How to customize your resume for each job
November 2, 2019
by Ed Windgate

How do you get your resume to stand out in an ocean of look a likes? You may know you are great for the job. The problem is, nobody else knows that. How do you get them to realize you’re the best person for the job?

The problem starts with companies using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter candidates for a job. These systems use keywords. Very simply search technology. If you do not have the exact keyword the recruiter is searching for in your resume, you will not be found.

How to customize your resume for each job

The three ways Recruiters search for resumes

One way is to review the resumes from applicants for a specific job. This could result in over 1,000 resumes. Half of which don’t even remotely match the job. Still, there are many resumes to go through. Most resumes only get 10 seconds of review time from a recruiter. This is only if they were a keyword match to what the recruiter typed into their ATS for a search.

The second way you could be found is if the recruiter is searching through all past resumes in their ATS. There could be literally hundreds of thousands of matches. Again, the recruiter simply types a few keywords into their ATS for a search. There could literally be thousands of matches to review.

The third way is to search LinkedIn for matching profiles. Again, there could be hundreds of thousands of matches.

These HR screening systems are not that smart. Unlike Google, where you might type a search keyword for example, “car”, and Google will return results for “car”, “vehicle”, or even “rail car”, maybe even “rail cabin”. These HR screening systems search just the specific keyword. A few systems might look for different tenses like, run, ran, running. But that’s as far as it goes.

How do you get noticed?

One way is to review the job description to pick out keywords that a recruiter may use. The job descriptions are often written by the hiring team and sometimes modified by HR. How do you know what keywords to choose and place in your resume?

You could take the time to meticulously read though job descriptions. Or, use to help you find the keywords. will review a job description with artificial intelligence to find keywords, concepts, and topics, in context, to present you with the best keywords you should have in your resume.

You can use this information on missing keywords to customize your resume for each job. This is great. Even better, start accumulating keywords from different jobs. This will help you understand what keywords are trending.

Often hiring managers will say, “I want to see the skills in the resume”. You might have thought a specific skill is not that important. Or, you said it in a different way and thought people would understand what you mean. The problem is, a machine reads your resume first. Not a person.

For example, these following titles describe the same job: Web Designer, Front End Developer, UI Developer, Web Developer, etc. You should choose the title or keyword used by the hiring team.

Another feature of is the ability to find keywords in your resume that are similar to a keyword in a job description. Meaning, you said the same thing as the hiring team, just in a different way. You need to change the way you express a skill in your resume to the way it is described in the job description.

Have two resume formats

One to submit initially. And another when you actually talk to a human.

When you submit your resume to a company it goes through their ATS. Your resume will be converted to text and PDF. Often, the PDF conversion doesn’t work very well. So, recruiters rely on the text version. This means that nobody is going to see any fancy formatting.

For example, open your resume in your document editor (i.e. Word) and choose Save As… text document. And, then Save As.. PDF. Then them both from your File Explorer you see how they will look to a recruiter. Also, if you import a resume into, you will also be able to see how it will look to a recruiter.

The point is, no one is going to review your fancy resume formatting when you submit your resume. 99% of all firms will not even review a resume unless their ATS has suggested a recruiter review it.

The lesson is to make your resume as easy for parsing (e.g. no fancy tables or sections). Do be careful not to pad your resume with out of context and repetitious keywords. If you do get past the HR screening systems, a recruiter will read your resume and may not like the fact you obviously played the system.

When you do get past the HR screening systems, and talk to a real person. You’ll often hear the magic words, “Do you have a resume you could send me?” This is because the resume you submitted was parsed and reassembled, and just not very easy to read. They want a resume they can present to the hiring team. This is your chance to send your professional, nicely formatted resume. But! Don’t forget to keep the same keywords and phrasing you had in the first resume you submitted. The hiring team still wants to “…see the skills in the resume”.

Lessons learned. Have two resumes. One that is easily read by an ATS. The second, with formatting that will appeal to a human. For both resumes, always, always, have relevant keywords that are a match to the current job descriptions out there. Even better, customized for each job.

Happy job hunting!

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