Tailoring Your CV for Your Job Search

Creating a great CV takes a lot of tweaking to get it just right. Here’s how to craft the perfect tailored CV for your next job application.

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Tailor your CV

The role of your CV is to show recruiters that you are the right candidate for the job title that they are hiring for. A good CV showcases who you are as a potential employee, but a great CV showcases how you can meet the needs of the job description.

Why do you need to tailor your CV?

It can be useful to have a generic CV to hand, but you should not provide it in specific job applications. If you submit your generic CV as a part of a job application, then there are three main risks:
 
1. Failing to pass ATS
 
If you submit a generic CV as part of a job application, then you will run the risk of ranking poorly in applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems separate out poorly qualified candidates from the rest of the applicant pool. Unfortunately, if you don’t hit the right keywords in your CV, even qualified candidates can fail to rank well in ATS. If you do, then your CV is unlikely to even make it to a hiring manager’s desk. 
 
2. Wasting CV space
 
The average CV should be no more than one page in length. As such, it is important that you use this space well. If your generic CV doesn’t provide relevant experience and skills that match a specific job application, then it will lower your chances of success.  
 
3. Failing to interest the hiring manager
 
A generic CV may be a good base for job seekers who want to save time when tailoring their applications, but it is not likely to stand out on a recruiter’s desk. Even if your generic CV makes it through ATS, it is unlikely to wow a hiring manager when they have stacks of CVs to consider that contain more focused information on much-needed skills and qualifications.


Tailored CV structure

No matter what content you aim to include or which industry you work in, a basic CV should include most of the following sections:
 
Contact information
 
Clear and correct contact information is needed from every applicant including your full name and phone number. You can also add your social media links, such as your LinkedIn profile.
 
Objective statement
 
In this section, you give an overview of your top career highlights relevant to the position. Describe your professional or academic specialisations, key skills or relevant attributes, and key achievements to show why you’re the ideal candidate.
 
Summary of qualifications
 
This section should be focused on what you can offer to a potential employer by highlighting what makes you unique. You can also highlight your affiliations with any professional bodies or groups. Think of these as lengthier descriptions of the most important attributes that would otherwise belong on your skills list.
 
Core qualifications/Key skills
 
These sections represent technical or special skills that directly reference the terms used in the job description.
 
Education
 
The education section should be presented in reverse-chronological order with your high school listed last and with the least detail — you do not need to include your grades.
 
Work history
 
This section should be presented in reverse-chronological order, just as with a professional CV, and highlight your main achievements and professional skills. Remember to include quantifiable metrics to demonstrate precisely what you contributed to past employers.
 
Awards
 
Academic and professional achievements you have received.
 
Certifications
 
Credentials earned via training online, night classes etc.
 
Publications
 
List research papers, articles or other published writing related to your work.
 
Grants and fellowships
 
Here you’d list financial grants or admittance into fellowships. This shows potential employers that you’ve proven yourself to influential people in your field.
 
Conferences
 
Shows your commitment to taking a more holistic interest in your industry through networking, learning from peers, and more.
 
Affiliations
 
Highlight which major, industry-relevant associations you’re a part of or have worked with directly.
 
You can also create additional sections for professional certifications, internships, and volunteer work. In short, you can and should include anything that shows that you are the ideal candidate for the role.

How to tailor your CV?

As we’ve stated, it is great career advice to tailor your CV to suit the needs of each job application, but how do you do this? Just consider the details of the open position and its requirements. Here are three tips to help you tailor your CV: 
 
1. Mirror the language of the job posting.
 
Consider the language used in the job posting; is it strictly professional or a little more relaxed? Mirror the tone and style (subtly), and you could convince hiring managers that you will fit in with the company culture. 
 
2. Include achievements that showcase relevant skills.
 
You should generally focus on your most impressive achievements (especially in the summary section at the top of your CV), but make sure they are relevant. If you have less impressive but more relevant achievements that prove you can do the work, then they may be a better choice for your CV. 
 
3. Ensure you use the right CV keywords.
 
The job posting should tell you exactly what a potential employer requires from their ideal candidate (e.g., stating a preference for candidates with specific skills or knowledge). Make sure that you include these key phrases and skills in your CV to rank well in the applicant tracking system.


FAQs: tailor your CV

Q: How long should a CV be?

No matter what CV format you choose, one page is the standard length for a CV. There may be some cases where two pages are acceptable, especially for more senior positions that require extensive work history.

Q: Do I need a cover letter?

Yes, you do need a cover letter for most job applications. A cover letter gives you the chance to directly address the hiring manager and provide extra information, and is an additional opportunity to support your application. The only exception to the rule is when a job posting specifically states that a cover letter should not be provided.

Q: Can I get help with tailoring my CV?

Yes. If you want help with updating and tailoring your CV, then you can use the CVHelp CV builder. This free online tool offers access to a range of professional CV templates that will ensure your CV looks good while meeting all formatting guidelines. 

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