that you are the best candidate for the job at their company, where you are likely one of hundreds of applicants, then why should they invest time in you to bring you in for an interview to see if you are the right person for the job?
"You either make the time to do this or you make the time for a longer search," says The Job Search Queen (thejobsearchqueen.com), Joanne Meehl, a Twin Cities-based career coach and job search consultant. "Today, companies expect to be courted. Your competition is courting them. A boilerplate resume is so vanilla, it just doesn't cut it anymore."
One of the biggest misconceptions job seekers make is thinking the résumé gets them hired. The résumé gets you in front of the hiring managers and to the next step -- the interview. So to do that, you should make sure your résumé shows you have related experiences and skills asked for in the job description.
Do this by reading the job description and by matching your experience to the requirements of the job by using keywords and phrases that show proof of accomplishment. For example, if you are applying for a sales management position, don't say "Previously worked as sales manager in printing industry." Instead, say this: "8+ years experience leading teams of up to 20 while leading company to record profits three consecutive years. In 2010, generated $4.5 million in new business development through social media and new marketing campaigns." If possible, use a results-oriented example like this for every skill listed.
Check the company web site and see what language the company uses to describe its people. If they refer to associates as "team members", use the same language. Other phrases, such as "seen as the 'go-to person' to solve problems," "takes initiative," and "sought out by managers for expertise," are important because they show that you go beyond the basics of the job.
And there should be nothing basic about your résumé.
"Whether or not it's screening software [that] first reads your résumé, or it's human beings who first read it, seeing language that is familiar to that company and its needs and culture means that the company will quickly see you as a match to them," says Meehl. "This tailored résumé will do its job -- it will get you an interview. And isn't that what you're after?"
Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice.