How to Effectively Tailor Your Resume

How To Effectively Tailor Your Resume

Tailoring your resume to the specific type of position you are applying for is one of the most important things you will need to do for your job search. When your resume is broad and unfocused, you will likely be overlooked every time (sorry!). Customizing your executive resume will not only get the attention of any hiring manager, but it will increase your odds of being called for the interview.

Here are the six most effective ways to customize your executive resume:

1. Identify Appropriate Keywords

Your resume will initially need to pass through an online application system before it will ever be seen by the recruiter or hiring manager. These systems use specific searches to find applicable keywords to determine if you are a worthy candidate for the position you applied to.

In order to make it past the ATS, your executive resume will need to have the right keywords for the position in the right places. Best place to look for keywords is the job description of the job you are targeting. You may already have industry-specific keywords on your resume, but – this is paramount! – you also need to incorporate keywords that are position-specific throughout your summary and employment sections. You can use, or to find these additional keywords and evaluate the important competencies for each position and customize your resume to reflect the optimized words.

It is important to not only include keywords, but you will also need to be wise about the words you choose and how you incorporate them, because it is also possible to ‘over-correct’. Just like other search engines, online application systems are able to detect keyword “dumps,” where your resume is so keyword-rich, that it doesn’t tell a cohesive story – and your resume will be rejected.

2. Prove Your Expertise

Too often resumes simply summarize past job descriptions, rather than showing how milestones and wins were accomplished. One of the best ways to incorporate the right keywords into your resume is to use them to show recruiters what you are an expert in.

Using the guidelines above to find the right keywords, deliver key accomplishments and metrics to emphasize your expertise. It will help tell the right story about your experience and candidacy while keeping an SEO (search engine optimization) friendly resume.

Craft your content with the keywords you want to emphasize, and create your story around the word. Showing the recruiter or hiring manager what you can do will always be more relevant than simply telling them that you are an expert in that area.

3. Tailor Your Heading Title

Your resume has only 6.25 seconds to make an impression on the recruiter or hiring manager. The first thing they will look at is your title heading – the bold statement at the top which indicates what you are an expert in and why the recruiter should continue to review your resume.

Your heading title is a great place for you to strongly correlate your experience with the position you are applying for. Make it as easy for the recruiter as possible by showing them that you are already qualified for their position.

For example, if you typically use a heading title of Digital Marketing Executive but are applying for a Digital Marketing Manager position, update your heading to: Digital Marketing Manager. There is no guessing left for the recruiter and you will have piqued the recruiter’s interest from the very beginning.

Important note: if you are not applying for a specific position, but are seeking general opportunities or an exploratory interview, use your broad title – in the example above Digital Marketing Executive, to be considered for various roles.

4. Ensure Your Resume is Free of Spelling and Grammar Errors

When you customize your resume for various positions, items often get moved around, abbreviated or changed – and it is easy for new spelling errors and grammar errors appear. When you tailor your resume make sure your thoroughly review your resume before submitting it for application.

Check all tenses, particularly in the employment sections and be careful about how you conjugate your verbs – words like deliver, manage, create. Use the same conjugation within a sentence structure. Example:

Incorrect: “Delivered various skills including X, Y and Z.”

Correct: “Delivered various skills which included X, Y, and Z.”

5. Take Out Internal Specific Acronyms and Activities

Each company has their own acronyms and abbreviations for different activities, geographies and projects. It is normal for these to become such a part of who we are in our everyday working lives that our resume tends to include “insider” speak that can often make little or no sense to the recruiter you are trying to impress.

The most common references that are overlooked are country geographies outside of the United States, metrics used and expertise identifiers. Read through your resume carefully and make sure you remove those items and replace them with the correct industry keywords or completely spell them out.

It will only damage your chances of being chosen, if the recruiter if left trying to decipher if what you wrote is as cool as it sounds or if it’s just fluff. Don’t make them guess – expand on the activities and abbreviations to ensure your true intent comes through.

6. When Applying Online, Remove Graphics

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the software that is behind all of your online applications, has come a long way, but it still does not work well with graphical components. Items such as tables or special character bullets or shapes, do not come through well when you apply online. Use MS Word borders and shading functions to create simple, digestible graphical elements that will work in most of today’s applicant systems.

In order to get around this, you can apply using a PDF version of your resume – but know that you may lose the keyword optimization strengths going this route. Another option is to have a simple version to use specifically for applying online. You can create a graphic-free version of your resume by removing the non-text elements and saving it as a .txt file. This file is as bare as you can get – and it will show you if any additional items need to be removed.

Similarly, when you apply to a position via email, you should minimize the graphical elements. You never know how the recruiter or hiring manager will be opening/viewing your resume, so it’s best to be on the safe side to ensure a visually appealing resume – instead of a garbled mess.

These six steps will ensure that your executive resume is customized for the position you are applying for and will stand out to the recruiter – getting you noticed and on to the next round.

Be Well!


Lisa Rangel – Executive Resume Writing Services

Chameleon Resumes


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