10 Steps To Match Your Resume to the Job

WorkCoachCafe I was just looking at a website that tells you how horrible resumes are and how awful people (like me) are when we dare to suggest you should match your resume, as best as possible, to each job for which you’re applying.  I hope you’re not surprised to learn this site is also selling a better more scientific way.

But you see…I’m selling nothing. Although this blog does display some ads, I personally offer no services on this site. Corny as it is…I just like to help people. And I have tons of real-world experience from people I’ve helped hire, from those I’ve helped coach, and from my wonderful readers and friends who never cease to educate me.

And so let me say this (cyber) loud and clear:  To the best of your ability…PLEASE customize your resume to the job you’re applying for. And if anyone tells you not to or says the resume is dead…as this other site was in effect doing…don’t believe them. Even in this ill-designed, ridiculously-frustrating hiring process, your resume is still one of your strongest marketing tools and its job can continue even AFTER a screener sees it.

Tips for Matching Your Resume to the Job

Now for those steps I promised to help you match your resume to the job description:

  1. Get the job description and put it in front of you.
  2. Circle the key skills & experience the company is looking for.
  3. Make a list of all the things you’ve actually done in your career that make you a good fit. (Remember to think about transferable skills too.)
  4. Now go get your resume and put that in front of you too.
  5. Look to see where your already-listed experiences might match with elements in the job description.
  6. Circle those matching experiences so you can go back to them later and decide which ones you’ll give more emphasis and/or a higher position in your bullet lists.
  7. Now think about things you’ve done in other jobs or elsewhere (volunteer, special projects, freelance) that are NOT yet on your resume. Add the strongest ones that really show why you would be an asset (match) to the new job.
  8. Now go through your resume, editing and adding where needed to give more weight to your strongest matching items (including keywords and key phrases), but also mentioning something even from years back if it might help. (This is also a good time to get rid of items that don’t help and may lead you back to things you don’t ever want to do again.)

An example of reviving an old skill: If you used Microsoft Access in 2000, but haven’t touched it since then, and IF the job description specifically mentions it, clearly let them know you have the skill both in your resume and cover letter. Just don’t lie about how good you are.  (Bonus points: Go ahead and brush up your skills ahead of time just in case. This shows initiative and the ability to easily pick up the skill again. Also makes great talking points in an interview or phone screen.)

  1. If you use a Summary of Qualifications or similar section to lead off your resume (these are very useful), this is a great place to emphasize your strongest skills that match the job’s key requirements. (Also useful for your cover letter.)
  2. Read the job description again. Now look at your entire resume. Have you made it easy for the screener to see the match? If not, give it another shot and make sure to focus in on the strongest matching points, giving them extra emphasis.

Once you’re happy with what you have, of course now go back and check for typos, grammar, overall appearance, etc.  And voila! You have a customized resume that has a better chance of  getting you that all-important first interview.

Don’t Forget to Keep It Real

While I strongly suggest you take the time to tailor each resume to the job you’re applying for, the customization has to be REAL and reasonably IN PROPORTION to the rest of your resume or it will look like you’re trying to snow them. So by all means keep it real…while still making sure they get the strongest picture of how well you do fit. That’s the whole point.

Of course, if you don’t really fit, you can customize until the cows come home and you won’t get the job.  You’re just working to make sure you maximize their understanding of what a great fit for them you could be. Plus, all this effort will help you create a good cover letter and – nice added benefit – help you focus your interview.

If you clearly know all the ways you match, not only will you be able to create a stronger resume and cover letter, you’ll have an easier time telling your story to your future employer!

More from Work Coach Cafe

Work Coach Cafe Resume Articles

Keys to a Good Resume and Cover Letter

Job Interview Tips

How To Handle Tell Me A Little About Yourself


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. This advice is spot on! I preach the very same things to job candidates all the time. If it’s not obvious that your skills and background fit the job, you will not get the interview.

    Many people spend a lot of time crafting individual cover letters but send along the same resume. Every job you apply for should be crafted for that particular opportunity.

    Folow the advice in this article and you will greatly improve your chances of getting the interview!

    Tom Hogan
    Level 1 Resources

  2. Great advice Ronnie! I especially like the point about “real” customization: If you think you have to stretch the truth (even if you would NOT be lying) to meet some of the qualifications, don’t consider the job and just look for something else that’s more suitable for your skills and level of experience.

  3. Great advice, Ronnie Ann! If you don’t customize your resume to fit the job description, not only are you not putting your best foot forward—you’re also sending subtle signals that you were either too clueless or lazy to send more than the equivalent of a form letter. And I’m so glad you brought up the cover letter. That’s another strong self-marketing tool whose death has been pronounced many times, always falsely.

  4. Absolutely, Ronnie Ann! Even doing something like rearranging the accomplishments to bring the ones that are good match to the top will make it easier for a hiring manager to see the connection.

    Another place to get ideas for customizing the resume is the company’s website. Taking a look at what they talk about in terms of what they value can help shape what gets emphasized on the resume.

  5. Thanks so much everyone. So nice to get feedback like this from such talented folks!

    Tom: Thank you so much for seconding my words. And you’re right about the disconnect between taking the time to craft a targeted cover letter but using the same old resume. Of course, a good resume that already stresses the strengths you want to continue to use can do pretty well with a strong cover, but why cut back on tweaking the resume just to save a few minutes?

    Rick: Glad you pointed that out. The last thing I want to do is suggest people create a resume based on a job description and not what they actually have done!

    Terry: Appreciate your strong reminder about cover letters, especially since marketing is how you earn a living. And after all, a well-executed job search is all about targeted marketing.

    Melissa: Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. Great tips. I would expect no less. 😉

  6. Hi Ronnie!

    This might not be the best place to ask this, but I’m desperate!

    I was fired from my very first job in 2003. I won’t go into the gory details (because it’s embarrassing), but basically I said something to my co-worker–assuming it would be kept between us–about other co-workers. She told our superior what I said and was fired the next day. What I said was fairly severe and the fact that I was only fired and not questioned by the police is pretty incredible (although what I said was meant as a joke, it was violent).

    Anyway, how do I answer potential employers when they ask me why I was fired? Should I mention it at all? Should I lie? Should I not hand over contact/reference information? I’m at a total loss, and I would hate to be passed over for a job because of this mistake–to which I copped instantly and did not make a scene or try to lie to my then-employers.

    Please help!!

  7. Hi Tina!

    Sorry I wasn’t able to answer sooner. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. You might find some helpful answers HERE.

    You don’t have to tell the details, although it could come out at some point during reference checking. Lucky for you many companies are reluctant to share exact details nowadays for legal reasons. The main thing is to show you learned from the lesson (good to remember for the rest of your career) and move on to showing what a great job you could do for them. We all screw up. I sure have. 😉 Now it’s time to start fresh.

    Good luck, Tina!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  8. PS: Let go is better than fired. 😉 In your case, you can just say something like you made a mistake and have totally learned from it…and want with all your heart to prove what a great asset you could be to the new company.

    I wish you all the best. ~ RA

  9. NonCustomizer says:

    Bad advice. DO NOT customize your resume to a job, this is like lying, the cover letter is there to do the match, the resume is the experience, you cannot change your experience

  10. Hi NonCustomizer!

    Glad you brought this up since maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

    Please read the article again carefully. This is not about lying at all. In fact I strongly advise against lying. This is about helping the screener (I’ve been one many times) quickly see all the things you’ve really done that match the new position.

    If I get your resume, I don’t care about every single thing you’ve done in every single job. Take the time to pull out the most relevant skills and accomplishments and highlight them for me.

    But of course still include other accomplishments that show things you made happen, or improved, or money you helped the company make or save – your strengths. And if some of those especially relate to the job you’re applying for, please help me know about it. Screeners may only look at your resume for about 8 seconds on average. You can help them by highlighting the matches – and get a better response to boot!

    I’ve seen it work for others as well as myself – and it only resulted in a better match. No lying necessary!

    Thanks for adding to the conversation. I wish you much luck whatever method you choose.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  11. Beca Jae says:

    Thank you, this was very helpful information.

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