5 Reasons Why You Should Customize Your Resume

WorkCoachCafeI’ve spoken or interacted with several job seekers recently who think that customizing their resumes for specific opportunities is a waste of their time. I’ve even heard from a professional resume writer who agreed with that approach.

One resume, sufficiently generalized to cover a wide range of employers and opportunities is fine. They say.


Every recruiter I have spoken with strongly disagrees with one-version-of-your-resume-is fine philosophy. They believe that resumes should be customized to the opportunity the job seeker is applying for. And, below, are 5 reasons why.

Five Good Reasons to Customize Your Resume for Each Opportunity

You can find many reasons (or make many excuses) for not taking the time to customize your resume. But here are 5 reasons why you should:

1. To stand out from the crowd.

Each job posting receives an average of 250 responses these days. That’s quite a bit of competition! When your resume is obviously customized to the opportunity, that customization is an instant – and a very important – differentiator.

2. To make it very clear that you are qualified for the job.

Perhaps as a result of the deluge of resumes resulting from most job postings, the first time a human being sees your resume, they spend an average of 7 seconds to determine if you are qualified/interesting or not. If it’s not very obvious that you are qualified, you are out of consideration. Eliminated in 7 seconds.

Perhaps some of the estimated 80% to 90% of “unqualified” applicants who are rejected do actually have the qualifications, but their qualifications are buried among the bullets in a standard work history resume.

Those qualified job seekers are assuming that the recruiter or employer will carefully read through their resumes to discover those qualifications. Not going to happen in that 7 second scan!

If resumes don’t obviously connect the dots between the job requirements and the applicant’s qualifications, those resumes are rejected with all of the other unqualified applicants.

3. To demonstrate genuine interest in the opportunity.

Recent studies show that job seekers spend an average of 80 seconds (less than 1.5 minutes!) reading a job posting before hitting the “Apply” button. And, employers are pretty fed up with resume spammers.

So, going back to those 250 submissions in number 1, above, employers want to see clear evidence that the job seeker is genuinely interested in the opportunity – not just another resume spammer hitting the “Apply” button for every job they see.

By taking the time to customize your resume to this employer’s opportunity, you are clearly demonstrating your interest.

4. To ensure that the appropriate keywords are included for the automated screening.

Because of the high volume of responses for most job postings, employers and recruiters often store resumes and applications in an automated “Applicant Tracking System” (or “ATS”).

If your standard resume doesn’t contain the keywords used in the job description, the likelihood that your resume will turn up in the recruiter’s search of the ATS for qualified applicants is very low.

Customizing your resume to include the keywords from the job description should greatly increase the probability that your resume will be found in that recruiter’s ATS search. Being found in the ATS search means your resume will be seen and receive consideration.

5. To demonstrate your technology and business savvy.

Employers want employees who understand how to use technology for business. You demonstrate lack of understanding of both technology and the hiring process by not customizing your resume, giving employers this impression of you:

  • You do not understand how to use word processing software well enough to customize your resume, and/or
  • You do not understand how to leverage current Internet technology to your advantage, and/or
  • You do not understand how competitive the current job market is.

None of those negative impressions represent characteristics that are sought after by employers in their new employees.

Your Mileage May Vary

Yes, your resume may still drop down the infamous black hole, even if you customize it. However, based on the input from every recruiter I’ve discussed this issue with, your chances of avoiding the black hole increase with the care you take customizing your resume for each opportunity you apply for. It should be an investment of time that is very well spent!

Next: How to Quickly and Easily Customize Your Resume for Each Opportunity.

More on Effective Resumes for Your Job Search

Resume Customization Cheat Sheet

Before You Apply, 4 Questions You Must Ask Yourself

5 Resume Rules You Should Ignore

3 Assumptions You Should Never Make About Your Resume

Climb Out of the Resume Black Hole in 3 Steps

Why You Don’t Hear Back After You Submit Your Resume

Keys to a Good Resume and Cover Letter


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.


  1. Great tips and insight. The resume should be customized and targeted for individual opportunities. Setting up a generic resume and blasting it out does not work. Great article.

  2. I agree that customizing your resume is very important. Most of job seekers fail to get a job because they just blindly apply for all jobs by submitting one single resume. Customizing your resume will depict your interest in the specific job opportunity.

  3. This is all assuming that the jobs people are applying for are wildly different? Are you talking about re-writing or tweaking as needed? Or is a person trying to transition to a completely different field? Or is about 3 (let’s say) relatively same clerical/admin job’s who’s job descriptions are basically the same? If that is the cases there would be no reason to change a resume already addressing the requirements.

    My resume basically stays same. I tweak as needed but for the most part I do not CHANGE it. If I am applying to jobs that are similar in requirements and job duties there is no need change my resume.

    I am not applying for jobs that I am not qualified for to start with. I am not applying to be an engineer or legal assistant as I do not have the skills or background for the job. I am applying to “like” jobs that fall within my experience and background.

    My cover letter is my tool to get into a little more detail about what I have done within those tasks or highlight other things that work with the job description. For example, maybe I won’t put that I ordered supplies on the resume. But what I can do is highlight briefly in my cover that I implemented a more efficient supply ordering system to hopefully entice a perspective employer that I look for ways to improve processes. Maybe for that job I want that to stand out more so I change up a little that way.

    I have basic cover letters saved and I then format a cover that best fits the job description. Again the resume doesn’t change.

    From the same resume I have gotten a temp job, a possible offer (office politics in the way). I have gotten my resume forwarded 3 times from temp agencies. As well as several bites in general from companies I have applied to. All the same resume but different covers.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      No, this is NOT assuming that all the jobs are wildly different! They maybe wildly different (hopefully not) OR very similar.

      I’ll strongly disagree that your resume doesn’t need to be customized, even if the jobs are basically the same.

      We’re not talking major re-writes here. I am recommending resume tweaking for the reasons mentioned – to demonstrate your interest and to highlight your qualifications for the job.

      Even “relatively same” jobs can list their requirements and duties in different order, depending on what is important to that employer, and use different language to describe the same skills. You need to match the language the employer has used in the job description, preferably in the employer’s order of importance, so that your resume is actually seen by a live person.

      For example, if your resume says you are skilled with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, but the description wants Microsoft Office skills, your resume may be ignored unless you add the words “Microsoft Office” to it.

      YES, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint ARE Microsoft Office products – a human being “gets” that. But a computer may not, and a human being may not see your resume unless a computer displays it.

      The computer is asked to find applicants skilled with “Microsoft Office” as specified in the job description. So that is EXACTLY what it looks for, and if those words (“Microsoft Office”) are not included in your resume, your resume will not be found.

      Very good that you spend time to customize your cover letters! The bad news is that only 17% of cover letters are read – they are still a very good idea, but not necessarily a home run for you IF they aren’t read.

      Resumes ARE read (when seen!!!). Test spending time doing the customization of your resume to the specific requirements of the job, including the job title. I bet your hit rate improves.

      Good luck with your job search!

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