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How to write a targeted resume for each application you make

Amanda Datchens //  0 Comments

A targeted resume is essential to stand out from the crowd. Turn your job search around and start getting interviews with this targeted resume guide.


I know what you are thinking – or at least I have a good idea. Mainly because I have heard the same thing over and over again from so many people over so many years. It starts something like this.

“I know I probably should do this but…”

And then come the reasons.

“It’s just too hard.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t need to because I paid a professional writer.”

“My qualifications will speak for themselves.”

“Nobody else I know does this.”

“Really, seriously? A different resume for each application I make? No way.”

The question you have to ask yourself is this. Do I really want this job? And if the answer is yes, then yes, you do have to tailor your resume to give you the best chance of getting an interview.

The good news is that when you know how to do it, it won’t take long, it won’t be hard and you will see a dramatic improvement in your rate of interviews.

What is a targeted resume? 

A targeted resume is one that is written to highlight specific skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications and aptitudes required by a specific role. Its purpose is to show recruiters and hiring managers why a candidate is a perfect fit for a role by matching them to both essential and desirable criteria.

Clearly this is a sensible and wise choice when applying for a job but is it really essential?

Why you need to tailor your resume 

How many times have you been on LinkedIn, seen a recruiter or a company post the description of a job they are looking to fill, and then seen a load of people just write the word “interested” in the comments?

Do you really think these people will get a response, especially when explicit instructions were given on how to apply?

Well, the same thing is true regarding sending a generic resume.

Of course, if your skills are exceptionally rare and in high demand you might get lucky but, more likely, if you send a generic resume you will just blend in with the hundreds of other applicants.

Definition: Generic

Shared by, typical of, or relating to a whole group of similar things, rather than to any particular thing.

ie to blend in rather than stand out.

It’s true that generic resumes used to be enough. You could have just one great resume and use it for all your applications. But today’s job market is far more competitive which means, in response, you have to be too.

To understand why a targeted resume makes such a difference, you need to understand what both ATS and humans are looking for when they screen your resume for a job.

Why Applicant Tracking Systems prefer targeted resumes 

When you apply for a job online or even when you send your resume direct to a recruiter, the first stage of screening will most likely be through an ATS or Applicant tracking System.

ATS are programmed to look for key phrases and information from a job description and also keywords and phrases set by HR or recruiters.

Put simply, the software scores your resume in order to determine which candidates are most qualified to join a shortlist that a human will then review.

Therefore, if you submit a highly targeted resume then there is a much higher chance of you making it on to the interview short list.

Why recruiters and hiring managers prefer targeted resumes 

Recruiters are time poor, deadline driven and, in the first instance, will be speed reading your resume. You literally only have a few seconds to make a great impression and that means quickly scoring 'ticks in their heads'.

Just like the ATS bots, they too will have a list of criteria they are searching for. Each time they find an essential key word or phrase you will move up their list of potential candidates.

It’s not a secret what they will be looking for because a job description will tell you everything they want from you.

So, again, if you submit a highly targeted resume then there is a much higher chance of you making it on to the interview short list.

Now I have hopefully convinced you that tailoring your resume is a great idea, let’s look at exactly what this involves.

What it Really Means to "Target Your Resume" 

Although, as you will see in the step by step guide below, targeting your resume is quite straight forward, it will still take a bit of time and effort on your part.

You are essentially going to be doing some research and then swapping out key words and phrases to prove how well you fit the recruitment brief.

Before you start though, I want you to keep in mind a couple of things.

First, you need to put in place some job search rules so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the whole job application process.

This will ensure that you are spending your time wisely and only applying for jobs that are worthy of your time.

If at any time you are trying to target your resume and it is proving difficult, you should ask yourself whether you really should be applying in the first place.

Second, targeting your resume is not about gaming the system or being dishonest.

Never put something on your resume that you cannot actually do or have any experience of.

You may get an interview, or even get the job, but what are going to do when they expect you to perform and you can’t?

With that said, let’s look at how easy it is to produce a targeted resume.

How to write a targeted resume – a simple 8 step guide 

The first time you do this will take a little longer while you get used to the process. After that you will fly through this process with ease. Let’s get started.


Step 1 - Start with a solid base resume 

Many people think that preparing a targeted resume means writing a whole new resume from scratch each time they apply for a job.

The good news is that this is not necessary.

What you do need though is one great resume to base all your others from.

The base resume should definitely be in a reverse chronological layout

This will mean that you have the following essential sections that you can easily edit:

  • Profile
  • Work history
  • Education & Qualifications
  • Referees


Step 2 - Study the job description 

The job description is the target you are aiming for with your edited resume, so it is crucial to take the time to study it thoroughly.

What you are looking specifically are:

  • Essential job requirements
  • Desirable job requirements
  • Key words
  • Key phrases

Take a pen and paper or work straight onto your laptop or phone. Identify the above and write how you match what they are looking for.

Take a look at the example below for a Mining Superintendent at FMG that was advertised on Seek.

job description FMG

The first thing to note is the specific project – Iron Bridge. If you will be working on a project, always Google it for more information and take notes.

Ask yourself if you have experience of anything similar or if any of its features resembles a project you have or are working on.

If you find a match, include that in your resume.

The next blurb emphasises being motivated and ‘challenging the norm’ but you will also see that there has been a cut and paste of information saying the same thing again.

This is not uncommon with job ads and it does tell you that it is a generic company statement rather than something specific to this role.

Now we are into the key responsibilities section.

There is nothing particularly striking about this section as these duties are really what you would expect and would likely be on you resume if you were an experienced Mining Superintendent.

However, qualifications and skills is where you find the gems:

  • Min 5 years’ experience
  • Autonomous Haulage Systems
  • Quarry Manager cert
  • Greenfield operation
  • SAP & BMS
  • Mine Safety & Inspection and OHS Act/Regulations

If you were a mining superintendent you would need to make a note of how you meet all of these key areas.


Step 3 - Study the company 

Next, do some research on the company’s website and Google news stories. Then take a look at how they interact on social media. What do they highlight and what sort of culture do they exhibit?

Who are their major competitors? If you have or do work for one, they may be keen to get you on board for your knowledge and experience.

Take more notes.


Step 4 - Edit your profile 

Every resume needs to start with a great resume profile, but a targeted resume also has to include the key criteria you found from the job description.

Using the example above, and excellent way to start would be

“An accomplished and motivated Mining Superintendent with 9 years’ experience of greenfield sites working at significant iron ore projects including x, x and x."

This one sentence includes ‘motivated’ over 5 years’ experience, greenfield experience, iron ore and then similar competitor projects.

You would then follow with information on leadership, safety, etc and be sure to include Autonomous Haulage Systems, SAP & BMS and finish with something like ‘underpinned by sound understanding of Mine Safety & Inspection and OHS Act/Regulations and qualifications including… and mention the Quarry Manager cert.

Naturally, if you don’t have these skills and experience you don’t put them in but, if you do, this is where they would go.


Step 5 - Edit your work history 

Now look at your work history and complete a similar exercise.

Compare the information and language in the key responsibilities section for the job description and, where possible, emphasise or add in more information on those areas on your targeted resume.


Step 6 - Edit your education & qualifications 

Next, double check that this section aligns with the job description. Have you left anything off that would be relevant to this job?


Step 7 - Edit your interests / volunteering 

There are few times when I would advise you to add hobbies and interests on a resume for these very good reasons.

However, if there is something that directly aligns with this job then that would qualify as one of those rare occasions when you should.


Step 8 - Edit your referees  

Finally, don’t forget your referees. Try to select those that would be more relevant for the position, company or industry that you are applying to.

Yes, should always include referees and here is why.

Key Takeaways 

When you are finished take care with how you save this version of your resume. Once you do a few of these it can get confusing.

After all your hard work you don’t want to end up sending the wrong one!

For example, I would suggest – ‘your name FMG date’ with the example above.

When you build up a bank of these you may be able to cut and paste for similar positions.

All you need now is a highly targeted cover letter to complete your application.

Now you know the benefit of producing a targeted resume plus how to do it, but there is one more thing I want you to realise.

All of this research on the job and the company will set you up perfectly for your interview because you will find it easier to answer the question “why should we employ you for this role.”

Good luck with your job search and if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice

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