How to tailor your resume

You’ve created your resume and you’ve found the dream role that you want to apply for. All you need to do is submit your resume, right? Wrong. The difference between knowing how to make a resume good, and knowing how to make a resume great, is in the tailoring. 

Every time you apply for a job, you must tailor your CV. Why? Because every role is different, every manager is different, and every company is different – and that means that the skills and achievements that the hiring manager wants to see in your CV will differ every single time. It’s not enough to send a generic CV and hope for the best. It’s important that you personalise and optimise your CV to the role that you are going for so that you can gain the edge over your competitors.

Not only that, but your hiring manager is likely to be inundated with many other CVs. By having the skills, experience and values that he or she is looking for up front and centre, you are making their job easier – which will ultimately make you a more appealing candidate.

How to make a resume stand out: research, personalise and prioritise

Step 1: Research

  • Start with reviewing the advertisement. The advertisement will usually be very specific about the type of skills and experience that the hiring manager is looking for. 
  • Next, check to see if a job description is available. If it is, it will usually have more detail about the skills and experience required for the job at hand and it may also list day-to-day tasks and reporting structures. It may also indicate goals and expectations – this is especially important, as it will illustrate what value the successful candidate will bring to the organisation. 
  • Finally, research the company. Often, companies will feature information about their values and workplace culture on their websites. 
  • Read between the lines. It might not be possible to find out all of these things in advance of submitting your CV. However, whatever information is available should be heavily scrutinised so that you can understand the implied requirements for the role. For example, the company values may not be readily available on the internet. But the job description may contain key words like ‘leadership’, ‘accountability’, or ‘collaboration’ which are generally a good indication of the sorts of values the company is looking for.

Step 2: Personalise

As part of your research, you likely will have gleaned a detailed list of what the hiring manager is looking for. Start from the top of your CV, work through your resume and personalise.

  • Contact details

If the job you are applying for is in another city or state, but you are willing to relocate, indicate this next to your contact information.

  • Summary

This is the most important place in your CV to personalise. It’s your best opportunity to capture the attention of the hiring manager and convince him or her of your suitability for the role. From your research, you should have gleaned:

  • What skills and experience the hiring manager is looking for
  • What added value the successful candidate can bring to the company 
  • What the company values are
  • Why you are the best match for the job.  

For example, if the advertisement is for a financial accountant who is CPA qualified and has ASX experience; needs to be adept at influencing internal stakeholders; and the values of the organisation are leadership and ownership; your summary could read:

“I am a CPA qualified expert financial accountant with over ten years’ experience in ASX listed companies. A charismatic communicator, I understand the importance of stakeholder engagement in achieving outcomes. Passionate about people, I lead high-performing teams and empower them to achieve their goals. I am results-driven, proactive and accountable.”

  • Education

If certain qualifications have been listed as part of the job advertisement, ensure these are reflected in your CV.

  • Work history

Start by removing any irrelevant experience. This doesn’t mean removing certain roles altogether or leaving gaps; but if, for example, you are applying for a web developer role and ten years ago you worked as a retail sales assistant, the detail about the tasks that you did as a retail sales assistant probably aren’t relevant and a shorter, more general description of the role and key outcomes would suffice.

Then, based on your research, update your experience accordingly. For example, if the advertisement lists “Experience designing and maintaining websites”, you could update your CV to say:

“Designed and maintained the company’s website, which achieved sales of >1.5million in its first year, 30% over target.”

Finally, remember the company’s values and reflect those where relevant. For example, if you have identified ‘collaboration’ as a core value to the business, you might say:
“Collaborated with commercial, product, distribution, HR and marketing teams to ensure the successful launch of the website.”

  • Interests and hobbies

This might be relevant, depending on the industry of the company you are applying to work with. For example, if it is a company that specialises in health and wellbeing, and you enjoy running and cooking in your spare time, you should certainly list it. Some traditional companies, however, may not find your personal interests relevant. Here are three things to consider when it comes to answering the “What are your hobbies?” interview question.

Step 3: Prioritise

​Read over your CV. It should now reflect the skills, experience and values that the hiring manager is looking for. Now, check that those specific skills, experience and values are prioritised first over other skills and experience. For example, if the advertisement highlighted that the successful applicant would be ‘process-driven’, and you have an example where you have created and implemented a new process with a positive outcome, ensure that appears first.

As a general rule of thumb, put the most important elements in the first two-thirds of your CV.

Remember, your hiring manager is potentially looking at dozens – or even hundreds – of CVs. This might mean that they ‘skim read’ your CV. So even if you’ve listed all of the relevant skills within your CV, they could get missed if they aren’t really obvious.

What to avoid

  • Try not to make the personalisation look too obvious. It should never be a direct copy-and-paste. 
  • Always be truthful. If you don’t have a particular skill or attribute, don’t list it. You can address any gaps in a cover letter and/or in the interview.

Want more information about what to avoid? Read our article on what to exclude from your resume.

Remember, there is a key difference in knowing how to make a resume good and great. A good resume is generic; a great resume is well-researched, personalised and prioritised.

Take a look at our resume tips page for more advice on how to write a resume.

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