Customize Your Resume and Cover Letter to Land the Job
Last updated December 21, 2022
When you are applying for jobs or internships standing out from the pack can be a huge feat. There are some studies that show that large companies spend an average of seven seconds scanning each resume or cover letter before deciding whether or not to move a candidate forward! Think about the amount of time you might watch one TikTok before you decide to move on: that is about how long an employer might see your resume or cover letter. Don’t fret, though, because we’re here to help you stand out! Customizing your resume and cover letter for each job you apply for can help your application pop.
Being detailed-oriented and having your audience in mind really helps when you have so little time to make a great impression. Think of your resume and cover letter as a reflection of your personal brand, your personality, and your first pitch. Putting your best foot forward by customizing your application materials shows that you have a high interest in the job, are dedicated, and have the drive to succeed. These are all qualities that all employers look for in job applicants! By tailoring your materials you’re showing your value to a hiring manager, rather than just telling them.
What to tailor in your resume
There are a few key sections to all resumes. There are a few that you can keep the same across most applications and there is some key information that you will certainly want to tailor in order to stand out!
The sections that you can most likely keep the same are your contact information and education. Your resume should lead with your name and contact information. As long as this information is accurate, no need to change it each time you apply for a job. The same goes for your education. Keep your highest level of education up-to-date and you’re good to go.
The first step in customizing your resume is to read (and re-read!) the job description. Think of the job description as the pitch the employer is making to you! They’re telling you what kinds of skills they want to see, what kind of experience they need, and even using words that may be specific to their work culture. As you read these the job description, you’ll notice the keywords they use to describe their work. Wherever possible you should mirror the types of words and phrases they use in your resume!
The two key sections to customize for each resume are your work experience and skills section. These are the two main places where you’ll be able to both mirror the keywords from the job description and prioritize the information that is most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Work experience - it is most common to organize your work experience section in chronological order with the most recent experience first and going backward in time from there. The information within each work experience, however, can be a great place to make customizations. Hiring managers may only be able to read the first one or two bullets per work experience. This means you should be sure to list the most relevant and important skills or actions from that experience first!
- Skills - If you have specific, technical skills that are relevant to the job description having them listed in your resume is very smart. For example, if a customer service job requires familiarity with “point-of-sale” and handling transactions, be sure to list any experience you have with that in your skills section. Be sure to also list any languages you might know and your level of proficiency. Being bilingual and able to interact with people from different backgrounds is a key skill that most all employers look for!
What to tailor in your cover letter
Your cover letter is the best reflection of your personality in any job application. If your resume shows what you’ve done, your cover letter showcases who you are. This is a great chance to demonstrate your writing skills and really tell the story of why you are the best person for this particular job. Just like your resume, tailoring your cover letter starts with research and reading. Things you can research and include in your cover letter are:
- Keywords from the job description and the specific job title
- Relevant experiences in your past that mirror the experiences the employer is seeking
- Company values and culture
- Contact information about the hiring manager so you can include a name when addressing the letter.
Another key thing to look for is if the job application itself has specific instructions for the cover letter. Some organizations may have specific questions they want you to address in your cover letter or want to hear specific details about past jobs. Following instructions is always key to standing out! The main point in your cover letter is convincing the employer why they should hire you, specifically. There is only one you, so be sure to allow your personality and passion to shine through your writing!
Finally, here are some best practices to consider when submitting a job application.
- Don’t repeat the same information on your resume and cover letter. By showcasing different things in each document, you can keep a hiring manager’s attention!
- Be organized and consistent across both documents. Seemingly small things like using the same fonts and approachable sizing can keep your documents readable for all.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Attention to detail and clear communication skills are always important to employers and the accuracy of your application is a great way to show that you have them.
Before you hit send on any job application, be sure to send your resume and cover letter to Get Schooled and our job advisors will get you actionable feedback! We’ll make sure that your job application stands out! If you ever have questions, you can always text a job advisor, too. Just text #Jobs to 33-55-77.