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I often hear advice that one's resume should be targeted for every position he applies to. But for me it seems to make no difference, I receive standard "thanks for you interest" replies just as often (which is really heartbreaking when I spent some time and efforts constructing my resume and cover letter for this exact company).

So how do you do this the proper way? After all there's only as much experience as you have, and if you put some technology you vaguely familiar with on your skills list (just so HR can see one more buzzword compliant with job description) it could harm you later in the process. Or maybe that's because I don't have that much professional experience (< 2 years) and short description of it all completely fits into my resume.

So should I switch to sending a single general resume or am I missing something?

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    I've always heard that your cover letter should be targeted and your resume can be more generic – Rarity Jun 27 '12 at 19:38
  • Time ago I used a technique I call "Shurikulum", that is, make a generic curriculum and send them like shurikens to anything that looks like a job I might be interested. It's useful when you have no specific company in mind and all you care is getting a job ASAP. – Mr Me May 21 '15 at 14:03
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Typically, it is the cover letter than enables you to tailor your presentation of yourself to specific positions; your cover letter is the bridge between the job ad and your resume, highlighting the points of intersection and generally showing where you fit.

However, there are ways to tailor your resume as well. Having examined the ad and learned a little bit about the company that you are applying to, you can work with the information on your resume and move it around or add information to highlight or make more clear those areas that are of special interest to the employer.

Even if you have less to talk as an entry-level or junior-level candidate than someone with 20 years of experience, it's still possible to make the appropriate rhetorical choices with your information that will cause the reviewer to stand up and take note.

For example, let's say that you have a standard line about education, a few lines about skills/qualifications, and then one or two entries about jobs you've held. Let's say that you have the jobs listed before the skills, but you come across a position that matches your skillset so perfectly that you can't help but put it first. That's an example of targeting your resume, even with a limited amount of info about yourself overall.

It's not about embellishing, it's just about prioritizing what about you matches what the company wants.

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Just because you are not getting any more interviews when you tailor doesn't mean that tailoring doesn't work. Either you are tailoring badly or you are applying for jobs that have many applicants who are more qualified than you are even after the tailoring. With only two years experience, there are going to be lots of jobs that you will not be on the best qualified list of applicants they want to interview. That is just the nature of having less experience. It may also indicate you are applying for jobs at the wrong level. Very few people would consider someone with 2 years experience for a job that requires senior level skills. Particularly when people with 10 or more years are applying for the same job.

Tailoring is not just a matter of adding buzzwords. Never add a buzzword to a technology you are not at least an intermediate level of skill in.

Where the tailoring comes in is in emphasizing the things they are looking for. However, the ad may use specific terms that can be presented multiple ways. If they say they are looking for a .net developer but don't specifically mention C#, I will make sure that .net is the exact phrase I use as the filters that HR uses will be using the exact phrases in their ad. HR people don't actually know that C# means you have .net experience. I know this because I have insisted that HR give me all the resumes when I didn't like the ones they gave me and every time I found some people to interview that were much better qualified than the ones they gave me because they didn't use the right buzzword phrase. So yes look at your qualifications from that perspective, did I present the words they used (assuming I actually have that knowledge) they way they used it in their ad.

Suppose I have two jobs to apply for (I'm using my experience as an example since I am not familiar with yours). In one they are looking for someone with SSIS experience and in the other they are looking for someone with database design experience. I have an accomplishments section in the first part of my resume. This is where I will do the majority of the tailoring.

For the SSIS job, the majority of the accomplishments I would list are SSIS accomplishments (with a sprinkling of other accomplishments to show I'm not a one-trick pony). And I would make sure those are listed first (People may not read all of the accomplishments, get in the ones most relevant as soon as possible).

For the database design job, I would summarize my SSIS work in one accomplishment and add more specific database design accomplishments above it.

Certainly tailoring is more effective and far easier to do as you gain experience. After 5 years in the workplace you will need to tailor because you have too many accomplishments to put them all in one resume.

To avoid this being too much work, make several versions based on the main types of things you are interested in doing and then you should only need minor adjustments for a particular job.

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    +1 for mentioning exact buzzwords as provided by HR. HR does not understand the technology - spend time to make their decision easier. Another +0 :-) for having several generic resumes based on group of skills/objective. While it is not relevant for a parson with just 2 years of experience, is is for more senior applicants. Goal is not only show relevant experience but also skip over unrelevant one. If you apply for job in financial industry, bioinformatics is not relevant (but delivering projects on time and on budget is). – Peter M. - stands for Monica Apr 30 '14 at 17:15
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I rarely write a cover letter. When I do it is concise and points to the parts of my resume that are pertinent to the position but not obvious with a quick skim, and/or points out any interactions we have had in the past (if I have worked with them as a cosupplier as happens quite a bit in my area.)

I research the company I am submitting to. When I am appling through an agency they often provide much of the information. But I still try to verify and be able to talk about the points of interest I find on the web. Try and stay on points that are obviously points of pride as sometimes news that appears neutral to an outsider will be a sore spot.

I read the job description and find the skills that are emphasized in the position. I then tailor my resume to highlight how I have used those skills in my positions. I cut out parts that are likely irrelevant or distracting from the skills the description asks for. If I am applying to a company that I have in the past interacted with in the past I will try to highlight this interaction including anyone I remember from the company with whom I had good working relations with.

  • Hey @Chad, that's useful info -- could you add it to your answer and then flag this comment as obsolete? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Apr 30 '14 at 21:53
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Well targeting a resume for specific job is same as tailoring your resume according to needs of that particular job position. It's very important that you target your resume because many employers use tracking software for screening your resume. Thus you need to use those keywords that are required. For example if the job is for java developer then your keyword is java. You need to target your resume for java keyword. Thus targeting your resume helps you to nail an interview for yourself.

Hope this advice works for you!

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