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Written by Emily StokerEmily Stoker

Targeted resume: tailoring your application for success

11 min read
Targeted resume: tailoring your application for success
A winning job application needs to be tailored to the job position. A successfully targeted resume builds a story from your experience about why you’re right for this job!

In the ever-evolving landscape of career advancement, a well-crafted resume is still your most powerful tool. However, not all resumes are created equal. In today's fiercely competitive job market, a one-size-fits-all approach just won't cut it. A targeted resume is your best friend.

A targeted resume offers a tailored approach that can significantly enhance your chances of success. Picture this: You've discovered the job posting of your dreams. One that perfectly aligns with your skills, experiences, and aspirations. You're eager to apply, but you realize that your trusty old generic resume won't do justice to the opportunity at hand. This is precisely where the art of creating a targeted resume comes to the forefront of your job application strategy.

In this comprehensive blog post, we'll delve deep into the world of targeted resumes. We will cover:

  • What is a targeted resume?
  • The five steps to create your targeted resume
  • How to approach the writing stage of your targeted resume
  • Other ways to customize your job application

What is a targeted resume?

A targeted resume, otherwise known as a job-specific resume, is a resume that has been adapted to suit a particular vacancy or role. Everything about that resume has been carefully curated and edited to suit one specific opportunity. The idea is that this will truly pay off when it comes to making job applications. It’s about quality over quantity. 

You want to target the jobs that you truly think are a match for your passions, experience, and skillset. A targeted resume will make it abundantly clear that this is the case and that you stand out against the other candidates.

Expert tip

The number 1 reason to create a targeted resume

If you’re not familiar with the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you should be. This algorithmic software filters through job applications and makes sure only the most relevant make it to the hiring manager. That means that to make sure your resume is seen by human eyes, it needs to beat the ATS.

You can do this by making sure that your resume includes the important keywords and language that correspond with the position you’re applying for. This is the top argument for why you should tweak and target your resume for each job application.

What is the difference between a targeted resume and a general resume?

Many people apply for jobs without considering how well their resume spells it out for the hiring manager—not to mention the ATS—that they are the right fit for that particular job. They instead rely on a recent copy of their resume which has been written with care, but not the attention to detail needed. A targeted resume makes it undeniable that you are an excellent fit for the job at hand. You’re more than an interesting candidate who may or may not possess a competitive edge for the skills and experience needed in this job role.

Statistical insight

CNBC reported that 24% of hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds looking at each resume. That’s not very much time to communicate that you’re the right fit for the job. Customization is a sure-fire way to pass the skim test!

How do you create a targeted resume? 5 Steps

The steps to a targeted resume are pretty simple. Sure, it’s a little more time-consuming, but these steps are some of the best ways to use your time to personalize your job application and make sure that you stand out for the role.

1. Research the job

Before you get excited and put your resume and the rest of your job application together, make sure that you really understand what the role entails. Just because you think you know what the job title means doesn’t mean that you’ve truly understood what the role is asking for.

Consider the basics such as the day-to-day requirements of the role and the tasks that you’ll regularly be asked to carry out. But also look into the company that is recruiting for the role. What is the culture like there? Do you understand the bigger picture of what they do and how you’ll be contributing to it? 

Bonus points if you can research the job ad, their LinkedIn, and company website to get a further understanding of what the department and team structure is like and what they’re generally responsible for.

2. Identify key requirements

Now that you understand a little more about the job’s context, let’s get specific about what you need in order to land it. On a very simple level, this will come down to the key skills, experience, or even qualifications that the job vacancy calls for. This step is essential to building a strong foundation for your targeted resume later on.

Read carefully through the job ad and highlight any requirements or preferences that are mentioned. Some will have a higher priority than others, but it’s good to get an overall view of what the hiring manager has in mind. The main place where you can find these could be in the “requirements” list that you find on many job listings. However, the job description may also be hiding some requirements or bonus traits that are highly preferred. You should highlight these, too.

3. Showcase relevant experience

Now that you have a list of the requirements needed and an understanding of the wider context of the job at hand, it’s time to brainstorm how you respond to these points. Go through each point that you’ve highlighted in the job ad. For each one, make a note of one of your personal skills, experience, and qualifications that are relevant. 

How do each of these things you have to offer directly respond to the job’s requirements?

4. Tailor your resume accordingly

This may be the easiest step now that you’ve done the research and analysis needed to lay the foundations. It’s time to go through your resume and turn it into a targeted resume by adding the most important points that you’ve identified in the previous steps. We will explore the best ways to do this in more detail in the subsequent “writing your targeted resume” section.

Expert tip

Inspiration for your targeted resume

With the help of this guide, you have the knowledge to start making your own targeted resume. However, if you would like some more inspiration, consider checking out our library of job-specific resume examples.

5. Proofread your targeted resume

No targeted resume is complete without a final check. Don’t lose the forest for the trees after you’ve updated the details in your resume to target it for this particular job role. It’s time to zoom out and check that everything looks and reads the part. Any typos or grammatical issues? Does the design still hold up? 

Writing your targeted resume

After laying the groundwork, it’s time to get down to business. It’s time to make the necessary changes and create a targeted resume that is super job-specific!

Crafting the summary of your targeted resume

A hiring manager will know in a moment whether you have a targeted resume or not from reading the resume summary. Your summary should be three or four sentences long and explain why you are the right professional for this job in particular. 

Make sure the points that you identified in the job listing are mentioned in this section. This could include points such as how long you’ve been working in the niche or industry, relevant qualifications, or even experience using a specific skill set the employer has asked for.

Building the employment history of your targeted resume

To make sure that the employment history section of your targeted resume feels just as job-specific, you can use a similar tactic. However, this section may require a little more thinking. Since each of your previous roles should include a subheading explaining your previous role and where it was held, you should also include some bullet points underneath each subheading explaining your responsibilities and achievements in each job role.

The best way to target your resume’s employment history section is through the way that you construct the bullet points associated with each previous job role. Find ways to echo the keywords from the specific requirements of the job you’re applying to. This means using similar language, but also brainstorming examples of your responsibilities and achievements from the role which showcase what it is the employer wants the person who fills the role to do.

Expert tip

Curating your employment history section

If you have enough experience, you can make your resume more targeted by considering which previous roles to include or omit from your previous employment section. Keep in mind that resume gaps may raise questions and prevent you from being invited to interview. 

Honing the skills section of your job-specific resume

Your skills section is a great place to make sure your resume is ultra-tailored to the job position you’re applying to. Plus, it’s an easy section to adjust for each job-targeted resume. Your skills section is essentially a list of the most important skills for the job that you possess, in order of importance. This is another opportunity to echo any of those all-important requirements while always echoing the language used in the job description. 

Specifying the education section of your job-specific resume

The education section of your resume tends to change very little between targeted resumes. However, if you have relevant modules that you studied at college or high school that aren’t already mentioned explicitly, then add a bullet point underneath the corresponding qualification’s details.

You can also add a bullet point underneath a qualification if you have a particular achievement from your time at the establishment, such as awards or extracurriculars that prove your suitability to one of the requirements for the job.

Key takeaways

Tailoring your resume to the job at hand is just one way to significantly improve the quality of your job application.

  • Researching is an essential step to knowing how best to customize your application and make a targeted resume that is more likely to land you an interview.
  • Before your targeted resume makes it to the hiring manager, make sure that you mirror the language used in the job listing to be in with the best chance of making it past the ATS!
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