Using the job description to tweak your resume

HomeUsing the job description to tweak your resume

Using the job description to tweak your resume

Whenever I am giving a resume writing seminar, I make it a point to mention these two facts:

  • one, resume writing is an art, not a science; and
  • two, a one-size resume does not fit all.

What I mean by the latter is that it is very important to revise your resume to fit the position you are applying for. Blindly applying to jobs with a single resume is not a good career-search strategy. Employers are looking to hire employees to solve specific problems. They need to fit a round peg into a round hole, and in this economy, there are plenty of round pegs to choose from. To give your resume a chance at getting past the gatekeepers, review the job description for insights into how to revise your resume.

What to look for?

In most job descriptions, you will find an overview of the position along with typical duties. You will also find a list of general requirements, such as years of experience, level of education, required certifications and desired skills. It is important to review this information and make the appropriate revisions to your resume by adding or removing information.

Years of experience

If the position requires at least 10 years’ experience and you meet this requirement, mention it in the resume. The best place to include this information is in your professional summary. If you are interested in this position and you do not have at least 10 years’ experience, downplay this fact by not including how many years you have. If you have more than 10 years’ experience but less than 15 years, you can include this information. However, if you have more than 15 years’ experience, do not include this information. You do not want to get the “over-qualified” label.

Level of education

If you have more education than the position requires, I suggest that you only include the education that meets the requirements. No need mentioning the fact that you have a Ph.D. when a master’s degree is required. Again, protect yourself against being labeled over-qualified. Conversely, if you do not have the minimum education requirements, list what you do have and make sure your professional experience is relevant to the position in question. As your career progresses, professional experience trumps education, but your experience needs to be relevant to the position. You need to show evidence of how you have solved problems similar to the problems you would face in this new position.

Certifications and skills

This is a no-brainer, but any certifications required or skills desired should be listed in your resume. Consider including significant certifications, e.g., CPA, CMA, CFP, etc., in your professional profile. For skills, create a table and include any skills that you have that match the job description. This information should be included on the first page of your resume, following your professional profile.

Typical duties

Tweaking your professional experience section for the job is critical to the success of your career search. Your accomplishments should be relevant to the position and speak directly to your ability to solve problems. If you are applying for a job in project management and one of the duties includes managing multi-million dollar projects, include an example of where you have done this in your resume.

With so many round pegs to choose from, you have to position yourself as the shiniest and easiest to fit into the proverbial round hole. Use these tips to revise your resume for each position for which you apply and increase your chances of getting interviews.


Nathan Adams is a certified professional resume writer, career coach, career thought leader and owner of First Impressions Resume Center. He is also a volunteer resume coach at Charlotte Works. He is a nationally published writer and has written and reviewed more than 2,500 resumes for professionals in career transition. With more than 15 years of professional resume-writing and career-transition experience, Adams has helped thousands of career-seekers jump start their career searches. He is passionate about his work and dedicated to helping people navigate the treacherous waters of the career search. Adams is a proud member of PARW and CDI and is a regular speaker on career-related topics in the Charlotte metro area.

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