How to tailor your CV for interview success

05.08.2017

Ensuring that your CV matches the role you’re applying for is the key to success while job hunting. However, no two jobs are identical, so it’s unlikely that your CV will tick all the boxes for every job.

If you want to guarantee a high response rate from your applications, then it pays to tailor your CV every time you apply for a job. Making a few alterations before every application may take a bit more time, but it will greatly strengthen your chances of landing an interview. Ultimately, it’s better to make one carefully planned application, than make 10 untargeted ones.

Start with a flexible structure
To make CV tailoring quick and easy, you need to start with an adaptable base CV to work from. This will serve as a CV that is good enough to apply for most jobs in your field, but can be adjusted in a few minutes when needed.

Always start off by researching your general target roles and creating a CV that highlights the essential skills and knowledge across your niche. Using a structure that breaks text up into short paragraphs and bullet points will make edits much easier for you when it comes to tailoring.

A powerful feature for tailoring (and CV best practice in general) is a “core skills” section. This is an area of short bullet points listing your most valuable skills, which sit underneath your CV profile. Not only do they provide a great instant snapshot of your talents to readers, they are also easily changeable, allowing you to make effective edits in seconds.

Study every advert’s requirements
A mistake that many job seekers make is to read the job title of an advert, presume that they will be a good fit, and fire off their CV without even reading the specification in full. Although it’s fair to assume that you will be somewhat qualified for most jobs in your niche, the CV you have written may still not reflect all the needs for every single vacancy you apply to.

Read every job advert before you apply and check for the following things:

Requirements that you possess, but haven’t included in your CV
Requirements that you possess but that perhaps you aren’t making visible in your CV
Unusual or out-of-the-ordinary requirements that aren’t often required in your niche
Essential requirements that the employer seems to value over all else
Once you understand what your CV is lacking for each role, you can begin to tailor it accordingly.

Show relevant skills
If you boast an attractive skill for a certain employer, don’t hide it at the bottom of your CV.

For example, many people gain degrees and end up working in a completely different field from their studied subject. They then progress through the career ladder, and understandably do not shout about their degree on their CV because it no longer holds much relevance.

However, some employers really value education and make a big point of preferring to hire staff with degrees (no matter how long ago they were achieved). If a candidate finds themselves in a position where they are applying to an employer like this, then their old seemingly-irrelevant degree will suddenly become much more valuable on this occasion.

If you are concealing any skills that an employer deems valuable, tailor the CV by repeating them at the top of your CV (in your profile or core skills) to make sure they get noticed.

Add the important, cut the irrelevant
If a recruiter doesn’t see the qualities they need on your CV, they probably won’t call you. If a job advert is asking for skills that you possess but haven’t included in the CV, then you need to add them. Similarly, if a requirement seems crucial to a role and you have only touched upon it, you should expand upon it to show off your expertise.

To make spaces for these additions you will need to cut back on some of the less relevant information for that role.

Don’t cut too much
Be careful not to go overboard with the information that you cut from the CV, or you risk doing more harm than good.

Try not remove:

Entire roles Especially if they cover long periods of time as you will create unnecessary gaps in your CV. You may get away with removing a totally irrelevant role if it only lasted a month or two, but any longer and you should just shorten it.

Core industry skills When trying to create space for unusual requirements, don’t sacrifice the essential skills for your roles. Even if you feel those skills are implied due to your work history, a recruiter may not necessarily feel the same way.

Another point worth noting is that you should always start editing from your base CV rather than starting from a previously tailored version, or you will end up with a jumbled CV after making a few applications.

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