Here’s how to customize your resume for that plum job

With resumes, there’s no such thing as one size fits all; know where, how and why to tweak, advises resume pro Steve Burdan.


Is it worth it to tailor your resume for every job application?

Considering that the applicant tracking systems that automatically screen your resume are calibrated for every job posting, yes.

But how much customization does your master resume need for every job application and where is it best applied?

Steve Burdan, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders, uses a hybrid resume format for his clients – a cross between a functional resume that focuses on a job seeker’s skills and a chronological resume that focuses on a chronological account of a job seeker’s work history. Burdan’s hybrid version includes a profile, an objective title, a branding statement and a bulleted list of areas of expertise as well as a chronological listing of job/position descriptions.

Burdan counsels his clients to leave the chronological portion alone but customize the functional section at the top. In this section, he advises clients to mirror the job specs of the targeted position as much as possible.

“I tell my clients, ‛No resume is ever one size fits all.’ You shouldn’t expect your resume or your cover letter to be one size fits all. You have to expend the energy to customize the documents,” he said.

Customization comes down to tweaking the top half, including both the functional section and the job title, to match keywords found in the job listing itself.

“If they look at Ladders or the ‘New York Times’ or the ‘Wall Street Journaland see a job opening with the actual job specs, they should glean through it to comb out 10 to 20 keywords. Glean key action words that the potential employer is using, and make sure those 10 to 20 words are sprinkled in the top half of the resume.”

The benefits are twofold: First, customization gives job candidates a sense of traction and the feeling that they’re active and engaged in the process of job hunting, Burdan said.

Second, it puts them ahead of the competition.

“When a client reads your resume over some other, they’ll nod their head a lot more with yours than theirs,” he said. “They’ll be looking at what they’re looking for.”