How to customize your resume

How do you adjust your resume to the job you're applying for?
Job interview and resume
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Alexander Berghofen

The main goal of customizing your resume is to reduce the mental load on the reader: you make it obvious that your experience is a great match. Make it clear what exactly you have done, don’t let the reader guess it. You do this by speaking the language of the reader, i.e., by using the keywords that are mentioned in the JD (job description).

If the JD mentions ‘manufacturing’ but not the word ‘factory’, then you need to include the word ‘manufacturing’ in your CV. Don’t just write ‘managed factory’. Of course, managing a factory means (usually) that you have manufacturing experience. But translating factory to manufacturing takes time and effort (most readers spend less than one minute on your resume). Both human and electronic readers (e.g., ATS filter) might screen you out if your keywords are misaligned with the JD (job description). Better to make it easier for the reader, that is what I mean by ‘reducing mental load’.

Keep in mind that the first resume screen is often done by an ATS system or by HR. In the case of HR, this might even an intern or secretary or someone who just joined the company from another industry recently and so won’t be familiar with the key players in the industry. In fact, this should be your assumption.

More examples:

1. If the JD is asking for digital transformation, don’t just write ‘implemented CRM system’. You should keep the content (in this case ‘implemented CRM system’) but need to add the expression ‘digital transformation’ as this is exactly what the reader is looking for.

2. If the JD is asking for transformation experience, don’t write ‘change management’. Use transformation.

3. If the JD is asking for experience in a B2B environment and you are currently working in an HVAC company (which usually is a B2B business), then you need to use the word B2B when describing your current company (in addition to HVAC). Don’t expect the reader to make this connection.

4. If the JD is asking for FMCG experience, do not just write ‘consumer goods’. Use FMCG instead (if the experience is in fact with a fast-moving business, always stick with the truth, not every consumer goods company sells ‘fast-moving’ goods). This also works in reverse.

5. Don’t think that ‘this is too obvious’. If the JD is asking for a ‘travel’ experience and you are working for Krisflyer (the loyalty program of Singapore Airlines), you still need to write ‘travel’ somewhere. Not everyone is a miles enthusiast and knows Krisflyer.

6. If agriculture experience is required, do not just write ‘palm oil player’ in a project description. Add agriculture in there.

How to do it:

1. Analyze the job description to see which keywords are required for the role. This can be done just by underlining the words that keep on coming up, particularly in the job requirements. You can try a tool like to create a word cloud of the job description to see which keywords show up most often. While this tool is not perfect, it can sometimes be helpful.

2. If the job description is unclear/ not extensive, read the career website of the company to find examples of vocabulary to use. The biography of the hiring manager can also be useful (check LinkedIn for this).

3. Use these keywords in your resume instead of (or in addition to) the words you are using now, both in the summary on top and inside the respective work experience.

4. At each work experience, re-order your bullet points so that the most relevant experience is listed first (e.g., the most relevant project you’ve done, either because it’s in the right industry or in the right function. Industry usually should be prioritized over function.)

5. Delete irrelevant experience and qualifications (especially academic papers…).

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Alexander Berghofen