How to Customize Your Resume

Written by David Marwick, KempMillJobAssist on . Posted in Advice Columns

If you have one standard resume and use it to apply for diverse jobs, you’re wasting your time. Instead, it is now widely accepted that you must carefully customize your resume for each vacancy.

At a Job Assist workshop in 2013 (available at, we presented an actual announcement for a nursing job and illustrated how a hypothetical candidate could analyze her suitability for the position and craft the appropriate resume for her application.


You can follow a similar four-step process to determine your suitability for a job and customize your resume, thereby increasing your chances of getting an interview — the next stage of your job search.

Sample Qualifications Matrix

Required Qualifications

Your Applicable Education and Experience

B.S., Nursing

B.S., Nursing, Montgomery College

Maryland State license 223344

4 years’ nursing experience

4 years’ nursing experience at Holy Cross Hospital,
including 1 year in Pediatrics and 2 years in Maternity

Desired Qualifications

Your Applicable Education and Experience

2 years’ supervisory experience

1.5 years’ supervisory experience in Maternity

Experience with dialysis



Step one: Find a job you’re interested in and well-qualified to do.

This should be obvious, but many people submit resumes for jobs even if they are not well-qualified. Uploading your resume to a job-search site and clicking “Send Resume” on any job that closely matches your interests without knowing anything about the company or the details of the job is not a good strategy.

In response to the large number — and frequent unsuitability — of applications, employers increasingly use applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems sift through many resumes to find the few that best meet the employers’ criteria.

Step two: Analyze the job’s requirements and your relevant education and experience.

To help applicants do this, we developed the Qualifications Matrix, a pretentious name for a simple, two-column table you can see in the accompanying illustration.

In the left column, you list the job’s requirements, distinguishing required qualifications from desired (but not required) qualifications. In the right column, you list anything in your education and experience that meets these requirements and would help convince an employer that you are qualified for the job.

Step three: Decide if you should apply.

After completing the matrix, decide if you should complete a resume and apply for the job. The rule of thumb is that if you have solid credentials in two-thirds to three-quarters of the requirements, it is worthwhile to apply.

Employers sometimes “shoot for the moon,” listing an unrealistically large number of requirements. They may not find anyone who is strong in every area and may end up hiring someone who has solid credentials in six of eight areas. But when they put together a vacancy announcement, they may have little incentive not to ask for everything on their wish list.

Moreover, you may have some wiggle room on requirements, depending on whether your resume is evaluated by a person or a machine. For example, the employer may want two years of supervisory experience, but you only have one and a half years. If a human evaluates your resume, one and a half years may be close enough, but if an ATS evaluates your resume, there is less likely to be wiggle room.

Step four: Incorporate the results into a customized resume and apply.

Simple enough. Good luck!

For Further Reading Online:

“How Do I Get Employers to Stop Labeling Me as ‘Overqualified?’” by Alex Durand (12.2017)

“Why Aren’t Big Job Boards Working for Me?,” by Nick Corcodilos (10.31.17)

“The Importance of Applicant Tracking Systems: An Interview With Talent Tech Labs,” by Ryan Craig (4.28.17)

By David Marwick, KempMillJobAssist

David Marwick is KempMillJobAssist’s workshop coordinator. He studied economics at George Washington University and worked as an economist for George Washington University and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.