When most people find a job they want, they fill out an application for the job and attach a copy of their resume. Seems like common sense. After all that’s how “career experts” tell you to increase your chances of getting a job.
Most experts suggest creating the perfect resume. One that is just the right length, has the best font, and has the best keywords. Then you just send it off to as many job openings as you can. Unfortunately that isn’t the best way to get a job.
The biggest mistake you make when writing a resume is using the same resume for every job you apply to.
You can’t use the same resume for each job because each job has different requirements for filling the position. And you are a person with a variety of skills, past work experiences, and education. You cannot fit all of those experiences in one resume so you should tailor the resume for each job to be for only that job.
You should create an individual resume for each job you apply to.
What you need instead is to make sure every word you put on the resume highlights how you can help the company. You do that in two steps: make sure you explain your previous work experiences clearly and then make sure the experiences you put on your resume are relevant for that specific job.
Of course, it would take a long time and much trial and error to get things right.
Back when I was applying to jobs, I came up with a system that helped me have both a great resume and only spend a few minutes updating my resume for each job. Here’s how that system works.
First we will create a “resume template” which is essentially a complete record of anything you could put on a resume. Put all of your work experiences on a resume in chronological order. Then add all of your jobs skills in a list below your work experiences (things such as writing Microsoft Excel macros, programming languages, specific industry knowledge, etc.). Add all of your education below your education (undergraduate education and higher). Now you likely have a two to three page document. Format the resume template to look like a standard resume, just longer. Pick a simple font: Arial or Times New Roman. Finally, space out the pages so they are easy for a hiring manager to scan quickly.
Now that you have a first draft of a resume, we need to polish it. Go to your university career services (if you already graduated, schedule a phone call through their website), hire a career counselor, or get your most career successful friend to look at your resume. Take that person’s feedback and improve your resume so your true skills are easily identifiable on your resume.
Now your resume template is complete and you know that the words on the page let the reader clearly recognize your past experiences. But how do you use it when you find a job you want to apply to?
When you find a job you want, you will need to cut your resume template down to a one page resume. If CEOs with 30 years of experience can get their resume onto one page, you can too.
As a first step, look at the job posting. That will give you a good start for what the company wants in a candidate for that position. You should also search for information about the company online. Look at the Glassdoor reviews for the company and the LinkedIn profiles of people who work there. See if there are any press releases about the company. You are looking for anything that will give you an indication about the company’s culture, what challenges they are having, and what they look for in new hires.
I highly recommend actually meeting with people from that company since they will give you the most accurate answers about what skills are important for getting a job at that company. Checkout my article about networking to learn how to do this: Networking.
Once you learn what is important to the company and what is not, cut down your resume to the one page that highlights your fit for the job based on your past experiences.
For example, if you are a software engineer who has experience in multiple programming languages and building web and mobile apps, your resume template will contain all of that information. Later you learn that the company uses Python and builds web applications so you will want to make sure those parts of your resume template make it onto the final resume for the job. If you still have space left on the page, you can add some of your other projects that are recent and impressive.
Or if you are a college student applying to a first job and you are an economics major, you can highlight the courses that best fit the skills the job wants. If you would be working on asset valuations in the job, you can highlight your Corporate Finance and Money And Banking classes. Also highlight any internships or side projects that highlight this experience.
In summary, the resume template system is:
- Create a resume template with all of your experiences.
- Learn what skills you need for the job.
- Select the experiences from your resume template that demonstrate you have the skills for the job and put them on a one page resume.
The goal is for the hiring manager to see that you have the skills to complete the job in a quick glance of your resume.
If the hiring manager sees you have the skills for the job, you will get a first round interview.
Now that you’ve crafted a specific, high quality resume for each particular job you are applying to, you are ready to submit your resumes!