How Do You Write a Resume That Fits the Job?

Writing a resume. Getty Images
Writing a resume. Getty Images

Dear Career --

Like many military spouses, my professional career has included a ton of different jobs.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

While I love that this has given me a broad skill set, sometimes I think it might be too broad. I can't figure out what I should be putting on my resume.

How do you write a resume for a job that's specific but still captures all your experience?

I know they say I should customize my resume to every job I'm applying for, but what does that really mean?

Should I be leaving out certain positions entirely? That feels dishonest, and I don't want to create more employment gaps than there already are.

I also don't want to leave out a skill they may need, but don't mention in the job description.


-- Too Broad

Dear Broad --

I hear you. Resume guidelines can be overwhelming, and they're constantly changing. So how do you write a resume that fits the job?

The one resume rule that never seems to change is the one you mentioned about customizing your resume to the job for which you're applying.

You mentioned a fear that leaving something out may mean that while you have a skill they need, you skip mentioning it. You're going to have to trust the writer of the job description in this case. It's just not practical for you to put everything on your resume.

Related: The Military Spouse Employment Manual

In terms of leaving off jobs completely, the key is finding skills within each job that apply to the application at hand, and using words from the job description to describe those skills.

If you truly don't think there is anything from a certain position that applies, you can simply list the position and a one sentence description of that job and then skip to the next one.

Having said that, I don't think you need to list every job you've ever had in your life. I would recommend you go back at least 10 years (or back to your highest education point, whichever is most recent).

If you're on a particular career path that requires more experience than that, go back at least as many years as the amount of experience required in the position description.

If all of that doesn't help you narrow down your skill set, focus on the skills you are most likely to use that also apply to the position. If you know you have a passion and you'd like to pursue that as your primary role, then that is definitely where your focus should lie.

Remember, the resume has to get you in the door. But if you succeed in getting the interview, that's just the start of the conversation.

If they ask you for questions or comments, that is the time when you can say something like, "I didn't list them on my resume because they weren't mentioned in the job description, but if they're useful to the organization, I also have the following skills to offer … " and provide your additional qualifications.

I hope that helps, and best of luck.

-- Career

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