Tech & Work

Customize your resume for each job

Sending identical copies of your resume to all your prospective clients can only hurt your chances of standing out in the crowd. Apply these tips on tailoring your resume for the job you want.


Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.

Question
I'm a technical writer with more than 11 years of experience in the software industry. I have been unable to secure another contract since my last one ended. The opportunities I have interviewed for have been lower in both pay and responsibility than my last contract. I’ve tried to compensate for this by lowering my hourly rate, but I’ve had no luck. I'm wondering if I should redo my resume to a very job-specific single page or continue lowering my prices. Any suggestions?
—JH

Answer
Many companies view technical writers as a luxury. Most likely, they’re going to focus on hiring software architects, business analysts, and others who play a larger role in producing the products, says Rob Carey, market VP for high-tech staffing firm Kforce. In addition, companies often want more “full-service” technical writers these days.

“Many firms are looking for RoboHelp, Adobe FrameMaker, and other online publishing skills to match the writing skills,” Carey said.

Your best strategy is to revise your resume to showcase your most relevant skills. The more uniquely you can position yourself, the less you’ll have to compete against other candidates on the basis of hourly rate alone.

When I write a resume for clients, I always include a Profile section near the top of page one. Think of it as an executive summary, containing only the most valuable and pertinent skills and abilities. You should also list your most marketable software applications, special expertise, years of experience—all in three to five bullet points. Make sure you take this approach each time you send out your resume.

Such relevancy is key to an effective resume, said Ray Halagera, COO of Career Systems International, a Scranton, PA-based career development company.

“You should customize your resume each time you send it out, presenting the skills and experience that are most relevant to the position in question,” Halagera said.

Here’s an example of language you can use as a guide for highlighting your most valuable skills:
  • Strong technical writing background, with five years of research, writing, editing, and documentation experience (hardcopy and online) for software and hardware.
  • Additional expertise in documentation design and layout, software testing, and end-user training for Fortune 500 firms. Consistently meet tight publishing schedules.
  • Applications: Adobe FrameMaker, Acrobat, PhotoShop 6.0; RoboHelp; Microsoft Word, Excel, Visio; expert in both UNIX and Windows 2000/NT environments.

If you’re confused about what to include or what to leave out, try the “So, what?” test. Look over every sentence in your resume and ask yourself: “So, what?” Is that last sentence 100 percent relevant to the job I’m seeking? Does it make me want to keep reading the resume to find out more? If not, dump it and start over.

Final thoughts
It can be difficult to accept, but you may have to consider taking a lower-paying position with a company you love to gain access to more rewarding opportunities down the road. Look at it as a long-term strategy towards making yourself more employable overall.

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