How to tailor your CV to the role

Search online for CV help and it’s likely you’ll come across many instances of being told to tailor your CV to the role. There is a good reason why this particular tip keeps appearing all the time – it’s one of the best ways to get an interview.

A hiring manager wants to read a CV and instantly recognise that the candidate is passionate about the role, and is dedicated to proving it. A well-tailored CV makes the employer feel wanted and demonstrates that the job seeker has listened to the requests on the advert.

Commercial awareness is also an important factor that the employer looks for when assessing applications, and tailoring your CV should also incorporate your knowledge of the industry and what the role requires of an employee.

By contrast, a generic CV will fail to show the employer why the candidate is the right person for the job and a lot of vital information will be lost within paragraphs of irrelevant information.

What is a generic CV?

“Generic CVs should be banned. Sending out the same CV to every vacancy is one of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make.”

~ Linda Whitney @ Glassdoor

One of the most common mistakes a job seeker makes is to write just the one CV which they use over and over again to send to numerous different employers. Writing a generic CV that doesn’t focus upon a specific role or employer is going to show a lack of care. Furthermore, it will not directly link your qualifications, skills and experience to the role.

It’s not the employer’s job to read in between the lines of a CV and hunt down the specific requirements. It should be made obvious and apparent that you are the right person for the job, and your task as a CV writer and job seeker is to create a tailored CV. If you don’t, you are making it much harder for the employer and yourself.

So with that, how do you go about tailoring a CV to the role and the company?

Use the job description/advert

“It’s important to read a job description carefully, cross-referencing what is being asked for, and what skills you can provide.”

~ CIMA

A job seeker will often make the mistake of just reading the job title and the salary before they click the apply button and send off their CV. The salary and benefits of a job are obviously very important. But if you are genuinely passionate about the role and want to stand a chance of getting an interview, you need to fully read and comprehend what the employer is asking for and what the role entails.

All of the skills, both hard and soft, can be found on the job advert. In addition, the employer may also request experience in particular areas and there could even be a mandatory set of qualifications. This information is vital if you want to write a CV that stands head and shoulders above the rest of your competition.

Tailoring your CV to these requirements is essential if you want to get recognised as a potential candidate – and to land that all important interview.

When you’re including the required skills on your CV, make sure you SHOW rather than TELL. It’s far more powerful to give examples of where you’ve acquired or used a skill, than to simply list the skill and proficiency level.

Show how your experience and skills are transferable

One of the smartest ways you can create a CV that catches the attention of the employer is to present exactly what they want. Sounds simple right? You’d be surprised at how many job seekers still fail to do this because they don’t pay close enough attention to the job posting.

There are two main reasons this happens. Firstly, the candidate doesn’t bother to take notice of the requirements from the advert, and writes a generic CV which lists everything they’ve ever achieved. Secondly, the candidate fails to show or realise how their past experiences and skills can relate and transfer over to the new role.

You may have similar skills and experience to the role you’re now applying for, which makes it even easier to tweak the wording of your CV to ensure it closely matches the advert. If the employer is ‘looking for an individual with great communication skills who can build up a rapport with the customer’ – then make sure you include a line or two on your CV about how you’ve done exactly that.

It doesn’t matter if your previous job titles don’t match the new role – and the same goes for your skills. If a high level of communication skills are required for the role, then look back over your career for instances when you demonstrated this. Make it clear to the employer that you have those skills by providing evidence via facts and figures, stats and graphs, or even a written explanation of a particular scenario where you excelled.

Hear what Zarah Morton, Associate Director at Michael Page Recruitment, has to say about transferable skills here:

If you want to know how to gain more skills and experience, here is our fantastic article called – How to gain more skills and experience for your CV.

Use keywords from the advert

Keywords from job advert

Using the keywords from the advert makes it easier for recruiters to see you have the skills and experience they’re looking for.

Using keywords from the job advert in your CV will make it easier for the hiring manager to see you are the right person for the job. It’s essentially a clever way of writing a CV which is on the same page as the employer. Don’t make it harder for the hiring manager to realise that you have the right skills by using different words or phrases.

It’s also important to remember that more and more employers are now using certain ATS (applicant tracking software) to narrow their search down. So even though your CV may have what they’re looking for, it won’t make it through to the hiring manager if the software doesn’t find the right keywords.

Tailor your experience

Before we continue on this section it’s important to realise that we are not suggesting that you should embellish or even lie about your experience or skills to make it fit an employer. So now that disclaimer is out the way, here’s how you can tailor your experience…

Tailoring your work experience is all about being smart in what you reveal and highlight to the employer. Usually the hiring manager will be more interested in your most recent roles, but that doesn’t mean to say that anything else should take a back seat.

Ideally you want to look back over all of your experience to see what may be relevant to the new role. Essentially you are cherry picking what the employer would want to read, and putting the other irrelevant experience into the background.

A previous sales role may not be in the same industry, but that doesn’t mean to say you didn’t have to use the same skills to get the end result. Focus upon these matching skills to show the employer that you have what they’re looking for.

Research social media pages and the company’s website

If you only go by what the job advert provides then you can still write a well tailored CV. However, if you really want to push further to an even higher standard you should carry out research. If you have a better understanding of what makes the company tick, you can create an even better CV.

Start off by visiting the company’s website and have a good read of their ‘about’ page. What does their mission statement say, and what does it mean? Try to also answer the following questions:

  • What product or service do they provide?
  • Who are their customers and where are they based?
  • What are their goals and plans for the future?
  • What is the company’s structure?

By answering these types of questions you will be in a much better position to write your CV. Ultimately you are trying to create a CV that shows the employer why you are the right person for the job, and that you understand the direction they are heading.

Another couple of great questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What can I bring to the table, and
  • How can I help the company achieve its goals?

These should be considered in the context of the company’s values and strategy.

Finally, visit the company’s social media pages for additional information. You will be able to see how they advertise and promote their business, and also what the customers are saying about them. This will help you mirror those values in your own CV, cover letter and interview.

Business Communication Trainer Claire Witmell wrote a good article for the Guardian on researching companies which you may find useful.

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.

1 thought on “How to tailor your CV to the role”

  1. Really super article – too many people telling you to “tailor your CV” but not much around explaining how. I really found this useful, thanks Martin.

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