Mastering Resume Writing: Strategic Tailoring Tips for All Career Levels

Resume Writing What does it actually mean to tailor your resume writing for the role you are applying for? While keeping your target job description in mind and using the right keywords are essential steps, you also need to consider your career level when writing and customizing your resume. Why? Employers expect to see different skills, experiences and value-add factors depending on where you’re at in your professional journey. Today, I’ll share some tips to help your best traits shine, no matter how many years of experience you have.

Why Is It Important to Tailor Your Resume Writing for Your Career Level?

This might sting a little, but I promise understanding it will help you win at resume writing:

While you’ll no doubt spend hours crafting the perfect document, recruiters will scan in it in the mere time it takes to pour a cup of your favourite morning brew. That sounds discouraging, but it just means you need to be highly strategic to help them evaluate whether you’re the right fit for that coveted position.

Job seekers generally fall into four career levels: recent graduates, early-stage to intermediate candidates, mid-level professionals and management, and executive leadership. Understanding your career level will help you focus on and highlight the right things, quickly demonstrating that you have the aptitude to do the job.

Recent Graduates (0-2 Years)

If you’re at this career level, congratulations!

As a new graduate entering the job market, you are likely applying for an internship or your first dream job out of school, which means you’re writing an entry-level resume.

Because of your limited (or, let’s face it, sometimes non-existent) work experience, you may feel like you don’t have much to offer, but that’s 100% debatable. Reasonable employers know and expect that you won’t have an extensive work history at this point. Hiring managers and employers are open to mentoring, training, and coaching the right candidate.

As an entry-level candidate, your resume should focus on demonstrating your employability and potential by highlighting the transferable knowledge and skills you’ve developed through your schooling and extracurricular activities. Include the following primary sections:

  • Education: focus on the highest level of education you’ve received, and get specific when listing relevant training, degrees, certifications, classes, and projects. If you have a high GPA or won any awards, be sure to add those too!
  • Work & Other Experience: consider your internships, summer jobs, volunteering experience, and even hobbies. Even if they’re not directly related to the job, think about the skills they’ve helped you develop- these are highly relevant and could be of value on your resume. For example, if you’re applying to an accounting firm, working as a checkout clerk may have helped you learn top-notch customer service skills.
  • Skills: employers want to know what you can do, so list any soft and technical abilities relevant to the position.

Remember that there’s a fine line between getting creative to make your resume as relevant as possible and being misleadingly inventive. Tempting as it might be, please remember never to embellish your experience.

Start your career on the right foot: with integrity!

Early-Stage & Intermediate Professionals (3-5 Years)

While your resume will still have a similar structure to a new graduate’s, it’s time to get much more selective with what you include. Focus only on highly relevant skills and experience, particularly those that demonstrate autonomy and the ability to work well without close supervision.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Lead with a professional summary: start things off by summarizing your key characteristics, strongest experience, and greatest skills. Think of it like an elevator pitch giving a snapshot of who you are and what you bring to the table.
  • Emphasize core competencies over basic skills: core competencies are much broader than specific skills. For example, while knowing how to use a particular software is a great skill, tech-savviness demonstrates general adaptability to various technologies.
  • Establish value-add: you’re still relatively new to the workforce, so don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t accomplished anything revolutionary like overhauling an entire company division. Still, focus not just on the specific tasks you’ve done but how they’ve added value. For instance, have you:
    • Helped to acquire a certain number of new key customers?
    • Implemented a new organization system that reduced time spent on a task?
    • Devised a new way of documenting and sorting data?

Mid-Level Professionals (7-15 years)

At this career level, your resume is more of a highly strategic marketing piece than a document summarizing your skills and experience. You’ve finely developed a sense of accountability, have demonstrated the ability to work independently, and are perhaps considering a management or leadership role where you’re facilitating daily operations. Take the early-stage/intermediate tips to the next level with a couple of tweaks:

  • Spotlight your most recent position: you might have held a few jobs at this point, but unpack your most recent one as comprehensively as possible.
  • Use power-packed keywords: use potent words that showcase leadership, analytical and strategic capabilities.
  • Include as many numbers as possible: have you increased sales by 26%? Throw in as much relevant results-oriented evidence as you have!

Senior or Executive-Level Professionals (15+ years)

If you’ve reached this point, you have extensive knowledge in your field, have mastered self-leadership, know how to lead others toward a strategic vision, and have demonstrated iron-clad results. In addition to the tips I’ve shared for the last couple of professional groups:

  • Highlight major career wins: place selected achievements at the very top of your resume. Include what you accomplished with each company you’ve worked in, using robust numeric data and other proof.
  • Focus on the last 15 years: get super selective and spotlight no more than the last 15 years of your career. But if you absolutely feel that some of your earlier experience is relevant, slip it under a “Prior Experience” section and leave out the dates to draw attention away from your age. Why? Because hiring managers consider it irrelevant to your skills and goals today.

Writing a winning resume can be challenging! If you’re unsure how to tailor yours for your career level, don’t waste another minute spinning your wheels.

Contact me for a free resume review; we’ll whip things into shape and land you dream interviews in no time!

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