3 Tips for Tailoring Your Resume

Oct 15, 2020

By Jonathan Cantarero

The internet is full of resume templates meant to help students and early career professionals market themselves in the most presentable format. However, since no two people are the same, it can be hard to figure out what you should or shouldn’t include in your resume. In this article, I discuss some practical ways to write, redesign or simply improve your resume for the career, fellowship or internship you want. 

1. Start with a Google Search 

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you already have a resume in hand. Your main goal should be aligning your resume with the standards and norms used in your career field. For example, your resume for a government position wouldn’t be the same as your resume for a job in the private sector. Likewise, the resume you used to get into graduate school shouldn’t be the same one you use to enter the job market. 

To help you get started, try googling resumes in the career path you’ve chosen and see what you find. Compare similarities and differences in format, style and content and also look out for how your resume stacks up against those available online. Are there things that all professionals in your field include in their resumes? For example, resumes in business often have a section for “skills” (e.g., computer-based programs, project management and languages). But that section is less common in the legal sector where employers tend to focus on academic credentials and real-world experience (e.g. class honors, GPA, and internships) since most entry-level legal professionals share the same basic skill set (although languages are always the exception).  

Just as important as figuring out what to include is knowing what to exclude. Is there something you have in your resume that is never mentioned in those you’ve looked through? For example, if you have never seen a resume in your sector mentioning “hobbies and other interests,” you should probably resist the temptation to include that information—and maybe save it for the interview. Once you have a good idea of what employers are looking for, take a stab at writing or rewriting your resume. Remember, the universal rule is that resumes should be no more than one page.

2. Use Your School’s Resources

As much as the internet can guide you to a better resume, there is no substitute for having a real person look over your work. Schools are a great resource for this and there are at least three ways they can help you in the resume writing process:

  • Academic Advisement – First, every school has an academic or career advisement office—use them! Career counselors and academic advisors are all trained to help you meet your goals and get you to where you want to go, and that includes helping you create the best possible resume for an upcoming interview. Make an appointment, show them your resume, and ask for honest feedback. 
  • Resume Workshops – Second, take advantage of any resume workshops offered by your school, especially if they are sponsored by a department aligned with your career path. A resume tutorial from a business school is much more helpful to an MBA student than one offered by the general university. 
  • Professors and Staff – Last but not least, reach out to professors and mentors for advice. While reviewing resumes may not be something college or university professors do on a regular basis, they are usually happy to share their past experiences and shed light on what specific employers are looking for. Start out with any professors you’ve listed as your academic references. If you don’t have any, this could be a great icebreaker to start that conversation.

3. Always be Willing to Adapt

After going through the first two steps, you should have a solid resume that you can confidently hand to potential employers. Still, it’s important to know that resume writing is an ever-developing process. You should be willing and able to adapt to new situations because—more often than not—it’s an opportunity for progress. Did your grades improve after you submitted your resume to an employer? Then hand them an updated resume at your job interview. Are you applying for jobs in two related but different markets (e.g. public service vs. private companies; national vs. local organizations)? Then make sure to write two different resumes to reflect your strengths and compatibility with each position. Lastly, keep in mind that it never hurts to have someone else look at your resume. You never know when an extra set of eyes will catch a mistake or spelling error that others have missed. 

Your resume is often the first thing potential employers see when reviewing applications, so it’s worth your time and energy to make sure your resume stands out. Following these tips will get you on the right path to securing the position of your dreams.  

Jonathan Cantarero is an attorney based in New York City. He is a former Graduate Fellow at the City University of New York School of Law (2013-16) and Schulte, Roth, and Zabel Fellow for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (2014-15). Whenever he is not reading legal briefs or posting on ProFellow, Jonathan, who is also a seminary student, enjoys writing on the intersection of law and religion. 

 © Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved.