The ultimate guide to tailoring your CV

If there’s one thing you can do today to re-invent your CV and have the best possible chance of getting lots of interviews – it’s to tailor it. But not just to the role but also the company.

Imagine your CV was a restaurant and you decided to continue with the same old menu for years and years. Not only that, but you keep the same décor and limited refurbishments to changing the colour of the table cloths from time to time. How do you think your customers will react? Do you think they’ll keep coming back to eat the same food whilst the wallpaper starts to hang off?

Your CV is your own personal sales brochure and has to follow one straight forward rule – it must provide what the employer wants. Although this sounds obvious you’d be surprised at how many job seekers continue to use the same old CV, and only update it with their current or previous place of work. This just isn’t enough to make an employer go ‘wow’.

Like the restaurant, you need to keep up with the times and tailor your menu and décor to what the employer wants. Not only does it have to look great but it has to provide the right ingredients.

If we’ve sparked your interest and you’d like to know more about how and why you should tailor your CV, then here’s our ultimate guide.

Why you should tailor your CV

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager for a second and think about what you’d want to see on a CV. Would you want to read an entire career history on each candidate, or would you rather just be given the relevant skills and qualifications? Assuming you’ve gone with the latter, you’d be right in thinking this is the preferred option.

Depending on the size of the company a hiring manager could receive anything between 20-100 applications. Even if they only get 20 it’s still a lot to go through, and with so little time to spend you can imagine how quickly each one is read. If the manager has to figure out what they have to offer from a huge list of skills, qualifications and previous duties, they could easily get bored and move on.

There is one simple and yet very obvious answer as to why every job seeker should tailor their CV – because it offers the manager exactly what they want. It saves them a lot of time and makes it easier for them to say, ‘I want to interview this person’.

Research is key

The only real chance you have of writing a tailored CV is to research the role and the company. The more information you have the more likely you are to write an application that offers the employer exactly what they need. So where to start?

The job advert is the best place to start as it should provide a job description which includes a list of tasks, qualifications and potential experience (mandatory, preferred, or not important). Make a note of all the important requirements and then refer to your current CV to see what matches. If you are fortunate enough to be able to cover everything then you need to start cutting out most or all of the irrelevant material. You would be making it much harder for the employer if you hide the best parts within the rest of your credentials.

To give your CV another edge over the competition you should also research the company. Visit the company’s website and get a feel for how they present themselves. Are they a family owned company or a big organisation? Are there any testimonials? What product or service do they sell?

Social media is also another place you should go. Most companies nowadays are on Facebook and Twitter, and you should be able to find out what the customers are saying. Is there a new product being advertised? Is this something you could focus upon within your cover letter or CV?

The more you know about a company, the easier it is to write a tailored CV. You may only need to insert just the one sentence which is important to the company, and your demonstration of commercial awareness could provide an interview.

For more information on what to research before an interview – Where do you start when research an interview?

Transferable skills

We previously mentioned that you may be fortunate enough to tick all the boxes, but if that isn’t the case then all is not lost. You will often find that when you compare your current CV to a job advert you fall short. That’s because every employer has their own very different take on a role, no matter how similar the job titles.

First of all, don’t panic and instantly assume you are not capable. Most job adverts like to use certain buzzwords and glamorise the role with fancy words to entice and impress. So rather than feel intimidated by how important the job sounds, check back over your credentials and try and connect the dots.

Let’s say for example that you are applying to become a customer service manager for an energy company. Although you have managerial experience in the hospitality sector, you’ve never actually worked for an energy supplier. But what’s more important to the employer? Your managerial experience in the hospitality sector, or your lack or experience with an energy company?

If I were the hiring manager I would certainly favour managerial experience over a lack of knowledge in the energy industry – especially when the person in this example has worked in hospitality, so they clearly know how to keep customers happy. Leading a team requires a certain set of unique skills, which only comes with experience. You can always quickly learn about the energy industry over the space of a few months, but knowing how to lead a team takes years.

Instead of focusing upon the specifics, try to take a more generic approach. Transferable skills will help the employer connect the dots and recognise your suitability. But this comes down to how you write your CV and demonstrate those transferable skills. So look outside the buzzwords and the specific skills that have been requested, and present your CV in such a way that shows them you have similar skills and experience which could easily be transferred.

A change in careers is where you’re ability to demonstrate transferable skills is the key to gaining an interview. Read here for more information – How To Show Employers You Have Transferable Skills To Successfully Change Careers.

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