Applying for jobs is hard work.
You might think no-one will notice if you cut corners and use the same résumé when you apply for different jobs.
But you wouldn’t send the same love letter to multiple crushes, so why would you send the same cover letter and résumé to multiple employers and think you’ll have any luck getting a job?
The reality is you can’t be everything to everyone, and one size doesn’t fit all.
As careers and employability expert Bec Boddington says, ‘A bug bear, common from graduate recruiters I speak to, is when it is obvious that an applicant has taken no effort to tailor their résumé and has sent the same generic résumé off to 20 positions. That generic résumé will not progress you through the recruitment process, and will not get you an interview! Not customising your application is one of the most common mistakes an applicant can make’.
Tailoring your résumé and cover letter is not important … it is essential. You need to tailor each and every application your write.
Bec Boddington – USQ careers and employability expert
To effectively tailor your job application to the specific industry you want to work in, you need to do your research. It can also help to think about some of the skills or qualifications that would be important to have for jobs in your industry in comparison to other industries.
For example, if you’re going into the education industry, you could state that you already have a valid Blue Card, or if you’re going into the health or childcare industries, you could mention that your vaccinations are up to date. If you are entering a creative industry like graphic design, you might want to highlight your graphic design skills by submitting a more creative résumé than one that an aspiring lawyer would use.
Knowing your industry is fundamentally important.
Michael Healy – USQ careers and employability expert
While it’s important to tailor your job applications to the relevant industry you’re hoping to work in, that shouldn’t be where you stop. According to Human Resources professional Michelle Lynch, ‘it’s important to always tailor both your cover letter and résumé for the particular job you are applying for – regardless of what industry the role is in’.
How to tailor your job applications for different jobs
So, we know now that it’s important to make sure the résumés and cover letters we send out into the world are tailored and unique to specific jobs, companies and industries. But, for those of you who might be thinking, ‘Yeah, I already knew that’, it turns out that tailoring your job application requires more than changing only a couple of keywords.
Not sure where to start?
Bec and Michelle share their top 7 tips below.
1. According to the 2017 Australian Association of Graduate Employers Employer Survey Report, the skill employers found candidates were most lacking during the recruitment process was ‘understanding of our organisation’. Look at the job description or advertisement and identify necessary requirements, and keywords that are used.
2. Include these keywords in your cover letter and résumé, and highlight the relevance of your skills and experience in relation to these keywords.
3. Limit your use of industry-specific jargon and acronyms. While you want to show you understand the industry you’re applying to work in, your application still needs to be understood by anyone who reads it, including (importantly) human resources staff.
4. Identify what the overall purpose or objective of the advertised role is, or what challenge the hiring company is hoping to address by hiring someone into this role. Then consider how you are uniquely qualified to take on the position and tackle that objective or challenge.
5. Demonstrate how the type of work you’re applying to do motivates you and how the position fits with your own career aspirations.
6. Research the company, its purpose, values and culture, and demonstrate how these things align with your own personal values. Remember that these days, organisations are looking for employees who love the work that they do.
7. Use achievements or accomplishments from your career to date that demonstrate how you can do the job you are applying for. For example, instead of listing out a set of duties for the jobs you've held, provide examples of things you've accomplished (think SMART goals) and where possible, make sure you highlight those that are most similar to the position you're applying for. Show your transferable skills!
To be clear, you don’t have to start from scratch every time you want to apply for a new job. There will still be a lot of information in your résumé that will be the same for any job you want to apply for, and that’s okay. According to USQ careers and employability expert Michael Healy, ‘90% of what makes a good résumé (clarity, relevance and evidence) is true across all industries’.
However, tailoring your cover letters and résumés to each and every job shows the recruiter that you have done your homework and put time and effort into your application. For more advice on creating a job application that will take you to the next level, read about the 5 things employers wish they could say about your résumé.
Remember, recruiters are using either automated systems or physically scanning your résumés, they don’t read each and every word. Your application needs to highlight the most important information and show the recruiter that you have the skills and expertise to do the job!
Bec Boddington – USQ careers and employability expert
Yes, creating unique job applications takes time … more time than you’d probably like. But tailoring your cover letter and résumé for each and every job you apply for will pay off in the end, when you get asked in for an interview.
If you want help tailoring your cover letters and résumés, which will help you get to the next level in the job application process, make an appointment with one of USQ’s Career Development Practitioners.
Learn more about Graduate Employability and what it can mean for your future career.