In today’s world of information overload, where employers are sometimes inundated with resumes from Internet, mobile and other sources, customizing is key. Each employer wants to reserve meeting time for those candidates who are already perceived as highly qualified for the position. They will not likely take time to figure out how you might fit into the organization if the match appears to be merely close. This is especially relevant for those employers who are federal contractors as the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new investigation rules in 2014 strengthening their review of hiring in compliance with required qualifications.
Does this mean that you need to invest a great deal of time in revamping your resume each time you apply? Not at all. Think of your original resume as a master version. Each time you apply for a job, copy the master version and customize it very simply and quickly following these steps:
Review the job posting to determine key terms or phrases that relate to major skills or experience required and desired. Make a list of these keywords, using exact terms or phrasing. Put into the resume keywords that match your abilities by removing and replacing skills and responsibilities irrelevant to the position. There are three sections in which to do this text substituting: the resume’s keyword section, your current or most recent employment description, and the second most recent employment description. Many applicant tracking systems weigh keywords found in recent experience more heavily than elsewhere on the resume. Skills are a better fit in the keyword section; responsibilities, in the experience section.
These strategies also eliminate the stress associated with trying to identify one magical set of keywords to work for all positions. This is a losing strategy because no two jobs are exactly alike. There are usually subtle differences even between similar positions.
Note that customizing keywords will only be effective when the career target is the same. If you’re applying for widely different occupations (such as sales and engineering), you will need to modify the entire resume to suit each target.
This strategy can be highly effective, but it is limited by the fact that applicant tracking systems are often set to include some keywords outside of what is listed in the job posting. These remain unknowns. However, identifying probable keywords from each job posting can go a long way to help increase your resume’s chances to rise above others.