Probably anyone who has asked for CV advice has been told the maxim: adapting your CV to each role you apply for is crucial.
However, knowing what this actually involves is important. Having a specific CV for each role will maximise your chance of being offered your dream job and will show employers that you are serious about their role.
1. Fulfilling the mandatory criteria
The aim with a tailored CV is to show that you are perfectly suited to this job, not just any job in your chosen sector, or any other sector for that matter! In most job descriptions the first thing to establish are the specific qualifications, experience levels, or degree types that they require. If you meet these criteria it is crucial that you mention that clearly on your CV.
Example: If the job description lists some specific programming languages as essential then you should list all of the appropriate programming languages clearly at the top of your ‘Skills’ section rather than in among other details half way down a list. This means the employer can see immediately that you are an appropriate candidate and that you meet their needs.
2. Highlighting other skills
As well as very clear mandatory skills, there will likely be a range of other criteria such as having attention to detail, leadership skills or being able to bring your own ideas to something. Identify what these criteria are, and then think about how the things you have done help you meet them.
Example: If the job listing states that you should be able to work well independently, give an example of a project you worked on independently, and specifically state that you did so, explaining clearly and if possible using figures, the success of the project thanks to your independent work.
“During my internship, I was given the task of launching social media accounts and I worked on this independently. I created a Twitter and Facebook, both of which now have over 300 followers.”
3. Research the company
Another way you can get a feel for the sort of candidate that the employer is looking for is by looking up the company online. See if you can find out more about the values, aims, and work of the company and see how you can best fit your CV to their work. You want to show that what you have done is directly relevant to their company where possible.
Example: If you are applying to a sales role and you discover that the company’s main clients are start-ups, then you could perhaps draw on experience you have working with or at a start-up to highlight that you understand how the clients work and what they will be looking for from a product. If you have no experience in start-ups, showing an interest in them will be enough! If you can demonstrate that you are passionate about their business then you will stand out as a candidate.
“I completed a week of work experience at a start-up during which I learned about their needs and processes.”
4. Think about your experience
Make sure all the experience you list is linked back to the key skills the employer wants to see. When you describe past jobs, internships, or periods of work experience, use the same keywords as the employer and tailor your descriptions to emphasise the most relevant things. Show don’t tell! If you can talk about an experience or activity you have done, and let the employer see that it fulfils their needs, then this is a lot better than copying out the job advert and claiming that you match it.
Example: If you were applying to a role that requires you to speak a lot to customers, highlight how your other roles in the past have linked to this.
“I volunteered at a charity shop for three years, which gave me lots of experience talking to customers and dealing with the public.”
5. Make sure you meet their requirements
If they have specific requirements for how the CV should be sent, or follow up actions, then make sure you follow them! It will make you look sloppy if you fall at the first hurdle.
Example: Most jobs or internships may require CVs to be sent to a specific email address or uploaded to a particular site by a specified date. Remember to get these details correct! They are the easiest things to get right, but they let you down the most if you get them wrong.
The main reason that a CV should be saved as a PDF is so that the format does not get ruined (which is very likely to happen if you send it as a Word document). You should to save it by selecting File > Save As > PDF to avoid this!
Once you have sent off your applications, keep and eye on them and get feedback where you can. Also, remember to keep track of your applications by making a list of all the jobs you have applied for and at what stage you are at. This will avoid any missed deadlines or even missed interviews!