How to Tailor a Resume to a Job Opening

Pictured: A young woman working on a laptop computer/iStock, fizkes

A new year brings with it new professional opportunities, as companies tend to ramp up hiring after a holiday lull. Those looking for new roles in the pharmaceutical and biotech spaces need a resume that highlights their skills and experience. As Steven Swan of The Swan Group, which specializes in IT recruitment in biotech and pharma, told BioSpace, “The resume gets you a conversation with the hiring manager. That conversation is just to fill in the gaps.”

While an early-career resume would typically emphasize education and list duties and training at previous positions, applicants with seven to 10 years of experience or more should make their accomplishments the star of their resume. “If you can draw a straight line from what you have accomplished to exactly how you did it, it tells prospective employers what you can bring to the table," Swan said. 

A resume should describe how the applicant’s accomplishments contributed to the employer’s bottom line. “When companies see that on a resume, they are going to say, “If we spend X amount on this person, we are going to get that back three-fold or whatever,” Swan said.

And avoid using the word implement. Swan explained it is a blanket term that should be replaced with more specific verbs such as brainstorming, delegating, budgeting and communicating.

Read the Fine Print

Swan pointed out that companies and hiring managers are very specific in the skills they are looking for. “You should be motivated as a job seeker to make sure your resume addresses the needs of the role for which you are applying,” he said. Hiring managers are inundated with so many pieces of information that if a resume does not list the skills they are looking for, they are unlikely to talk to that person.

Sometimes the bottom of a job description will have bullet points of professional attributes, or soft skills, such as “must work well with others” or “must work well in a fast-paced environment.” Applicants tend to overlook these soft skills when writing their resumes, said Teresa Wright, a managing partner of NuHyr Solutions, a clinical and technology staffing firm.

If managers think hiring someone who works well with others is important because they have hired people in the past who did not fit into the team, they now include that in the job description. So the resume should include evidence of these soft skills.

As Wright explained to BioSpace, “We don’t have the chance to pick up the phone and speak to someone these days. So your resume should reflect both who you are professionally and tell the reader a little bit about who you are personally.”

Wright said she sends clients a list of 50 or 60 attributes, and they send her a list of the 10 to 15 they think best describe them. “I like to see what they think of themselves, what they think is important and what soft skills they think match the position they are seeking,” she said.

The more high-level an applicant is, the more Wright tends to emphasize these important soft skills on the top of a resume. That way, the manager gets a quick overview of what the applicant is all about and what their background is as soon as they start reading.

“I want the manager to fall in love in the first part of the resume, and then continue to scroll once they have decided this candidate is worth talking to or learning more about,” Wright said.

Customize Your Resume

Candidates need more than one resume, Swan said. For example, for some types of positions, they may need one that is more focused on, or at least highlights, their technical skills and knowledge. The smaller the company they are targeting, the more the company will want candidates to understand the technology, because unlike larger companies, smaller ones tend to want employees to wear a lot of different hats.

That same person should have a more business-oriented resume for use at larger companies, where they wouldn’t be as involved in the technical side of the work.

In addition to this broad customization, people should tweak their resume for each role, highlighting the skills and experience the manager is looking for. Keep in mind that you have a very short time to grab a hiring manager’s attention; if they read a resume for a minute, that is significant. “The more you are telling a good story, and the further they read down the page, the better off you are,” Swan said.

Swan also recommended candidates make sure their education and professional experience are consistent on their resume and LinkedIn profiles, even if that means hiring a professional to do it. “I think that is money well spent. There is nothing worse than when a hiring manager looks at your LinkedIn profile and your resume and they don’t match.” A resume has to be consistent across all platforms.

Candidates need to have the words and verbiage on their resume that match the roles they are looking for. “You are doing yourself an injustice if you do not do that,” Wright said.

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Charlotte LoBuono is a freelance science writer based in New Jersey. Reach her at

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