Your Master Resume

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You’ve likely heard by now that you have to tailor your résumé to every job you apply to. This could very well mean you have a stockpile in the double digits, if not hundreds. And you might feel that for this amount of effort, you’ve had little success.

It may be time to take a step back and understand what tailoring a résumé to each job means and how to do it better, which will save you precious time.

1. Create a clean master résumé. 

This is a staple for all job seekers, no matter what stage they’re at in their careers. You need one solid version with everything from your background that could reasonably be used in a résumé. However, the master résumé is not a dumping ground for every piece of job-related history. In order to save yourself headaches later when it comes to application time, clean it up now, and keep it that way as you add to it in the future.

Record all jobs and internships, education, professional training, licenses, certificates, awards, volunteer work, professional affiliations, languages, publications and technical knowledge. Put as many details as you can in this version, from dates to locations to duties. Go beyond just your job or internship tasks, and include the impact of your work, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative. To keep it clean make sure the formatting is consistent now, and fix any grammatical or other errors.

2. Dissect the job description. 

So you come across a job posting, and you’re ready to apply. Read the description closely and highlight the required and preferred qualifications. If you meet the majority of required qualifications, it’s likely worth your while to apply.

4. “Save as” and delete. 

Once you feel you’re qualified for this job and have a good grasp of what the employer is looking for, it’s time to look at your master résumé and “save as” a new version. Keep only duties and accomplishments relevant to the job posting. If you’ve held jobs in a similar type of company or industry, don’t delete those.

5. Adding the infamous keywords. 

“Keyword” now has a bad connotation in the job-searching world, but it’s not as terrible as it seems.

Take a look again at the portions of the job description that you highlighted. Where you see a match with your experience, check the wording of the posting against what’s in your master résumé. Do you use the same terms or synonyms? If you don’t have the same words or phrases, make some replacements.

However, make sure you do it in a meaningful way, and you won’t only get through an applicant automatic tracking system, but also past the deciphering eyes of a human reader.

6. Review, and then review again. 

Like you did above when you created your master résumé, it’s critical to review your work. You cannot assume that since you deleted information from your solid master copy, everything went smoothly.

Technology does have its faults, as do humans. It’s essential to look over the résumé with a fine-toothed comb, and best to do this with a hard copy. Make any changes necessary, and then repeat the edit process after taking a break for an hour or, if you have the time, a day. Try not to edit if you are exhausted after a long day at work.

If it’s a job you’re serious about, you want to submit the best product possible. Remember that this is the first impression the employer will have of you, and it needs to be good because you will not have a second chance.

In truth you need only one résumé – the master version – and the others that stem from that are variations. Once you get the hang of dissecting a job description and identifying keywords, it will be much easier to create new versions when applying to jobs.