Have you been working hard to update your resume? Have you made sure to translate all of those military acronyms? Do you think you have it ready to send out to every company and every job in which you have interest?
Well, think again.
Your resume should be different for every role to which you apply.
There are a lot of tips on good resume writing. They’ll tell you how long it should be; how many bullet points each section should have; what font to use; whether or not to put the date of when you graduated, etc…
But the first step in writing a good resume is reading the job description.
A job description is full of clues as to what the company is seeking in an ideal candidate. Those clues are in the company description, the position summary, the list of responsibilities and they are certainly in the requirements section. Before you even think about hitting that “apply” button, take the time to make sure that your resume clearly shows that you are the ideal candidate, not for any job, but for each job that you apply to.
Does the word “data” appear in the job description seven times? If so, your resume should have the word “data” in it as well indicating your specific experience with data. Does the role require three or more years of “project management” experience? Then a recruiter needs to see these specific words and the amount of years of experience on your resume. Does the role require “people management” experience? Then make sure that your resume highlights what you’ve done in this area.
You may have called it “statistics” or “operations planning” while you were in service – but if the company is seeking data and project management, then those are the words that a recruiter is seeking as well. You may assume that listing your rank on your resume makes it clear that you managed people, but it’s important to make no assumptions and clearly articulate all of your skills in the same language used in the job description.
The same holds true for a cover letter – you should write a new cover letter for each submission. The cover letter should have information that is not in your resume. Maybe you want to explain some time off or a “gap,” in your resume; or explain a part of your service and how it relates to the role you’re applying for; or maybe you want to explain that you’re planning to relocate to the location of this position and will not require relocation assistance to do so – a cover letter is the place to do just that.
But make sure that you read it over and over, checking for grammatical errors and correct spelling. And always check the name of the company and name of the addressee before you submit it. Candidates have been declined for starting a cover letter with “I’ve always wanted to work at Company A” but sending it to Company B. The last thing you want is to have a great resume and get declined because your cover letter shows poor written communication skills.
All of this becomes more important when you consider the role of technology in recruiting. Many companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems to filter out resumes in the selection process, eliminating and selecting resumes based on keywords in the document. If you can’t get pass the automated computer check, then it is even harder to get your resume to the next level and in front of a recruiter who will actually read your resume and cover letter.
Before you hit apply, also take a few more minutes to review the company website, as well as sites like Glassdoor to get more information on the company. What is the company’s mission statement? Does the company mission align with your views? Are there key words there that you could incorporate into your resume? This is your chance to make a first impression, so take your time and get it right – let this company know that you are focused on this role and their company by being thoughtful in your resume and you’ll increase your chances of getting selected for the next step in the hiring process.
Chad Gutierrez is a Manager and Human Resources Business Partner at TIAA.