Tailoring A CV & Cover Letter

Every CV blog will tell you to tailor your CV.

There’s no “one size fits all” CV that’s perfect for every job.

Employers want to see how your skills and experience match their needs.

Do you tailor your CV to every job?

It can feel like a labour of love, tiring and boring. Sometimes you may feel it is unnecessary.

No two jobs are the same.

They may have similar descriptions and job titles and salaries, but they will be unique.
You should tailor your CV to reflect the requirements of each job.

Quality will always beat quantity, and one well written CV is worth its weight in gold.

A common mistake is thinking you have to re-write your entire CV for every application.

Tailoring your CV is about understanding what skills, experiences and accomplishments are most valuable to the recruiter.

It shows employers you’re serious and you want to work for them.

A generic, untailored CV will get thrown in the bin.

Read the job description!

We can’t stress this enough: read the job description!

You need to understand what the employer is looking for.

You need to know every skill and requirement they are after.

By reading the job description you give yourself an advantage.

Use the clues in the job description to highlight keywords and specific skills.

Lots of employers now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan applications before they’re seen by a person.

ATS software scans CVs for specific keywords or phrases related to the role.

How do they know? They take it from the job description!

See where this is going?

If your CV doesn’t include these words and phrases, it won’t make it past this stage.

But it isn’t just ATS you have to tailor for.

Humans (particularly recruiters) skim read.

When you skim read you are picking out the most valuable words.

So what are the most valuable words for the role your applying for?

Research the company

Don’t only read the job description – research the company.

Find out about the company’s values and culture. What information can you include that shows you would be the perfect fit?

This might include volunteering, charity work, sports teams you’re a part of or out of work accomplishments.

Tailor your CV to both the job description and the company for the best chance of success.

This might sound like a lot of work but quality beats quantity.

And after some practice you will be able to tailor your application in record time.

You don’t need to start from scratch every time.

A few well-placed tweaks to your base CV should be all you need.

What is my CV missing?

You won’t always be a 100% perfect fit for a job.

That’s OK!

Our rule is simple, if you match the job description by 70% or above, apply.

If you don’t reach that 70% mark, look for another role.

It’s important that you’re honest with yourself.

Do you have everything they are asking for? Or do you fall just a little short?

Understanding what you’re missing means you know what you can highlight more instead.

If you’re missing experience, then you need to choose similar experience or transferable skills to emphasise.

Tailor your Base CV

Tailoring your CV for every application does take a bit of extra time and effort.

Nothing can be helped about that.

Each application you submit will be of such a good quality the hiring manager will want to interview you.

To make CV tailoring quick and easy, you need to create a base CV.

This CV will act as your base, from which all your tailoring will come from.

It needs to be a really great quality CV, one that can be your swiss army knife and let you apply for most jobs.

This is what you will adjust quickly to better fit the job description.

Using this method will save you lots of time in the long run.

Relevance First

As we said, you might not meet every single requirement listed in the job description.

When this happens, tailoring your CV is doubly important.

Tailoring your CV is about making the skills and experience you have grab the recruiters attention.

Seeing that your personal statement is at the very top of your CV, it’s the first thing a recruiter sees.

If they don’t see the most important and relevant skills for the job here, they won’t read any further.

So make sure your Personal Statement is relevant.

The same goes for your work history. That first role is important because it’s the first example of your work that recruiters will see.

In most cases you will list your roles in chronological order, starting with the most recent.

But you don’t always have to stick to this rule completely.

In some cases, your most recent role might not be particularly relevant to the role you’re applying to.

So if your current role isn’t quite relevant to the role you’re applying to, maybe you could add another role such as volunteer work or work experience.

You want to make an impact right from the get-go, so lead with what’s most likely to catch the hiring manager’s eye.

Personal Statement

The point of this small paragraph is to summarise how you are perfect for the role.

You need to use this place to really sell yourself.

Think of yourself as a business and give your unique selling point to the reader.

Worried about writing a great personal statement? Don’t with this guide.

Employment History

The next section you really want to tailor heavily is your work history.

If you don’t have the exact experience (i.e. going for a manager position for the first time), emphasise your leadership skills in your role and what results emerged.

You want to tailor it to the job description and the skills they have requested and require.

Hobbies and Interests

This is an often overlooked, or not thought of section on your CV.

But it can be very useful.

If you’re looking for a manger position and want to really emphasise the quality of your skills, how about mentioning you’re the captain of your football team.

Want to get into the creative industry? Show off how you do graphic design or art at the weekend.

Tailor your Skills

Remember, it’s not all about the experience, you also need to show your core skills.

Lots of roles require “soft skills” like the ability to work in a team, interpersonal skills and organisational skills.

So consider adding in a “core skills” section to your CV.

This is a good idea for those looking to go into technical roles or multi-discipline roles.

Keep it to a short set of bullet points (possibly in two columns to add more skills in less space).

They provide a snapshot of your skills, they are also easily changeable, allowing you to tailor your CV quickly and effectively.

You can include:

  • 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

You will need to demonstrate your skills with specific examples within your CV to act as proof, so be selective.

Add the important, cut the irrelevant

They say “all is fair in love and war”, the same applies to tailoring your CV.

Be brutal with your CV and really cut down on the sections where there is irrelevant information.

Don’t remove them!

By reducing the level of detail you will give yourself more space to write about the skills and experience that are relevant.

You must be honest with yourself and be selective.

Don’t lie, don’t cheat, just reduce the irrelevant and increase the relevant.

Remember, if a recruiter doesn’t see the qualities they need on your CV immediately, the won’t call you.

Final Check

Before you apply, ask yourself:

Can I immediately see the key requirements for the job on my CV?

If the answer is yes, then well done, you’ve tailored your CV!

If not, then you will need to re-read and adjust skills or experience to make sure you’re as close to perfect as possible.

Remember, this is not an exact science, this is an art.

You need to keep practicing to make sure your personal achievements are the most attractive qualities to your potential employer.

If you want to be extra careful you should check your CV for these errors

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