How to Target Your Resume for a Specific Position

I’ve heard varying stats about how long an employer will initially glance at your resume before sorting it into a “yes” or “no” pile for further evaluation.  It seems as though anything from 7-30 seconds is the norm.  The important fact isn’t so much the number of seconds, but the fact that your resume can make or break a first impression.  For this reason, it’s imperative to tailor your resume. How?

Write a Strong Summary

A summary section should consist of just a few sentences that highlight who you are.  What is your background and what type of work are you qualified to do?  What are your career goals?  Include keywords that may grab an employer’s attention and mimic the language in the job description.

Create Sections

You aren’t limited to simply “Work Experience” or “Volunteer Experience” on your resume.  Consider what types of experiences would be meaningful to highlight on your resume.  For example, if you are applying to both teaching and research positions, you may want to create a section entitled, “Teaching Experience” and one entitled “Research Experience” placing the most important toward the top of your resume.  It’s important to recognize here that employers are not concerned with what was paid versus unpaid, so think beyond just “work” to volunteer positions and internships that may also fall into your targeted sections.  

Customize Skills & Related Coursework 

The skills section of your resume should be reserved for “hard” skills, meaning software or technical skills, foreign language, and mechanical or laboratory equipment.  Some of these skills may be more relevant or important than others depending on the job, so highlight accordingly.  

If you are a recent graduate, you could also highlight coursework that has provided you with a strong background in a certain industry or profession.  These courses should be unique and upper level courses.  For example, don’t list “Microeconomics” if you were a Business or Economics major as it’s typically a prerequisite and a given that you will come armed with that knowledge.  You only need to list the name of the course, not the department acronym and number as that will be meaningless to those outside of your university.


It may be helpful to keep one comprehensive, master copy of your resume that you never send to anyone, but that you can copy and paste each customized resume from.  Working from the master copy often saves time and energy during your job search! 

Looking for a quick and easy way to get your resume in tip-top shape? Download one of my free resume templates now.