Relevant Résumé: How to Customize Your Résumé for a Specific Position


Am I really going to do it? Write another article on – résumé writing? It seems as though LinkedIn is inundated with these kinds of advice pieces. I might as well just write another “five tips for nailing your interview” article and cover all my cliché bases. Oh well, maybe I’ll get to that one a little later.

For now, it’s possible that I might, just maybe, have something unique to add to the résumé-writing cannon. It’s how we advise our candidates to tweak and customize their résumés according to the demands of  a highly sought-after position. It’s a strategy that can really help any job-seeker get a foot in the door.

It Begins With the Job Description

When applying for a position, many of us have the following tendency. We go ahead and give our résumé a much-needed makeover, filling it with vivid details about senior positions held, stressing recent accomplishments, and all the while perfecting our operational terminology – multiplied, built, managed etc. Once this is finished, we might then proceed to compose a cover letter expressing our deep interest in the hiring organization and our suitability for the role.

This is great, in a general sort of way. But all too often we miss an important step: Thoroughly reviewing the position description.

That’s Where We Step In

As recruiters, we often assume the role of consultants. One of the helpful things we offer when working with candidates is to distill the information in a job description down to three essential criteria which might look something like:

“Rob, ultimately what our client is looking for is 1. someone with great research credentials, 2. proposal writing success and 3. knowledge of advanced statistical methods. It is our suggestion that you do your best to emphasize these three core abilities in your résumé and cover letter.”

Why is this important? Because, as expected, a job description contains critical information about what kind of specific skills and experience the ideal candidate should have. Whether it’s managing teams, or the need for analytical or communication skills – the most fundamental requirements will be described in the position description.

These critical elements, however, are often lost in other less-essential information. By carving out only three main criteria from a job description we help everybody stay focused on what is most essential. This usually makes sense to candidates who end up coming back with tailor-made résumés that are more focused and impressive.

Value Add

At this point perhaps you’re thinking OK, that’s great for the candidate, but what about the hiring organization, i.e. the client? Are we not helping to pull the wool over their eyes by suggesting a candidate “creatively” re-haul their résumé?

Nope, not by a long-shot. We actually know this is a value-add for the clients as well.

How so?

Before presenting résumés to our clients, we qualify people to make sure they have the credentials to be bonafide candidates. However, no matter, how experienced a hiring manager is, he or she might also overlook a highly-desirable aspect of a candidate’s background, something which would ordinarily guarantee an interview request. This can happen if the résumé is scattered and unclear.

Our process of “coaching” candidates to create a résumé customized for a position helps our clients hone-in on the points in a résumé that are of paramount interest to them. In short, it’s an inversion of the candidate’s experience with a job description and we’ve found it really helps get candidates and clients to understand one another better right from the outset.

After all, isn’t this a big part of what recruiters are supposed to do? Facilitate communication between our clients and the great people they interview and hire by identifying and fleshing out mutually-beneficial common ground.

For Job Hunters

If you’re on the job hunt this is, without a doubt, an approach to résumé writing you should use. It may be time consuming to tweak your résumé every time you apply to a different job, but it’ll pay off.

People these days are more multifaceted and specialized than ever before and as such you wouldn’t want to get overlooked because something in your résumé – a crucial something skill – was not clearly enough expressed for the position at hand.


Step 1: Pour over the job description.

Step 2: Distill the description down to three primary skills/experiences.

Step 3: Make sure those three skills/experience are front and center in your résumé. I mean literally on the first page, ideally at the beginning of a personal summary.

Step 4: Get your foot in the door!  

I sincerely hope this was helpful to you and not just a redundant résumé-writing article.