15 Steps to Align Your Skills With the Job Description

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Friday, August 27, 2021
By Don Sjoerdsma
Photo via iStock
Following these steps will help you present a resume tailored for the job you want.

The best way to earn a call from a hiring manager in the business world is to present a resume that is precisely tailored to the job description. Putting together the perfect business resume has four distinct processes: preparing your information, reviewing the job description, matching your skills to the job description, and finally, creating your resume.

Graduates who hope to embark on a successful business career must go through all four stages for the best chance of finding meaningful work. In the end, if you’re employer can’t see how your skills align with the job description, they will not spend time looking at your resume, and you won’t get a callback.

Follow these 15 steps to produce a resume that will increase your chances of landing an interview.


1. Make a list of your own skills. First, write down all your “hard” and “soft” skills. Consider these five soft skill categories, all of which are important in business: leadership, communication, interpersonal, analytical, and personal traits. Do the same with hard skills by reflecting on the tools and techniques you've learned in school, from financial literacy to writing up business proposals.

2. Rank your skills according to proficiency. This helps you stay honest with yourself when deciding which employer-sought skills to include or emphasize on your resume. Do some research and try to include some of the most desired soft skills of 2021.

3. List accomplishments and the skills used to achieve them. Consider projects you’ve taken on in school, as well as any jobs you’ve held, and the skills you built along the way. Not only will this list be useful in interviews, but it will be key to writing your resume and cover letters.

4. Measure these achievements with quantifiable metrics. When you are ready to write your resume, list accomplishments in terms of measurable figures to show how your skills helped employers. Here are some examples:

  • Increased ad revenue for the university newspaper by 15%.
  • Ranked No. 1 at closing deals for the Sales Club at the Kelley School of Business.
  • Secured a key partnership for Engineers Without Borders, reducing contaminants in local water supplies by 20%.

5. Focus your job search on relevant roles of interest. With your lists of skills and accomplishments in hand, make another list of relevant, potential jobs that you find appealing. You may have access to a variety of job boards at your school, which you can use to identify potential roles.

Match Your Skills to the Job Description

6. Break down the job ad into a list of skills. Don't only make note of traits explicitly listed as "skills," but also pay attention to every duty or qualification that implies the use of a skill. Knowing Quickbooks, for example, requires computer literacy, accounting, and analytical skills. Also make sure to include a list of sales-related skills, like client management, as these will be critical to your success in most business positions.

7. Make a list of all other requirements for the role. Look for the required years of experience, education, and all other qualifications outlined in the job description. Don’t be intimidated by the demands, and if necessary, consider how you can classify your time in school as work experience.

Align Your Resume With the Job Description

8. Cross-reference the lists from the job ad with your own lists of skills and quantifiable achievements. Narrow down your listed qualifications to those relevant to the role, and stay mindful of synonymous skills. If a role requires "Customer Relationship Management (CRM)," for example, that's synonymous with "managing customer relationships across the full customer lifecycle.”

9. Consider your resume's format. Functional and combination resumes emphasize transferable skills and may be the best choice for students about to begin their careers. A functional resume is tailored to your relevant skills and experience for the position, regardless of chronology, and a combination resume combines functional and chronological-styled resumes, equally highlighting your skills and experience. Keep in mind that format determines where and how thoroughly you can detail each skill.

10. Use the job description's exact phrasing. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automatically eliminate resumes that don't match job descriptions. So to ensure that your application moves forward, use an ad's exact phrasing and spelling when writing your resume.

For example, read the job responsibilities below, pulled from a sales associate job ad. I’ve italicized a few of the phrases we’ll use in the resume when we get to step 12.

Common responsibilities of a sales associate include:

  • Staying knowledgeable about our range products.
  • Explaining to customers the best products for their needs.
  • Recommending related products to increase customers’ options and enrich our value to them.
  • Explaining the benefits and functions of products, method of preparation, and how to use them to achieve the best results.
  • Accepting and processing orders and resolving return issues.
  • Promoting special sales, offers, and awareness of our loyalty program.

11. Use industry terminology. Using the same industry-specific phrases as the employer shows that you've read the job description and suggests that you meet their definition of an industry expert. Being able to correctly use words like liability, assets, expenses, accounts payable, POS (point of sale), net profit, net loss, ROI (return on investment), B2B/B2C, and other business terminology will also help advance your application. 

12. Don't forget to include quantifiable metrics. These are critical to showing hiring managers exactly how your skills contributed to your previous employers. Here are three points taken from the job ad above now written as quantifiable achievements.

  • Recommended related products and services, generating a 21% increase in revenue.
  • Accepted and processed orders, improving overall efficiency by 35%.
  • Promoted special sales, offers, and awareness of our loyalty programs, increasing customer retention and nearly doubling sales over 18 months.

Create a Resume to Succeed

13. Consider your resume's design. The visual style you choose can reflect whether you have a sense of a company's culture. Generally, in business, you will want a simple, clean design. Showing that you've gleaned this detail from the job ad can be crucial to getting hired. Also, images, unusual fonts, and unconventional layouts may confuse an ATS.

14. Avoid simple, disqualifying mistakes. To an ATS, spelling and grammar errors turn high-value keywords into irrelevant filler. Additionally, using the wrong file format may keep your resume from being read or received at all. Review the job posting to see if they’ve requested a specific file format to ensure your resume will be presented at its best.

15. Save additional information for your cover letter. Stuffing your resume with less-relevant qualifications only calls attention to the differences between your resume and the job ad. Make sure to set aside a few quantifiable achievements for your cover letter to increase your chances of getting a callback.

Don Sjoerdsma
Senior Content Writer, LiveCareer
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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