You’re a resume pro. Three impressive internships, a volunteer position, and extensive academic projects made you an entry level expert in your field. But, getting that first real job means tailoring your resume in way you’ve never had to do before.
You know you’re supposed to tailor your application materials to each individual job posting, but you’re not getting any responses from hiring managers. What next?
We asked résumé expert and career content writer Brian Stewart to take a look at a résumé from a real job-seeker we’ve dubbed “Marie Marketér.” The name and identifying details may be fudged, but the résumé is real—as is the job description. Brian shares some suggestions on how Marie can analyze the job description and make sure her résumé is a perfect match.
When you’re writing your résumé, you should do your best to figure out exactly what the employer is looking for in their ideal candidate. You want to know what skills, experiences, and proficiencies they want you to have for the tasks they want you to perform.
The easiest way to get an insight into their mindset is in the job description they post. In the general description, requirements, and responsibilities you can usually pick out a few keywords or sets of related phrases that point towards the company’s main areas of concern.
Here’s an example:
Click on the image to see the enlarged version.
Looking carefully through this job description, you can see that there are four things that the company really seems to focus on: communications, branding, digital or online content, and data or analytics. They’re each mentioned directly and indirectly several times throughout the job description, so you should absolutely be focusing on the skills and experiences you have that are relevant to those keywords.
With that said, let’s look at Marie Marketér’s résumé and see what she can do to improve it accordingly:
Click on the image to see the enlarged version.
Suggestions for improvement
- Add a value statement
You can start your résumé off strong with a value statement, in which you summarize the value you could bring to the company as an employee. In this case, you want to specifically outline the skills and experience you have relevant to those four areas identified from the job description above: communications, branding, digital/online content, and analytics.
One thing you should NOT do is lie by saying you have skills and experience that you don’t—the company will find out, and they won’t be happy when they do. Be sure to only mention your areas of expertise that you can back up throughout the rest of the résumé.
- List relevant courses and projects
In your education section, don’t bother mentioning your GPA since employers don’t care about it—what they do care about is what practical skills you have. To that end, you should be listing the courses you took that are relevant to the important keywords.
More importantly, you should be listing two to three key projects where you displayed practical skills related to communications, branding, digital/online media, and analytics. Elaborate, in a bulleted list, the problems that the project posed to you, the solutions you used to overcome them, and what the tangible results were.
- Cater to the keywords!
In Marie’s work experience section, she has three very relevant and valuable internships that add up to a year’s worth of experience. What she needs to do now is make sure that each entry is catered to the important keywords. If she can, she should have one bullet point mention an achievement, responsibility, or project that shows her excelling in a task related to each of the four keywords.
Her video marketing internship, for example, should try to cover digital and online content. Meanwhile, the marketing and communications internship should obviously cover communications. If possible, the branding and analytics keywords should be covered where they can be throughout the three internships.
- Cut out everything irrelevant
When it comes to how you fill out the rest of your résumé—listing other activities, volunteering, skills, and hobbies—you don’t have to make sure everything is catered to just the keywords even though they should be the focus. However, you should omit anything that isn’t in some way relevant to the job in general.
Proficiencies with various software programs are relevant, as are your volunteer experiences that involve creating ads and online content, so definitely include them. However, your hobbies of cooking and sea glass collecting will not make your résumé but could break it, so you should absolutely not include that type of information.
Non-relevant volunteering can be a nice touch, showing your dedication and willingness to do outside work in your life, but you should only include these points if you have the room to do it. Furthermore, you certainly don’t have to include so much information about them if they’re not relevant to the job.
Here’s my suggested rewrite of Marie’s résumé.
Homework time! Now you know how to match your résumé to a job description! Next time you’re applying for a job, spend some time analyzing the job description. Identify four or five key concepts like Brian does from this job description. Then make sure you include these keywords and experiences in your résumé.
[Editor's note: We often hear advice that college students and recent grads should keep their résumés to a single page, but in this case, Brian's revised version of Marie's résumé comes to two pages. Brian said that Marie just had so much relevant experience that he couldn't fit it all into one page. So the lesson here? Sometimes it's okay to break the rules. Just be critical when deciding whether the experience you're including really needs to be included or if it's better to save it for your cover letter or interview.]
Brian Stewart is a Career Content Writer at ResumeTarget.com, the only professional résumé writing company that offers a professionally written résumé, coupled with the guidance of recruiters, to guarantee that your résumé will get results for people of all career levels. Connect with them on Twitter.