Here’s how to conduct research before you write a CV

Even if you have the right qualifications, a huge amount of experience and lots of skills in which to bring to a role, it doesn’t mean to say you will get the job. There will be many other candidates just as qualified as you who will stand a good chance at getting an interview.

With such a high standard of CV writing nowadays you can’t afford to assume your application will breeze you straight into an interview. The hiring manager may have many other choices with which to go with, and only the very best CV will make it further.

So how can you make your CV stand out from the rest of the competition?

Conducting extensive research into the company and the role before you write your CV will dramatically increase your chances of an interview. You are in a far better position to create a job application which will get noticed.

There are three main areas that you should research before applying for a job role. These are the role, the company and the industry. Having knowledge about these areas will show any employer that you are committed and enthusiastic.

~ Actuarial Careers

This overview from Job Hunt Solutions will give you an idea of the type of research required:

Here are a few tips on how to conduct research before you apply:

Read the company’s website 

Researching a company website before applying for a job

Read their “About Us” page. If they have a blog, read it. Read their Twitter feed and Facebook page. Get to know their voice. Get to know what they value. Get to know who their audience is and how they connect with them.

~ Ryan Galloway, former editor @ The Hired Guns

You will find a lot out about a company by reading their website. A mission statement and the company’s values are usually found here, and will start to help you build up a picture of how they function. Your CV should align with the goals of the business and show how commercially aware you are.

Also check out any social media pages for any reviews and to see how they market to their customers. If you were applying for a marketing position you would likely be questioned during the interview on any potential marketing strategies. For every position, it’s important to see the direction the company is heading, and this will help shape a better CV.

Research the role 

Researching company news and articles for ideas

To get beyond the job description, ask a lot of questions. Some good ones include, “What do the very best people in this role do that the average ones don’t?” and “What’s required of this role that [company] wouldn’t actually say out loud?” Sniff for the unspoken (and potentially more important) requirements.

~ Jon Carpenter, The Muse

It’s not just the company which should get your attention: the role itself is also an important part of your research. The job description on the advert may provide a few details of the daily tasks, but this is unlikely to be comprehensive. Therefore, you need to try and dig a little further so you can fully appreciate what the role entails. Job description websites can be really helpful for this.

If the job description is rather vague, consider calling up the company to speak to either the HR manager or one of the employees. Depending on how direct you feel you could be with the business, don’t be afraid to ask more about the role. Ideally you would want to speak to the manager who will be reading your CV, so you can introduce yourself and create a good impression.

It takes a lot of confidence to call the hiring manager directly, and it will not go unnoticed. The manager will be able to put a voice to your CV when it comes through, and you’ll likely be the only candidate that’s taken this bold but advantageous step.

Whoever you speak to, ask them if they would be able to provide a brief overview of the most important daily tasks and responsibilities beyond those contained in the job advert. You might just find a really important piece of information which wasn’t on the advert that you can use on your CV.

During your conversation, you may notice that a certain skill or a particular area of work experience could stand out as significant to the employer. If this is the case, you can write a CV that highlights and focuses upon those areas and stand out from the competition.

Note that if the job advert is comprehensive, cold-calling the HR Manager should be avoided. Alison Green at ‘Ask a Manager’ explains: “If other people are able to get the basics from it, you risk looking like you need hand-holding if you can’t.”

On the rare occasion when you actually know somebody that works for the company, you are in an even better position to find out some insider info. Contact them and ask questions about the interview process and who will be reading the CV. You can then address your cover letter directly to that person and incorporate anything important that your contact has revealed.

Read newspapers, articles and business literature 

Researching the role before submitting a CV

Find one thing they recently did and then ask them in the interview, “I read you recently did ___, can you tell me more about that?”

~ Biron Clark, Career Sidekick

If you want to create a commercially aware CV you need to have your finger on the pulse. To keep up with the latest trends in your chosen industry you should always read newspapers, articles and any other types of literature you can find. Reading customer reviews and responses is also a great way of understanding how the business is doing, and what they are trying to do to make improvements.

The employer will be able to easily spot a candidate with commercial awareness, just by reading their CV. All of the research you’ve conducted on both the role and the company, along with the publications you read about the industry, will give you the tools to create an amazing CV.

Tailor your CV to the role and the business 

Tailoring your CV to the role

In our experience, any other serious applicant will have do this, so if you don’t put in the effort you might not make it past the first hurdle.

~ Hays Recruitment

With all this information you can see how much you need to tailor your CV to the business. If you follow all of the steps above you will create a CV that takes into consideration what the role requires and how the business intends to move forward. By understanding the product or service that the company offers and the customers who purchase it, you will be able to write a CV that takes everything into account.

By contrast, a hiring manager wants to pick up a CV and instantly see how suited you are for the role. You should never make it difficult for them by writing a generic CV that doesn’t address these vital points. It will show a lack of care and understanding of the business, which doesn’t make the hiring manager want to contact you for an interview.

Our collection of free professional CV templates in Microsoft Word format can be found here.

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About Martin Carline

Martin has been a senior manager of a large customer service team within the education services industry, dealing with all aspects of staff recruitment and management. He now authors and manages content for CV Template Master and a number of other leading websites. In his spare time, Martin is an accomplished pianist and teaches all styles with a particular focus on boogie woogie and blues.

2 thoughts on “Here’s how to conduct research before you write a CV”

  1. As a HR exec myself I find it amazing how little time people spend looking at the company before they come for an interview. It just reeks of, “I want a job – any job!”. What they don’t understand is, I want an employee – but not just any employee. I have to believe they want to work for our company, otherwise I just have someone who is motivated by wage only. And you make a great point in that it’s research before the CV and cover letter is written because I can tell who is sending out batches of CVs and who actually cares about the role.

    • Great point Tim, an employee motivated by salary will move on the moment they’re offered a little more. Finding employees who are interested in the company itself is so important.

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