You probably cringe every time someone tells you to tailor your resume to every single job. You know it’s good advice, but it requires a little extra work. And all you want to do is apply for the position as soon as possible before someone else gets it. Is that really so much to ask for?
No—but you should also know that this advice gets repeated by experts for a reason. As Muse writer Katie Douthwaite Wolf points out, you want your resume and cover letter to scream that you’re the right candidate for the position. Because if yours’ doesn’t do that, someone else’s will.
So while there’s nothing wrong with applying to a ton of positions when you’re actively on the hunt, that’s not a good enough excuse to avoid tailoring your application.
Here are three other bad excuses you’re probably making:
1. You Think Nobody Will Read it—So Whatever
Let’s face the facts: 55% of hiring managers do not read cover letters. And that stat may lead you to believe that you shouldn’t bother doing anything special with yours. But if you held fast to that, you’d be forgetting about the 45% of people who do read them.
And as far as I know, there’s no job listing out there that tells you in advance what type of person will review your materials. This doesn’t just apply to finding a job. If your boss told you that you had a 45% chance of getting a promotion if you showed up to work 30 minutes early every day for a week, you’d do it right? Well, more awesome than that is landing a position that you’ll love. And it would take less of a time commitment than that.
2. You Want to Get Your Application Out the Door ASAP
Trust me—I know the feeling of seeing a great opening and thinking, “I need to apply for this before someone else does.” You aren’t the first person to feel this way (and you definitely won’t be the last).
However, there’s one critical flaw to this approach: There will always be competition, no matter how quickly you apply for the job.
Of course, you might get seen sooner if you press submit immediately. But expediting your materials won’t do you many favors if the person looking at them doesn’t like what he or she sees. In fact, many people say that the first applications to hit their inbox are the worst because they’re always rushed.
Commit this to memory: In most cases, job openings don’t appear and disappear overnight. That means you have time to tailor!
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3. You’re Not Actually Sure What the Company Wants
Hiring managers all look for something different when they review applications for their open jobs. Some want cover letters addressed to them, but otherwise be straightforward. Other organizations encourage applicants to include a GIF in the body of their emails. When you’re in the middle of a tough job search, it’s difficult to keep track of what you think one employer wants, and the other definitely does not want to see.
And because it can be unclear at times, it’s tempting to throw your hands in the air and just submit your typical materials. While it might not be an exact science, there’s one thing you should always do regardless of the company you’re interested in: Visit its website to see the tone. There are plenty of clues on most company’s sites that’ll tip you off.
For example, when I go to The Muse site, I see casual language on the homepage, so I now know that the company probably isn’t look for a formal cover letter opening.
And regardless of tone, the more closely you can align your application with the responsibilities in the job listing, the more of a match you’ll be to the person reading your stuff. (And career expert Lily Zhang will tell you exactly how to use that job description to land the interview.)
I get it. It takes a lot of work to customize resumes and cover letters for every single job you want. But you have to trust me that putting in the effort is worth every minute of your time that it takes. Because even if you’re the most qualified person applying, you’ll be upstaged in the process by the person who did take the time to do it. So roll up your sleeves, get ready to do a little more research, and start tailoring.
Photo of person on computer courtesy of PeopleImages.com/Getty Images.