If you’re like many other Americans, you’re probably looking for a job–a stressful task to say the least. Furthermore, if you’re applying for several different jobs at the same time, it can be tempting to use the same form cover letter and resume. However, experts warn that along with the basics–proper spelling, punctuation, use of white space, for example–it is extremely important that you write your cover letter for each job to which you apply. The same goes for your resume: make the appropriate changes each time you send your materials to an additional potential employer.

While it might seem trivial, in this economy it can mean a world of difference. Consider the mountains of resumes and cover letters that companies receive; they’re not very likely to take a second look at your materials if you don’t bother to tailor-fit them to the position. In addition, while it might seem like a laborious task to change your job application materials every single time you apply for a new job, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems. You can keep a “master” copy of your resume and cover letter and tweak it based on the following suggestions:

  1. Read and re-read the job description. Identify the words and phrases that the job poster uses to describe the position.
  2. Take a look your work accomplishments, certifications, education, and experience. You should have a list of these on hand since they serve as the basis for any resume or cover letter.
  3. Ask yourself which of the words and phrases you identified in the job posting that you could (honestly) use to describe your skills, education, and experience.

In essence, much of your resume and cover letter will stay the same. Moreover, consider these additional tips for writing effective, job-specific cover letters and resumes:

  • If you use a career objective at the top of the page, it should include the exact job title of the position you’re seeking.
  • Remove experience/qualifications that have nothing to do with the job in question. You want to make it easy for employers to see the credentials they most care about.
  • Try to figure out what credentials are of highest importance to the employer and put those first. Pretend you are in the employer’s shoes and ask yourself, “What’s my biggest need? What’s most important to me about this job?” Talk to your mentor and contacts in the field. Try to find people who are already doing the job you want and ask them, “What is the most important part of your job?”
  • If your past job titles are ambiguous, overly jargony, or don’t obviously relate to the job you’re applying for, rephrase them in laymen’s terms–in a way that shows how those past jobs qualify you for this new job.

It’s a new job market out there and cookie-cutter resumes and cover letters just don’t make the cut anymore. Take the time to revise your job application materials each time you apply for a different job and reap the benefits of your hard work and careful attention to detail.