In the first part of this series, we covered how to draft your master resume. This next part assumes that you’ve successfully gotten past this stage. If not, it is worth reading through part I and making sure you have your master resume already, otherwise this exercise won’t be as helpful. Customizing and enhancing your resume can be done in parallel, but for simplicity reasons, I describe them in sequential steps. First, let’s look at how to customize your resume.
Customizing your resume to the job and company you’re applying to is extremely important. Let’s use the advertising analogy - the more targeted ads are, the more effective they are. Same goes for resumes. When reviewing resumes, recruiters and hiring managers are checking boxes. The more checks your application gets, the more likely you are to be called in for an interview. The more customized your resume is, the higher its chance of checking said boxes.
Here’s a five step approach to nailing down the customization of your resume:
This is obvious, but needs to be reinforced. Knowing about the company you’re applying for helps you understand how to set the tone of your resume. Is this a results driven company like Netflix or a more mission driven one like Guild Education? Are they a multinational like Microsoft or a startup like Chime? Knowing the company shapes how you position your resume and yourself throughout the whole hiring process - it pays out to do this research early on.
Each team within a company has its own subculture. The larger the company, the more true this is. Having a sense of these intrinsic cultures and values can bring your resume to be more in sync with what the hiring manager is looking for. For example, even if the role is calling for a track record of operational success and consistency, you might get the insight that the team prides itself for being innovative. Knowing this, you can tailor your resume to appeal to it. Note that it is difficult to have a clear understanding from the outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring.
The role you’re applying for dictates what goes on your resume. Regardless of the job description, what does the role entail? Is it a high level strategic role or a more operational one? Is it a managerial role, leading a small or a large team? Is it a role of an individual contributor? Is it a growing or a stable team? All these questions influence how you position your resume. You can highlight strengths or you can make up for potential gaps by knowing the type of role you’re stepping into.
Folks focus too much on the job title and only glance through the job description. This is a mistake. Titles are important, but they can be misleading.
The same way you’re selling yourself to the company, the company is selling the job to get the best candidates. The job title is the flagship of this effort, so studying the job description helps further scrutinize what the role entails. Plus, knowing the JD not only helps you better tailor your resume to match the requirements of the hiring manager (see point below), but it also gives you an opportunity to better prepare for the interviews. How to go about it? Focus on the most important requirements of the role - might be hard from the outside, so you have to give your best shot. Once you have these, map them to strengths you can capitalize on or weaknesses you have to address. For example, if you see the first requirement is building competitive assessments and it’s a strength of yours, make note to highlight this. If another requirement is the ability to do data driven recommendations and you’re lacking it, make note to address it with a similar or complementary skill. With the remaining requirements, check to see if there are any you can leverage but it's better to focus on the most important ones. Once you have done this mapping, you can go on to tailor your resume.
Once you know the role requirements and how your strengths and weaknesses match against them, you can focus on the specifics of your resume. The trick here is to match your resume as much as possible to what’s in the JD.
For example, in your resume you have “Built C-Suite level dashboards to report on revenue indicators...” and you see the JD is calling for someone to “Report on key indicators, drivers and trends for the business...”. In this case there’s a partial match of skills and experience, but it doesn’t stand out. One way to make it more aligned is to change your resume to “Built C-Suite level dashboards to report on key business drivers and trends (eg, revenue KPIs)”. Goal is to make your experience match what the company is looking for, so that it’s clear to everyone that your experience is relevant. Goal is not to change your experience to match the JD nor to inflate it in any way.
Once you’re done customizing your resume it’s time to bring it up to the next level. Again, there are many ways to go about it, but I find the steps below to be useful:
Leverage your network to find people that work in similar roles to those you’re applying to and ask them for their resume to compare against yours - resumes from other areas can also be a source of inspiration but are probably less relevant. This might be awkward, but it’s a good way to have comparison points. It’s less about comparing to the other person’s achievements but about the way they present themselves in their resume. Maybe there are key words you didn’t think about, or a way of structuring that makes sense. Maybe it’s the type of letter that you like. Whatever it is, big or small, it can help you improve your resume.
Since you’re at it, and a way to make the above suggestion less awkward is to ask for that person to review your resume. Here though, leveraging folks inside and outside of the field you’re applying for can be of greater benefit. The eye of the outsider sees things differently, things that are obvious to you and folks in your industry might not be to others. There’s value in getting that feedback.he recruiter, for example, might be in the same boat as that person.
As you compare your resume to others and ask for feedback it’s important to focus on the content and also appearance. You can ask for feedback, but ultimately your resume should reflect who you are/how you want to be perceived. It should make you proud, and it should help you achieve your ultimate goal of getting hired. A few tips:
I’ve mentioned several times that your resume is a reflection of you. You also have to be able to speak to it when asked in an interview. So, it makes sense that you practice going over your resume a few times before sending it out. It’s important to be able to cover your story in a way that matches your resume in 2-3mins, and then, be able to elaborate if asked to. Hiring managers expect you to know everything about your resume (huge red flag if you can’t remember something you’ve written there). You gain many points if you can do this with eloquence. Plus, practicing gives you an opportunity to hear how your resume sounds and potentially catch things that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. Even better if you can find someone to practice with.
Leveraging referrals is less about the resume itself, but this is important to get your resume across. If your application comes through a referral, it is more likely to be seen and considered. This is because it is assumed the referral is already a vetting step, and therefore, the resume is, at a minimum, worth being looked at. Referrals can only do so much, but they can definitely help. Plus, it’s also a great opportunity to ask that person to take a look at your resume and provide invaluable insider feedback.
And that’s it. This should get you to a great resume! Two final reminders though. First, this is not the end. Your resume is never finished, it is always a work in progress. Either because you can improve it, you’re gaining more experience, or because you’re applying to a different role. The solution is simple: make sure to update it regularly. Final reminder is to set proper expectations. Don’t expect every application to turn into an interview or a job offer - there are many factors at play during the hiring process and most fall outside of your control. Just make sure to persist. Best of luck!
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