Tailoring your resume and cover letter for each role you apply for is critical for maximising your chances to of securing an interview. Most roles attract hundreds of applications, and the best way to ensure yours stands out for all the right reasons is to tailor your written documents. However, this can be very time consuming, so I’ve put together some tips to streamlining the process. I’ve been writing resumes, cover letters, criteria responses and LinkedIn profiles for over seven years. Here are my suggestions.
When I write resumes for clients, I often develop what I call a “Master CV” that they can then use to create tailored resumes. The Master CV should capture the broadest range of skills, capabilities, competencies, experience and achievements you have to offer. Of course, it should also begin with a clear headline statement or value proposition that clarifies the unique combination of skills, experience and personal attributes you have to offer. It should also include your qualifications, training, licences, certifications, professional memberships and community involvement.
Once I put together the Master CV, I explain to clients that you need to adapt it to different roles by looking at the position description to see what’s most relevant and to check the terminology they use, then delete irrelevant information in the Master CV and re-order the information in order of relevance. This could be listing your capabilities in the order they appear in the position description, then looking for examples of where you have done the things listed in the key accountabilities for the role – and the related achievements Then put these first under their relevant headings – for example if managing correspondence, developing complex document management systems and preparing reports are the first three accountabilities listed, make sure that they are the first three listed under your relevant experience.
Then look at your headline statement, and see if it reflects or matches up with the job advertisement, specifically the sections that outline “About You” or “The successful candidate will” or “We are looking for”. Tweak the terminology to reflect what they use in the position description.
This process means you have all your relevant career information in front of you, in your Master CV, then all you’re really doing is cutting and re-ordering information, and changing some key words. This should not take you four hours!
A similar process applies to cover letters. These really are tailored documents, and there are ways to streamline the process but at the end of the day, you need to do the legwork and find out about the role and the organisation, and make sure you articulate that information in the cover letter.
To streamline this process, I use a cover letter template. It provides a sharp, concise introduction, explains your motivations for applying for this particular role, then goes on to detail what you know about this organisation and why you want to work with them – and potentially, where you think you will add value. This approach is most relevant when you’re applying directly to a company. If your cover letter is going to a recruiter, there should be more of a focus on your motivations and intentions, and the types of organisations and roles that interest you.
Some roles ask for responses to selection criteria, and others request a statement of claims. Once you’ve put in hours of time and effort putting these together, you may want to use them for other applications. If the information is relevant, and the roles are similar, there are a few ways to do this. Some clients are tempted to upload the criteria responses as a separate document even if the application doesn’t ask for it. What I suggest you do instead is address the criteria – briefly – in your resume. Include them in a few bullet points within the capabilities section of your resume, and then providing examples of your ability to meet those criteria in your key achievements for each role. Order the relevant achievements in the same order as the criteria, and potentially even use the same terminology. You can also add additional information that demonstrates your suitability for the role, relevant knowledge and motivation to apply for this particular position in your cover letter.
The key points to take away are these – make sure your documents are concise, relevant, reflective, and targeted.
For more advice on achieving your career goals, securing your next role and writing winning job applications, contact me via the Flex Careers coaching platform.
FlexCoach Tanaz Byramji helps people achieve their career goals – from writing resumes and guiding graduates in searching for entry-level jobs through to providing career coaching, advising small business owners and supporting managers moving into executive and directorship positions.
A professional writer with significant experience providing career development, strategic marketing, and business support services, Tanaz knows how to write effectively in a clear yet compelling manner. She combines that skill with an in-depth knowledge of employment practices and insight into HR processes. Tanaz draws on this expertise to prepare resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, selection criteria responses and business proposals.
To connect with a Tanaz and book a free chemistry session click here.