Targeting Your Resume to the Job: A Story in Progress

Recently a man I know who has been out of work since last year (and feeling understandably deflated by the process) asked me for some job search help. In the not-always-fair world of hiring, he has a few hurdles to overcome: varied job history with no clear connecting thread, over 55, out of work for over half a year with nothing to fill the gap, and the desire to do something he really cares about. But he also has a pressing need to get a paycheck ASAP.

So what can make all that come together?Alright. I know you’re ahead of me. Of course, in addition to networking with everyone he or anyone he knows knows (and even people he meets in supermarket lines), his strongest secret weapon is a GREAT resume targeted to the job he wants. Each job he wants. Even if they are very different.

So I sat down with him, asked LOTS of questions (it’s what coaches do 😉 ), and together we came up with a few areas he would especially like to focus on. Since his strongest interest is health care, we went to individual websites of local health care providers. He had been using the major job search engines, to no avail. But lo and behold…there on a site not to far from his home, was a job that sounds a lot like what he did in his last job and actually enjoys doing.

So we took his resume, which was very general and told each job’s story as if it were a small, separate book rather than part of a bigger story, and we edited the resume to emphasize the job skills he has that match the description of the job he wants. And at the very top, we listed a Summary of Qualifications clearly showing his strengths, so that the person screening his resume could see in a moment how well he matches the job in question.

If you want to know how to do that, please see:  10 Steps To Match Your Resume to the Job

Don’t forget transferable skills

When targeting a resume to a job you want, it’s important to think about transferable skills from past jobs as well as exact skill matches. For example, the health care job he wants requires project management. Well, although his old resume never used that precise phrase, in previous jobs he had been in charge of making things happen from beginning to end, overseeing each detail and achieving successful outcomes. That’s project management. So I explained that we can rephrase how he described previous jobs to add that skill (and key phrase), which he actually has.

Now that we knew where we wanted to go with the resume, we found a resume template we liked and reworked his old resume so that it spoke to the new job in a way that was easy for anyone to see. If you want to get work, don’t make the resume screener work to see how well you fit the job! Do the work for them.

Once you have a new resume that looks great and tells a story (not just a list of unrelated or semi-related jobs and skills) , you can easily target it to each new job – and it’s well worth the effort. It only takes a little tweaking on your part, especially if you’ve already identified your strengths and incorporated them into a strong resume to use as your base resume. And then, using the same logic, create a cover letter that helps solidify just how well you match the job!

Oh…as for my friend, he sent his spiffy new targeted resume and cover letter to the job he really wants just a couple of weeks ago, and he got a call from them last week. He reports that he had a good phone interview and is meeting with them in person this week! Will he get the job? I sure hope so. But at least, after months of not even getting responses, he has a real live interview.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know what happens.


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. I’m curious what tactic you took with the cover letter, as well!

  2. Great advice, Ronnie Ann! And good luck to your friend with his interview.

  3. Lisa: Actually the person did his own cover letter, but the basic idea was to highlight some of his “best fits” with the job description using bullets to make it easier to see. So in general, for both you compare all your strongest skills to the job description and pull out some key matching strengths you want to make sure you emphasize. Hope that helps. BTW…he thinks the first interview went well. We’re waiting and hoping to hear about a second.

    Terry: Thanks! I’ll make sure to let everyone know how the story turns out.

  4. Ronnie,

    Thanks, it does help.

    I have a similar problem with my resume, varied job history, job gaps to stay home with kids, and changing industry to return to the first career I had oh more than 10 years ago… so this advice is perfect.

    I’ve been following your blog recently because it’s been helping me more than any other site/advice from experts/etc etc.

  5. Thanks Lisa!

    My own job history has so many twists and turns, a complete resume would require an appendix. 😉 But even though sometimes it took a while (and then an even longer while), I always eventually found a way to connect with a new employer’s needs.

    I wish you much luck finding a great job match. Really enjoyed my visit to your blog, btw!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

Speak Your Mind