Your resume represents many things: a window into your past, a snapshot of your current passions and ambitions, a vision of a preferred future. It is a slice of your life that highlights to an employer the most relevant things you’ve done, experiences you’re proud of, and the skills you’ve acquired.
Important as they are, it can be difficult to create a resume you love, and especially daunting to modify it to fit a specific job. What do you include? What do you leave out? Where does everything go?
Fortunately, the job posting for the position you want to attain can guide you through this process. If you are making a more general resume and don’t yet have a posting to look at, try to find one in a field you’d like to work in, something that is related, before reading further.
Once you have your job posting in front of you, the next step is to pull out your highlighter and break down the posting. Look for skills that are listed: they’re a huge hint as to what the employer is looking for. Ask yourself these questions as you look over the job posting: What skills are important to them? Who are they looking for? What qualifications does an applicant need to have?
Next, pull out your resume! If you don’t have one yet, no problem, use this as a thought experiment. On your resume (in front of you or in your head), find and circle the skills you’ve just highlighted on the job posting. Circle the qualifications and experiences that fit with the job posting. When you’re done, ask yourself:
Are the circled experiences clearly visible? Are they detailed enough? Too detailed?
Where are they on my resume?
How many of the highlighted skills are on my resume, and are they easy to find?
If you haven’t made a resume yet, now is the time to think about your past experiences and list the ones you feel are relevant to the posting. Identify the skills you gained or developed through those experiences. Then think about the above questions and try and imagine WHERE you would put your various experiences and skills on a resume, and what your reason is for putting them there.
An important thing to keep in mind when creating or modifying your resume is that the most attractive “resume real estate” is at the top of the first page, where a recruiter would likely look first. Consider putting your ‘circled’ experiences and skills there!
If an employer only has 30 seconds to go over your resume, you want to make those seconds count. One way to do that is by using a “Highlights” or “Summary” section at the beginning of your resume. This section highlights the most relevant things you’ve done and the strengths you have in a concise, pleasing way, referencing those statements with more specificity later on in your resume.
Regardless of how you decide to write and design your resume, remember that the job posting is one of your best tools for success when trying to get a job. Tailoring your resume to fit a job posting is also a great way to better understand what you like about the job, as well as give an employer an idea of why it would fit you.