Are You Using the Same Resume for Every Job Application?

Nancy Anderson
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Resume writing is an anxiety-inducing experience for many people, so the idea of creating custom versions for each job application doesn't inspire much enthusiasm. Yet, making the extra effort to personalize your professional resume is the best way to stand out and show hiring managers you're right for the job. You don't have to start from scratch every time. Instead, focus on customizing five crucial elements of your document.

1. Career Summary

An objective statement or career summary typically gets the prime real estate at the top of a professional resume, and recruiters see it before anything else. Your summary has to grab attention and sell you as a compatible candidate right away to keep people reading. While you're probably applying for similar roles, every company has different priorities, methods and cultural values.

One employer might care most about the status of your previous positions, while others might be impressed by social responsibility or international experience. Use this space to briefly mention past roles, achievements and professional interests that make you a good fit for the company.

2. Work Experience

Employers are interested in work experience that's most relevant to the job. Don't be afraid to switch between professional resume formats, depending on how well your recent work history fits the position. A functional resume is useful for grouping themed skills or roles together, letting you put the most impressive information first, rather than focusing on chronology. For example, if you're pursuing a leadership role for the first time, you can include sections such as "Project Management" or "Leadership Experience." That way, employers are less likely to care that you don't have a long list of leadership titles.

3. Job Highlights

The bulleted lists under each position are your chance to quantify your accomplishments. Avoid vague generalizations, and list measurable results that prove you're qualified. Use the original job posting to determine what problems an employer needs you to solve, and tailor your bullets to each situation. Let's say an employer is looking for a skilled social media manager to build a blog audience from the ground up. Your professional resume should showcase solid facts, such as subscribers, shares and conversion rates for past blog projects.

4. Professional Skills

No two jobs are exactly the same, so you can easily miss out on a great position by stressing the wrong skills. Employers use applicant-tracking systems to spot keywords, and a strong professional resume has to rank high in search results before it reaches a recruiter. Make sure each custom resume targets the same skills and strengths in the job posting, and mirror the employer's language to boost your chances of getting noticed.

5. Tone and Layout

Using the right visual aesthetic can help you demonstrate your compatibility with the company culture. Standard resumes are fine for conservative employers, but many creative or unconventional companies welcome people who take bold risks. Thoroughly research company websites and social media to understand what your target employers value in potential candidates. If creative approaches are well-received, consider using a nontraditional layout or medium to present your professional resume.

While resume writing takes practice, tailoring your application can help you land more interviews. After all, you don't need to churn a large number of professional resumes if you learn to target highly compatible companies.

Photo courtesy of buyalex at


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