A Good Resume Must Be Tailored to Specific Positions and Companies With Laci Baker

A Good Resume Must Be Tailored to Specific Positions and Companies With Laci Baker

MP chatted with Laci Baker, MEd, CCMC, CPRW, NCOPE, is a Career Advisor at the University of Phoenix. She has been a career coach/advisor at multiple educational institutions. Baker received her master’s in counseling from Vanderbilt University, where she first discovered her love of career advising. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Career Management Coach, and Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert.

Good Resumes

What can job seekers do to craft resumes that help them stand out from the crowd, and why?

The biggest thing job seekers can do is tailor their resumes to each job posting. 

Job seekers tend to think tailoring will take too long and isn’t worth the time, but if they tailor their resume for ten jobs and get four callbacks versus using a generic resume to apply to 60 jobs and get maybe one callback, what is more worth their time? 

They should focus on quality over quantity in the job search because they will likely prevent rejection and ghosting and increase their chances of getting to the interview stage for roles they focus on.

How important is it to include achievements using numbers, metrics, dollars, and quantities wherever possible, and why?

It’s very important because employers want to see that job seekers can bring value to the role they are hiring for. 

If a job seeker can show that they have accomplished meaningful results in their current and/or past roles, the employer will likely want to talk to them to learn more.

How targeted should resumes be to the job for which a candidate is applying, and why?

If they are applying for a job, they should look at the job posting and add keywords from the job posting that apply to them into their resumes. 

If all the keywords do not apply, that is okay. 

An employer will be more interested if the job seeker shows their apparent interest in the job and company by tailoring their resume to the employer’s needs as much as possible.

Many people add that they are “results-driven” on their resumes. Does this help candidates when being evaluated?

It’s always a good rule to show and not tell on the resume. 

If the job posting asks for a results-driven professional, then sure, they can put that on the resume as a potential keyword but highlighting their actual results will be much more effective than just writing they are results-driven. 

Job seekers can do this by adding a professional results section that showcases some of their top results from their experience section.

Laci Baker
Photo courtesy of Laci Baker

Applicant tracking systems are often used to streamline the hiring process. How can job seekers position their resumes for the best chances of success when such systems are being used by the companies they are applying to?

Suppose job seekers want to know more about a company's applicant tracking system (ATS). The job posting’s URL, most of the time, will have the ATS name in it. 

In that case, job seekers can then look up the ATS to see if there are any tricks to working with it (this isn’t true of job postings on LinkedIn or Indeed, so it could be worth finding the company’s job board and applying there directly). 

Also, tailoring a resume to a job posting helps with ATS because it scans the job seeker’s documents for keywords from a job posting which, if they are tailoring, they’re adding those keywords to their resume and cover letter.

How important are specific keywords in resumes, what do these keywords look like, how should they be used, and why?

Keywords equal skills, and highlighting relevant skills can help the job seeker stand out. 

Keywords in job postings, typically under qualifications and responsibilities, are telling the job seeker what the employer needs someone in the role to be skilled at and do, so they are important for sure. They are most helpful when used naturally in the resume, meaning not just added in randomly but strategically. 

Keywords are easiest to add to the summary, skills section, and bullet statements on the resume by replacing less tailored wording within the document.

How should resumes be designed, and why?

Simply with everything in the document's body, so not adding important information in headers or footers. 

Job seekers should top and front load important information on the resume to get the most impactful information to the reader as quickly as possible. 

They should have no columns or text boxes and only add graphics in non-important areas (with no needed information in the graphics). 

Job seekers can add a pop of color here and there (drop a neutral color like light gray over the headers of the resume or change the color of job titles to blue), which can make it look interesting and lead the reader through the resume with little fuss and no ATS issues.

What personal information should be on a job seeker’s resume, and why?

It’s safest to keep it professional on the resume to avoid biases, but at the end of the day, it is up to the job seeker what they feel strongly about adding or taking off. 

It's important for the job seeker to know the pros and cons of adding personal information to the resume to make an informed decision. 

Some personal items to consider not adding to resumes include hobbies, politically charged information, or any protected demographic information that employers can’t legally ask about.

How long should resumes be, and why?

It depends. 

Typical resumes range from one full page for a student with little to no experience to a detail-rich three-page CEO-level resume. It can be a deeply ingrained idea that job seeker must keep their resume to one page. 

Still, if the information is related, a job seeker doesn’t have to stick to one page because they can share a lot of information on their resume to show qualifications for a role. 

If the resume gets to three or more pages, they will likely want to remove some content or reformat the resume to preserve its readability, but if they have a strong, well-thought two-pager, they’re probably in good shape.

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Bad resumes

What are three common mistakes job seekers typically make when applying for jobs, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

1. Not Having a Career Summary

A huge one is not having a career summary on the resume and instead using objective statements or profiles. 

A career summary leads the reader through the resume and highlights keywords and skills that tell a story about the jobseeker and why they are applying. 

An objective profile tells the reader what the job seeker wants. 

Jobseekers can avoid this by remembering the resume is reader-focused (how do I align with what they need?) and not job seeker-focused (how do I show them what I want?).

2. Having Job Tasks Listed

Another mistake is having job tasks listed instead of accomplishments in their experience section’s bullet statements. 

This mistake can be avoided by the jobseeker remembering that each bullet statement should have measurable outcomes or show results and not solely state the tasks they completed in a role.

3. Having Outdated Formatting

Another common issue is outdated formatting. 

Job seekers can avoid this by using these quick tips to get their resume looking current. 

.5 margins on all sides.

Using Calibri and not Times New Roman.

Using a format that is easy to edit and doesn’t cause formatting issues when tweaked.

Taking the full address off the resume and just having City, State, and Zip at the top.

Removing parentheses from phone numbers, for example, layout: 111-222-3333.

When do resume templates with excessive colors, graphics, and multiple columns start to work against job seekers, and why?

Pretty quickly, when applying through online systems, ATS can have difficulty scanning documents with components like text boxes. 

Also, sometimes with columns, only the first column is scanned into the online system, while everything in the second and beyond columns isn’t scanned in at all, depending on the ATS.

Graphics that aren’t scanned in by the ATS are typically ignored. 

So, using a simply formatted resume with a little bit of color is going to be the safest option. If they’re applying directly via email, heavily formatted resumes will only be limited by the content, not the look.


Is there anything else you would like to share?

Take a deep breath and remember little steps of improvement on the resume are progress.

Responses provided by Laci Baker, MEd, CCMC, CPRW, NCOPE, Career Advisor at the University of Phoenix.

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