How to tailor your CV for the job advertisement

How can you make your job application stand out from everyone else’s? A key piece of the puzzle is to tailor your applications individually, for each company and each role by

  1. Understanding what the employer is looking for
  2. Showing them clearly and with evidence how you meet their requirements

Your aim should be to demonstrate that you have the interest, ability and experience to do the job.  Remember that many jobs have a high volume of applications, so recruiters are looking for ways to sift these to a manageable shortlist that they can consider inviting for interview.

Illustration of job seeking candidates and CVs
Image by VIN JD from Pixabay

How do I get closer to being on the interview shortlist

  • The good news? It’s straightforward to do. Match your skills and experience to the advertisement’s requirements. Time invested in this will significantly improve your chances of getting to interview!
  • The news you may not be so happy to hear? You can’t keep sending out the same CV and a mildly modified cover letter. You definitely need to tailor both CV and cover letter each time you apply for something. This can seem time consuming at first but you will definitely get quicker.

Let’s use a simple example, from a job currently advertised in Pathfinder. The advert includes the following:

  • You will be confident, motivated and capable of working unsupervised if required.  You will also be able to demonstrate the ability to learn, analyse, interpret and retain information and be able to communicate complex issues and concepts to non-specialist audiences

TIP: Look out for phrases like, ‘We are seeking…’ , ‘You will be…’ , or sections headed Requirements, or Person Specification. Sometimes these bits of information are scattered throughout the advert, so read carefully.

How do companies choose who to invite to interview?

Now let’s imagine they receive dozens of applications. The company will sift through really quickly, looking specifically to see which candidates meet their requirements.

A busy recruiter will be reading fast, or even using software to do this part of the job for them. They will be seeking in this case for clear evidence that you are:

  • Confident and motivated

They are also actively looking to see if you can:

  • Work unsupervised
  • Learn and analyse
  • Interpret and retain information
  • Communicate complex issues and concepts to non-specialist audiences

If they can’t easily see this – and the best way to show it is to use these same words – your application will not progress. This is not personal; it’s about matching data.

Does your CV show that you meet the requirements in the advertisement?

It’s simple; sometimes it seems too simple, so applicants think it can’t be that easy! But it is. The company has asked for x,y and z. They will weed out any application where x,y and z are missing. Your application needs to show how you meet as many of these criteria as possible, backing them up with evidence. You can’t assume that the company will be able to deduce from your experience that you have a particular skillset: you need to be explicitly clear.

Of course there is more to it than this, and in future posts we will unpack in more detail how to do this, with more examples, but it’s a key first step.

A word cloud of skills
Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

How will targeting my application show that I’m a good candidate?

Targeting an application is a really important part of making a good professional impression. It shows you have taken the time to understand what an employer is looking for, and to arrange your information and evidence clearly so that they can see how you are suited.

You will also need to compose a targeted cover letter which we will cover in a further post.

How can I get help with job applications?

 Book a Guidance Interview on Surrey Pathfinder and a careers adviser can support you through the process.

Thanks to Careers Adviser, Janie Angell for writing this blog.

Further reading