Resume Writing – Beyond the Template

So you finished writing your resume, right? You have reviewed it carefully for grammar, structure, accuracy, and completeness. You have it down to 2 pages and it has a modest amount of keywords (both action verbs and nouns). So you’re done, right? No. You’re now ready to write your next resume. “What? But I just finished it, why do I need to write another resume?”

About 10 to 15 years ago the resume was a different creature than it is today. You would write your resume with an “I did this for my company” tone. You might then get 25 copies printed on heavy-stock, off-white paper for your mailing campaign. At this point you were “done” with your resume!

You would then begin the process of finding people or companies to mail your resume to…maybe adding an occasional “Dear Sir or Madam” cover letter if you felt it was necessary. Occasionally you would use the resume to apply for a specific job, but in most cases you would simply mass-mail various company’s HR departments and hope someone in that firm would read your resume and try to match it to some position they had open. (Those days are long gone!)

Today, your resume is never finished. Yes, you might have a default or template resume written in Word on your PC that you have “completed”. It has that nice “key accomplishments” tone, it oozes with industry-specific keywords, the action verbs are everywhere, and it even has a great look-and-feel (fonts, formats, page count, etc.). Then, much like the old days, you now start looking for people or companies to send your resume to…but here’s where it gets different.

With detailed job postings easily available, you need to take your template resume and tweak it to “match” the specific job posting. You look through their keywords and find the ones that are relevant to your skills and talent. You then supplement or replace as many of your keywords with their job-posting-specific keywords as you can! Next look at the tasks they are asking the candidate to perform, find your activities that are similar, and reword them to sound more like their phrasing. You now look through your resume and remove items that have little or no relevance in regards to this job posting. Your goal is to make the resume and the job posting “match”.

Then, with the help of a friend, you read out-loud each of the key requirements from the job description and ask your friend to find the related items on your resume. (No prompting…they have to find the matches without your help!) If they can connect 90% of the tasks and keywords from the job posting directly to your resume, it’s ready to be used to submit online for that job! If a printed resume was requested, print the new resume on nice white paper with your ink-jet printer, write up a short cover letter (details on this in future posting) and mail it in a neatly hand-lettered envelope.

Now, repeat the process outlined in the two previous paragraphs for the next job you are interested in.

“But that means I might have to write and manage dozens or even hundreds of resumes.” Yup, but that’s easy enough with the help of a computer and tools such as spreadsheets, job hunting websites, or even an old-fashion accordion folder. The point is, if you want your resume to stand out and be noticed, each time you respond to a job posting you must put that extra effort into making sure your resume jumps out at the recruiter as being the best match possible.

“So, is there nothing I can do with my template resume? Can’t I send it to someone?” Yes, there is a use for your nicely formatted, template resume — it’s for posting on the resume and job board web sites so recruiters and companies can find you. Since you aren’t applying to a specific job when posting your resume on these job boards, you can put your “generic” resume out there for all to see and find. But when it comes to responding to a job posting or even a recruiter asking for a “formatted” (Word) version of your resume, make sure you send them the one that has the greatest chance of landing that interview….the one that tells them “I wrote this just for you!”

Bottom line: Develop a great “template” resume that can be used generically on resume sites or to carry with you to networking meetings. But when responding to a specific job posting, tailor the resume to sound like the job posting was written to match you and your resume! Keep track of which resume was sent to which recruiter or posted against which job listing. Don’t be generic when you can be special!

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For a full list of my Job Hunter articles, see the Index on my Backlog tab.

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If you are unemployed, please take a few seconds and let me know your job hunt situation:


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