How To Write a Targeted Resume That Gets Attention blog

Writing a resume can be a daunting task for job seekers. With recruiters and hiring managers inundated with hundreds of resumes, your resume must stand out from the crowd. The most effective way to achieve this is by creating a targeted resume. A targeted resume is tailored to a specific job or industry, highlighting your relevant transferable skills, position-specific skills, technical skills, and applicable experiences.

When you submit your resume to a prospective employer, you have just seconds to seize their attention and convey to them exactly how you would fit in their company structure and add value to their organization.

While you may think you are opening new opportunities to yourself by using a general/broad resume, the truth is that if you are using a generic resume, you are likely doing yourself a huge disservice and losing out on the opportunity to get interviews for jobs that you are genuinely interested in.

Resume readers are lazy (okay, “lazy” might be a little harsh–but YOU try to review a stack of 200 resumes and see how long they keep YOUR attention!), and when you send them an unfocused resume, it forces them to think and to try to figure out the best position for you.

Do you honestly believe most hiring managers will make the effort? Of course not. It is always in your best interest to focus your resume for the job ad, as a properly targeted resume will generate a much higher response rate.

But What Do I Do If I Have Multiple Job Targets?

At this point, you are probably thinking the same thing we hear from many Distinctive Career Services‘ clients–you are interested in different types of jobs and so it is essential you have a “general” resume. Otherwise, how will you be able to apply for all the different types of positions?

The solution, in some cases, is as simple as creating multiple versions of your resume, each targeting a different focus area.

As an example, look at these four modern resumes that we created for one of our clients: Samantha Jobseeker.

Samantha had a very varied and diverse employment history when she came to us, supplemented by lots of volunteer work, international mission work, and two not-quite-finished college degrees. She was ready to get herself on a career track, and she had come to us with this goal in mind. However, like many people she was qualified for an interested in a variety of positions. After a lot of resume strategy consultation, we were able to narrow these interests down to four major categories:

  1. Communications and Customer Service
  2. Real Estate Development
  3. Nonprofit Management
  4. Any position in a purpose-driven organization with global implications.

When possible, we believe the best solution is usually the simplest one. As you can see from these example resumes (click on them to see them full-size), each is very targeted. But, at the core they are essentially the same resume. We simply shifted the resume focus by customizing the top section of the resume, then by making subtle changes in the way we categorized and displayed the body content. By submitting the appropriate tailored resume, she was able to pursue each specific job opening that interested her.

*** NOTE: A resume prepared in this functional format is not applicant tracking system (ATS) friendly. If you believe your resume will be entered into an ATS, a more traditional reverse chronological format resume may be your best option. However, if you believe the functional format is best for you, check out this targeted resume template.

Example Targeted Resume for Communications and Customer Service

This example targeted resume was prepared for pursuing communications and customer service positions. It calls out customer-facing experiences.

Targeted Resume Example for Real Estate

Refocused for real estate development, this example targeted resume calls out transferable and real-estate-industry-specific skills.

Sample Targeted Resume for Nonprofit Work

Refocused for work in nonprofit and charitable organizations, this targeted resume example calls out past charitable and mission work in the U.S. and internationally.

Sample Targeted Resume for Working in a Purpose-Driven Organization

In this final example targeted resume, the focus is more squarely in the organizational culture that interested this job candidate who was passionate about building a career doing purpose-driven work.

Expert Tips for Writing a Targeted Resume

Step 1: Identify the Job Requirements

The first step in writing a targeted resume is identifying the position description and job requirements.

Read the job posting carefully and identify the skills and experiences the employer seeks.

Make a list of the keywords and phrases that are frequently used in the job posting. Use this information to determine the focus of your resume.

Review your background and make a list of relevant skills and experiences that match the job requirements. Relevant experience isn’t just employment experience. Also, think about any volunteer work you have done and the coursework you have completed toward degrees. If you have any transferable skills or relevant soft skills from other types of experience, include those as well. Make sure to use the same keywords and phrases in your resume as the prospective employer has used in the job description.

Make sure you include a headline near the top of your resume (under the contact information) as a header for your professional resume summary. This headline should include the target job title.

Step 2: Focus on Your Accomplishments, NOT Responsibilities

Instead of just listing your job duties and responsibilities, write your resume job descriptions to focus on the accomplishments and achievements in your previous roles.

Highlight how you made a difference in your previous company.

Use specific examples and metrics to illustrate your accomplishments. This will show the recruiter or hiring manager that you can bring value to their organization.

Step 3: Keep Your Resume Concise and Easy-to-Read

Recruiters and prospective employers do not have the time to read through long resumes. Keep your resume concise and easy to read.

If you are writing your resume yourself, consider using a professional, ATS-friendly resume template to ensure the resume design is attractive and the format is professional and appropriate.

Step 4: Customize Your Resume for Each Job (or Type of Job)

One targeted resume will not fit all job applications. It is important to customize your resume for each job application. This will significantly improve your resume results.

Use the information you gathered from the job posting to tailor your resume to the specific requirements of the job description. This shows the recruiter or hiring manager that you have taken the time to understand the job requirements and that you are a good fit for the role.

Step 5: Use Language That Will Resonate With the Employer

Use language in your targeted resume that you know will resonate with the employer for the specific job opening. Research the company and the industry and incorporate industry-specific terms and jargon. This will make your resume more relatable to the recruiter or hiring manager and show them that you are knowledgeable about their industry.

Targeted Resumes for Professional and Executive Jobs

The previous targeted resume examples in this post are for entry-level jobs. But what if you are pursuing professional or even executive positions? Should you also write a targeted resume? The answer is a resounding ‘YES!”

Take a look at the following two targeted resume examples. They are for the same individual, but the first example resume is for professional consulting roles and the second example resume is for board of director positions. The experience shown on each targeted resume is identical. The distinction between the two resume examples is how they are ordered and the ways in which the experience is described. In other words, the wording of the resume is tailored to the position targeted.

Example Targeted Resume for a Professional Consultant and Legal Expert Page 1
Example Targeted Resume for a Professional Consultant and Legal Expert Page 2

The above example resume is targeted for this executive with a legal background to pursue professional consulting roles.

Example Targeted Resume for Board of Directors Page 1
Example Targeted Resume for Board of Directors Page 2

Retargeted as a resume for board of director positions, the above example shows how you can easily refocus your resume with just a few changes. Note that this resume is designed using the vibrant CareerPulse resume template from Distinctive Resume Templates.

Final Advice on Writing a Targeted Resume

As you’ve seen by the example targeted resumes in this post, writing a targeted resume is anythign but a one-size-fits-all approach.

It requires careful planning and attention to detail.

By following these tips, you can create a targeted resume that captures the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

Remember to always customize your resume for each job application and highlight your relevant skills and experiences. Your targeted resume will increase your chances of landing an interview and, ultimately, your dream job. But remember: you do not need to go it alone! Our team of professional resume writers is ready to help you! It is simple to get started with us. Reach out today.

Note that this blog post was originally published here on Jul 25, 2011. It has been significantly expanded, updated, and republished for 2024 and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a targeted resume?

A targeted resume is specifically tailored to a particular job or position. While all effective resumes should be well-focused, a targeted resume goes a step further by aligning precisely with the requirements of the particular job you’re applying for, making it direct, relevant, and branding you as a specialist for that role.

Why is a targeted resume so crucial?

Given that a single corporate job opening receives an average of 250 applications, and only about 2% of these applicants get invited for an interview, standing out is essential. Some studies have indicated that 80% of resumes don’t pass the first screening, with only 1 in 10 reaching a hiring manager. Many experts believe that this is largely due to the widespread use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) by up to 90% of employers. A targeted resume increases your chances of bypassing these systems and catching a recruiter’s attention. In fact, 63% of recruiters prefer receiving resumes tailored to the job vacancy.

How does a targeted resume differ from other resumes?

While a general resume might provide a broad overview of your skills and experiences, it often lacks the specificity needed to pass initial screenings. A targeted resume, on the other hand, is not only focused but is meticulously tailored to match the individual position’s requirements. This tailoring ensures it’s brief, easy for recruiters to read, and presents you as the ideal candidate for the job.

How can I create a targeted resume?

To craft a targeted resume:

  • Thoroughly analyze the job description.
  • Identify and incorporate keywords to ensure strong performance in ATS.
  • Highlight skills and experiences directly relevant to the position.
  • Remove or minimize unrelated information.
  • Ensure the format is ATS-friendly.

What are the disadvantages of not using a targeted resume?

Not using a targeted resume can drastically reduce your chances of landing an interview. Research shows that 54% of candidates don’t tailor their resumes to the job, significantly lowering their odds. Given the competitive nature of the hiring process, a resume that isn’t targeted can easily get lost in the shuffle.

How do Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) impact the job application process?

ATS are used by a vast majority of employers, including most Fortune 500 companies, to screen resumes. Many resumes fail to make it past these systems due to issues like improper formatting, lack of relevant content, or missing keywords. Tailoring your resume to the job description and ensuring it’s ATS-friendly is crucial to making it to the next stage.

Are there any additional benefits to using a targeted resume?

Yes, besides increasing your chances of passing ATS screenings and catching a recruiter’s attention, targeted resumes can brand you as a specialist for a specific job. They also make it easier for recruiters to quickly identify your suitability for the position, given their direct and relevant content.

How often should I update my targeted resume?

You should tailor your targeted resume for each job application. Sometimes, these customizations will be simple changes, other times they will be more extensive. Additionally, regularly update your master resumes (the more general versions that you use as a basis for your targeted resumes) include new skills, experiences, and achievements to ensure they remain current and relevant.

What are the benefits of using a targeted resume?

While the job application process is highly competitive, using a targeted resume can significantly boost your chances of standing out and securing an interview. It’s essential to customize your resume to the specific job description, use the right keywords, and present your qualifications clearly and concisely.

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit

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