“I’ve been applying to jobs for a while now, and I haven’t received any responses. What’s going on?”
As a Career Development Specialist, this is a question I hear often. My first response is always to ask, "are you sending out the same resume for every job posting?" If your first thought is that you might not exactly know how to tailor your resume for the position, then, it’s time to talk about how to put your well-written-resume-without-errors that has appropriately-quantified-bullets and pristine formatting to the individual job descriptions into action.
You have probably heard that a cover letter is a catered, one-page introduction or application letter for each job posting, but it is less commonly known that your resume should be customized for each posting too. A carefully crafted resume to match the job description you are applying to is important because of applicant tracking systems (ATS). For your resume to rank highly, your resume needs to contain the right keywords to grab the employer’s attention— I mean for the bots to discover that you are a well-matched applicant first.
It might seem that the solution is simply adding a skills section filled with those keywords. BOOM! You get right past the ATS, but it’s not that simple. Yes, adjusting your wording for every job you are applying to takes time and effort, but you will see that it’s well worth it.
After the ATS filters your catered resume through, it goes to a hiring manager to decide which top-ranked candidates will get an interview. Resume writer meet your new best friend: Tailoring. What tailoring will accomplish over a skills section that is filled with keywords, is to paint a clear picture to the ATS and the employer/hiring manager that you are the most relevant candidate for the job. A win-win.
Now that you know how to get your resume into the hands of a recruiter – it’s time to hand-tailor that resume and prove you are the best fit for the position. This is the part in a one-on-one appointment with me where I would hand you the job description and a highlighter. You would start by highlighting all of the requirements that you feel you have the experience to show. Remember, the job posting is the most valuable tool when tailoring your resume. It lays out for you what experiences the employer is looking for.
A well-comprised job description is usually divided into three sections (listed in order of importance for resume tailoring): Qualifications (read as requirements), Responsibilities (read as bonus!), and Overview (read as extra requirements and potential cover letter material). When reading through the job description look for key action verbs, duties, or skills, and/or technology experience that is unique to the position. If you have experience with any of the above, highlight it. Also, look for important information about the type of work you will be doing that is unique to that position. If you have that unique experience or something that is closely related to it, make sure to feature it on your resume.
When it comes to keeping your resume up-to-date, my tip for you is to keep it current throughout college. It offers a great starting point for catering to your resume if you have an updated copy, but if you don't, take a look at Build a Resume, Action Verbs List, and Resume Checklist to start building yours. Also, the "tasks" section of an occupation on ONET is a great place to start when trying to write better bullets for your job duties.
If you have been updating your "master resume" experience throughout, you will use it as a base to tailor. Place your master resume beside the job description you have just highlighted. Now, check to see where in your experiences you can provide the best examples of the skills, duties, and/or technologies that you highlighted in the job description. Does the master resume do a good job of showing that you are a good match? Does it paint a clear picture that you have the exact experience the company is looking for?
If it is not crystal clear, consider adopting some of the words or phrases in the job description to help paint that clear picture of your fit for the position. Several words can mean the same type of work, but using the job posting's terminology will eliminate any room for misunderstanding. If the job asks for experience with specific software or specialized instrument for your field, make sure you name that specifically in your resume.
Once you have tailored your resume, you’re almost ready to apply . There are several websites out there that will scan your resume as an ATS would.
You can copy and paste the job description into the system and upload your resume and it will give you match rate results. The match rate is calculated based on the frequency match of the skills, keywords, job title, and education level between the job description and your resume. The recommended "good match" is 80 percent. (Source: JobScan.co)
Then, once you get it to a good match, it's time to APPLY!
Don’t forget, we’re always here to help you at Career Services! There are Career
Development Specialists in every career pathway that can help you with any step
of the resume-writing process.