Targeting Your Resume for Your Audience

Your resume is about your future, not your past.

Based on this theory, remember, when writing your resume, that your audience is the hiring manager for the position mentioned in the job description.

Keep It Focused

A concise and focused resume can get you considered by a hiring manager or search committee, while a general resume will get put in the “circular file” almost immediately.

The reader does not want someone who “will do anything, I just want a job.” They want someone who specializes in what the company needs.

The key concept in writing a resume that lands interviews and makes it past the applicant tracking system (ATS) is to keep the focus on your target job, which means you may need to tailor your resume each time you apply for a different job.

It’s not as tedious as it seems and it’s well worth your energy when you consider how much more effective your document will be.

Consider Your Audience

In order to sell yourself to this potential employer, create statements that are meaningful to him or her. In some cases you may need to:

  Use more generic terminology to downplay the differences and emphasize the similarities between your previous position and your job objective.  


Jennifer was a salesperson who wanted to make a career change into elementary school teaching. She tried to bridge the gap between her two careers by emphasizing the common denominators of the two experiences.

Preferred version:

  • Made presentations to multicultural audiences, incorporating small group activities and individual coaching to ensure that each person understood the subject matter.

Instead of:

  • Made marketing presentations to corporate executives, achieving an average of 34% more sales than fellow presenters.

  Select the aspect of the achievement that relates to the job objective.  


As a horticulturist, Patty was surprised to learn that the part of her job she liked the most was answering client questions. When she wrote her resume for a job as a travel agent, she emphasized her customer service skills and down played her scientific expertise.

Preferred version:

  • Assisted customers in selecting from over 2,000 options by patiently answering questions and educating them about costs and benefits.

Instead of:

  • Provided scientific information on thousands of plant species, as the lead horticulturist of the country’s most prestigious botanical garden.

  Prioritize your statements so the one most relevant to your new job is first.  


In her former job as office manager, 75% of Andrea’s time was spent processing administrative paperwork, and less than 25% on training and supervision.

She wanted to get a job as a corporate trainer. So she prioritized her achievement statements to stress the training experience even though it was not her primary responsibility.

Preferred version:

  • Trained 13 employees on new automated accounting system, providing classroom sessions, individual coaching, and written instructions.
  • Led office to achieve “#1 Team” award by motivating staff to take a customer service approach to all internal and external interactions.
  • Supervised administration of firm’s largest litigation department with over 300 cases per week.

Instead of:

  • Supervised administration of firm’s largest litigation department with over 300 cases per week.
  • Led office to achieve “#1 Team” award recognizing excellence in researching cases.
  • Trained 13 employees on new automated accounting system, providing classroom sessions, individual coaching, and written instructions.

  Use the “right” keywords for your target.  

Since the majority of large employers, and a growing number of smaller employers, use applicant tracking systems (a.k.a. “ATS”) to store resumes for easy search and retrieval, focus on the job’s keywords.

The terms used most often for searching — the keywords — are typically these:

  • The job’s title
  • The key skills required
  • The education required
  • The job’s location

Be sure to use those exact terms in your resume in addition to other relevant language describing your accomplishments and fit for the job.

Understand that employers will typically want to compare your resume to your LinkedIn Profile. Make it easy for them to make those connections by using exactly the same version of your name on each.

Don’t be “Bill Jones” on LinkedIn and “William A. Jones” on your resume. Without the ability to easily connect your resume to your LinkedIn Profile, employers are less likely to invite you for an interview.

Worst case, they find someone unqualified who has the same name you do, and your resume is discarded as a result.

The Bottom Line on Targeted Resumes

An untreated resume does not work well now because of the technology employers use and the level of competition for most jobs. So, the best way to ensure visibility with employers is to modify your resume to fit each job.

More About Successful Resumes

Erin KennedyAbout the author…

Erin Kennedy is a Master Career Director (MCD), Certified Master Resume Writer (MCRW), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and Certified Empowerment & Motivational Coach (CEMC). She has been helping clients since 1999. Erin is also the President of Professional Resume Services, Inc.. Visit her website and connect with Erin on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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