We often tell our clients that job applications are like sales proposals and any good sales person knows how important tailoring is for success. If you’ve been applying for jobs unsuccessfully, taking a more tailored approach to preparing your application might be a good place to start.
While we always recommend that our clients write a customised cover letter for each role, working to tailor your entire application is often something relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket. The process of tailoring your resume and/or LinkedIn profile can sound time consuming, but we challenge you to take a good look at your application and ask yourself (as the recruiter) ‘what’s in it for me?’ Your job application should immediately highlight you as someone who can add value in the role. If it doesn’t do that, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Before we start with the tailoring process, we are assuming you have a great resume in place already – a document that highlights who you are, identifies your key skills, and shows the value you have added in previous roles. If you haven’t already done that, then focus on that step first – see our previous article How to Write a Resume – Top 10 Tips to get started. Then, follow these simple steps to tailor your application for success:
- Do your research: The first step is research. Read the job ad and identify exactly what’s required. Highlight specific skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If the company is advertising directly, view their website, search the company name and find out if there is any news or company activity that may impact the job. Writing just one sentence in your cover letter referencing a current situation, challenge or opportunity the company is facing could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.
- Customise your career profile: We recommend including a good strong career profile as the first section in your resume. Your career profile should highlight what you bring to the role. It should clearly demonstrate your skills and past experience and highlight how they add value to an organisation. Most people see this section as fairly standard, however by customising the content to address specific individual job requirements, you’ll put yourself a step ahead. Make it personal, enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, and engaging – and clearly demonstrate to the recruiter how you’ll excel. This can also apply to your LinkedIn profile summary – we would take a similar approach to tailoring the content to ensure you’ve covered off the key skills and attributes required for the role. We don’t recommend doing this for every role, however if there is a role you’re applying for that mentions new or different skills (that you possess but aren’t covered effectively), you should work to incorporate them.
- Change your key capability list: Once you know the recruiter’s main priorities in terms of what they’re looking for in a candidate, you can customise your key capabilities to meet those needs. In its simplest form, this means re-ordering your ‘key capabilities and skills’. Get more involved by rewording those points and/or customising them to suit the role. Again, this also applies to LinkedIn so make sure you’ve covered off all the main areas within the ‘skills and endorsements’ section.
- Show your value: If a buyer can’t see the value in a product or service, they simply won’t buy it. Same goes for your job application. If you don’t offer the recruiter what they’re looking for, you won’t succeed. Your application needs to demonstrate to the recruiter how you are going to add value. This process is simple once you know their pain points because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important so spend time ensuring the content in your documents targets and addresses as many of the requirements of the role as you can. Use past successes and achievements to show how you’ve ‘added value’ in the past.
- Write a customised cover letter: We can’t stress enough how important this step is. Writing a customised cover letter is the simplest way for your application to stand out. If a recruiter receives 100 or so applications, how do you think they’re going to choose which ones to actually read in detail? Research has proven that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. Preparing a cover letter that highlights your key skills, experiences and past achievements that are highly relevant to the role you are applying for increases your chances significantly of getting noticed.
- Change your job history order: This is not something we recommend doing unless absolutely necessary because it can confuse the reader. However, where we would recommend doing this is if you have highly relevant experience in your past work history, where your recent roles and experience are not at all relevant. In this case, we recommend applicants make a new section which is included upfront and entitled “Relevant Employment History” then list the relevant job history. You would then move your recent and other roles to a section called “Other Employment History”. This ensures the recruiter sees your ‘relevant’ experience first but the title of the section will give insight into why that experience is not recent.
Preparing a tailored application for every role you apply for is something you should strongly think about making time for. While it might sound time consuming, the reward far outweighs the effort. You’ll end up with an application that screams ‘look at me’ to the recruiter and that is exactly the position you want to be in!
Are you interested in tailoring your application for improved success? Would you like some assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services.