Applicant Tracking System

Dear Bossy #6: Should I customize my resume for each job I apply to?

Dear Bossy,

A friend who is a career coach mentioned that she thinks customizing a resume for each job you apply to is the new trend. It sounds like something that would take forever, and I’ve always felt job searching is partially a numbers thing. (The more you send out, the better chance you have of getting a response.) I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. : ) thanks!

Job Hunting in Jersey


Dear Job Hunting in Jersey,

I don’t know if it really is a new trend. Customizing anything makes you appear like a good fit. Resumes are not a list of everything you’ve ever done, they are curated highlights. And the highlights really matter for the job. Especially with the increase of Automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These scan resumes and look for keywords that are listed in the job description and how high of a match rate they find on your resume.

So at the BARE minimum, you should grab some key words from the job description and pepper them throughout your resume (you can use some more than once). Don’t be haphazard here, but use their language. Different companies use different words to describe the same thing, so use the words they chose in their job description. Add a Skills Section and specifically list out any skills they are looking for. Know the computer programs they require, list those. Have 5 years managing staff, and that is part of the required skills, list that. You are trying to look like the person they are looking for and what better way than to say you have exactly what they are looking for!

LinkedIn has a handy new feature on their jobs pages - a “how you match” section, which is basically looking at skills they list in the resume and those you have on your LinkedIn page. Use this as your cheatsheet. I sometimes like to copy the entire job description onto my resume and grab exact phrases and paste them onto my resume. It helps to nail the wording and make sure I’m not missing important things.


When I hear someone say they have “applied everywhere” and aren’t getting any response, I often tell them to focus on fewer jobs they want/care about/could get. What are you good at, what do you love to do? You are more likely to come across in your application as genuine and passionate about something you really are genuinely passionate about. Give yourself a break - apply to fewer jobs! But tailor your resume and cover letter. Research the companies, network with people who work there or know who works there. Higher quality applications will pay off.

And - if you have a friend who is a career coach - listen to her. She is right on.

Good luck in your job search. Let me know how it goes.



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