Jul 20

Mailbag: Customizing Resumes – Part 2

Last week I discussed making big changes to customize your resume for each open position. This week we’ll talk about the “micro changes” that can make a big impact on the success of your application.

The little changes involve the specific words and terminology you should use on the resume. Take your cues from the job description first, and fill in gaps from the website of the organization. The bottom line is that most employers run their applications through a computer program that looks for key words. The resumes that feature a critical mass of the desired key words will pass through for someone to actually see them. There’s really no way for you to know exactly what those key words will be, but chances are they’re in the job description or on the company website. The organization is telling you what’s important to them and the job (through the language they consciously or subconsciously use), so you can show them it’s important to you by using those same words. This doesn’t mean you should copy and paste bullets from the job description into your resume, but if you are trying to describe something you have accomplished that relates to the job, then incorporate their terminology.

One tool to help you figure out what the important keywords might be are word clouds. For example, go to https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/, paste the text of the job description into the box, and watch the system magically assemble a word cloud where words that appeared more frequently in the text appear bigger and bolder in the word cloud. In theory, words that appear more frequently in the job description may be important to the job and helpful key words to include on your resume. Not all of them will be, but it can help you figure some out as a starting point. While it doesn’t necessarily help you find important key words that only appear once in the job description, I find that pulling those words out of their context and separating them into the word cloud does sometimes help me notice them more. Once you’ve noticed the important terms, you can go back to the job description and use ctrl+F to identify where in the context those words fall and how they’re being used. That can help you figure out not just what word to use but what experiences from your background might be related.

Another resource that can help you figure out how well customized a resume could be for a certain job is https://www.jobscan.co/. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Are there other ways to customize the micro portions of a resume that I didn’t mention? Leave us a comment with your ideas!