Tailoring your CV: What you need to know

Why should I tailor my CV?

Tailoring your CV is absolutely vital if you want to stand out to recruiters.

Not only does it show you’re interested in their job, it also enables you to represent your skills and experience in a way that proves your suitability to the role.

This means they don’t have to do any heavy lifting to figure out whether you’d be a good candidate. Instead, you’ve done the work for them.

Tailoring your CV also gives you the opportunity to impress at the interview. As interviewers use your CV to give them a steer on what questions to ask, a tailored CV will mean they’re focusing on the right elements of your experience.

What should I consider when tailoring my CV?

OK, so you know why you need to tailor your CV. But before you start, here are a few things you should consider:  

  • It’s a little more work to tailor your CV. Ensure you’re giving yourself enough time to apply, and aren’t rushing the process. It’s much more effective to spend more time and effort on a few applications, than it is to send out fifty without much thought.
  • It won’t always be possible to tailor your CV. Whilst you should try to tailor your CV every time you apply for a job, the process may vary depending on the situation. For example, if you’re at a conference, job fair, or you’re applying speculatively, it might not be possible to tailor it completely.
  • You might tailor it less if you’re in the later stages of your career. Some recruiters think that a tailored CV isn’t as necessary, as long as you have relevant experience in the sector you’re applying to.
  • You’ll probably have more than one CV. Tailoring your CV can mean that you have a number of different versions, specific to a sector or job type (that you adapt slightly for each job). This makes checking you’re sending the right one, and knowing which one to refer to at an interview, is vital.

What parts of my CV do I need to tailor?

You don’t need to tailor every single element of your CV. Just the sections that best sell your skills to the job you’re applying for.As a guideline, here are some key sections you might want to tailor:

  • Personal statement
  • Work history
  • Skills
  • Work-related qualifications and training

How to tailor a CV

  • Do your research. Research the company and the job, and find out exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate. Company websites, social media pages, blog posts, and employer review sites are a great place to start. Once you’ve learnt about their values, goals, tone, company culture, current projects and product releases, you’ll be able to adapt your CV accordingly, as well as utilise all-important conversation starters if you’re invited to an interview.
  • Use the job description. When it comes to tailoring your CV, the job description is your best friend. Use it to inform what you include in your CV, highlighting the words and phrases that the recruiter marks as  important. Whatever duties, skills, and experience are mentioned the most are what you should highlight in your own experience. And always make sure you’re backing up your skills with real-life examples.
  • Prioritise your skills. Once you’ve figured out what the employer is looking for, you should be able to prioritise your skills according to their needs. You should also order it in a way that highlights your suitability – including your most important qualities first. Creating a key skills section under your personal statement is a great way to show how your skills match the employer’s key requirements – with one quick glance.  
  • Connect the dots. If you’re struggling to find out which parts of your experience the recruiter will value most, try putting them down on paper. By making a list of the job requirements, alongside a list of your own skills and experience, you’ll be able to figure out how and if they match. Simply draw a line from each requirement to one or more of the skills that demonstrate them. Whichever skills have the most lines are the ones you should highlight in your CV.

Tailoring CV examples

Tailoring your CV isn’t just about parroting the job advert.

Sure, you need to show your skills match what they’re looking for – but it takes more to prove it, not to mention stand out from the crowd. This is where you have to get personal.

For each requirement, reference a real-life example that demonstrates your ability. Think results and achievements. After all, how else will you show you’re different from hundreds of other applicants with the same skills you have?

Here are a few examples of how you can quantify your skills when tailoring your CV:  

  • They want someone who’s ‘innovative’. Think about a time that you’ve come up with a new idea, for example: ‘Suggested a new team structure to manager, which reduced staff turnover’ or ‘Increased sales by 6% when I reorganised the store layout more efficiently’.
  • They want a ‘self-starter’. Highlight the times you’ve motivated yourself to achieve something of value without being asked, or when you’ve worked well on your own, for example: ‘Offered to contribute to the organisational newsletter’ or ‘Created a marketing plan for a product launch without being asked.’
  • They want a ‘team player’. Point out the occasions when you’ve worked well with other people to achieve a worthwhile result, for example: ‘Worked with IT department to create voucher scanning system which increased sales by 12 per cent’ or ‘Collaborated with finance team to set budgets for the next year.’
  • They want a ‘leader’. You don’t have to have been in a senior position to have demonstrated leadership skills, but you do need to prove you’ve given instructions, inspired people, or taught others something new, for example: ‘Inducted two new assistants into the department’ or ‘Led a hiking team up a mountain in the company charity walk, inspiring them to carry on in rain and snow’.

Final thoughts

Tailoring your CV for every job you apply for may feel like a time-consuming task; but trust us, it’s worth it.

The person looking at your CV wants to know that you’re a plausible fit for the role, and that you’re passionate about fulfilling it. Not only will tailoring your CV enhance your suitability, it’ll also demonstrate your interest in the role and company. This means you’re more likely to get shortlisted, and ultimately secure the job you want.

Let’s face it, it’s much better than blending in.