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How to tailor a job application

When you apply for a job you want to person reading your application to quickly see that you are the right person for the role.

This means that you need to spend time tailoring your application - not just the letter, but the resume too.

Tailoring your resume and letter is important to make sure:

  • your application gets through any document scanning software (called ATS which stands for Applicant Tracking Software) so that it actually gets in front of a real person.

  • when the hiring manager reads your application they can see you have the skills for the job.

To tailor your application you need to weave the keywords from the job ad or job key selection criteria into your resume.

Which sounds hard, but it doesn't need to be!

a laptop and resume on a desk

Incorporating keywords into your application to ensure you get picked for a job interview can be a very simple thing to do.

[Quick side note: To do this easily you need a professional profile and key skills section on the front page of your resume which you can quickly tailor. For information on what sections to include in a modern, Australian resume please see these other blog posts:

Here are my top tips on incorporating selection criteria into your resume:

1. Find the keywords

This probably sounds obvious, but it's a good idea to print out the job ad or position description and then highlight or write down the key words from the selection criteria (often called 'requirements' or 'about you' in a job ad) so that you have them in a list.

An example for a procurement manager role might be:

  • Procurement experience in FMCG

  • Logistics / supply chain category management

  • Commercial / financial acumen

  • Communication, negotiation skills

  • Stakeholder relationship building

  • Team leadership

  • Strategy / analytical

Example for a customer service officer might be:

  • Customer service

  • Communication

  • Organisational and Attention to detail

  • Administration

  • Problem solving

2. Ensure you list these keywords in your Key Skills/Strengths list

You need to showcase your key skills on the front page of your resume, in the second section (just under your professional profile). Call this section Key Skills or Key Strengths.

I like to have a 2 column table with each skill name as a separate row in the first column, and a few dot points outlining your experience in each of the skills in the second column.

However, you could also just have a dot point per key skill if you don't want to include that much detail.

Either way, you need to make sure you have all the keywords from the job ad covered in your key skills section.

Note that you can combine like skills (for example administration, organisational and attention to detail, or stakeholder engagement and communication) so that your skills section doesn't get too long!

3. Update what you call yourself in your profile

You should also slightly adapt your professional profile to incorporate some key words from the job ad, as well as amending what you call yourself (I am a 'job title') to match the job you are applying for.

4. Review your Key Achievements

I recommend having a few key achievements from across your career on the front page of your resume, and select 2-3 that reflect your different skills.

So when tailoring your resume, review the achievements and make sure they are relevant to the skills they are looking for. This might just mean you drag and drop them into a different order, or that you completely change them to suit the role.

It's not that hard to tailor an application... I promise!

Once you have a Key Skills section on your resume, as long as you are applying for roles in similar fields, tailoring will not bee too difficult.

Most roles have very similar key selection criteria. Sometimes they might be worded differently, but the intent is still the same. For example, stakeholder engagement v stakeholder relationship building, or people management v leadership, or problem solving v analytical.

So all you need to do is change what you call each skill, and your tailoring is done!

You'll obviously need to tailor the letter a little more, but there is no need to spend days on your job applications. Phew!

If you haven't already, make sure you grab your free 5 day RESUME MAKEOVER CHALLENGE!

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