Tailoring your CV

If you’ve ever had your CV looked at during a quick query drop in session here at the careers service, you’ll probably know that first question we usually ask is ‘what are you using this CV for?’.  To some, this may seem like a stupid question – I mean, the obvious answer is ‘jobs’ right?  Well, it’s not quite that simple…

Although the basic information on your CV will remain the same, each job you apply for will (very probably) require a different CV.  Think about application forms – when you fill in one of these, you (hopefully!) don’t cut and paste your answers from somewhere else; if you did this you almost certainly wouldn’t be actually answering the questions asked.  It’s the same with your CV.  You want to prove to the recruiter that you possess the skills and experience for this job, not one like it.

Your degree

You might think this one is easy as the degree you’re doing has only one title and what you’ve studied doesn’t change, but it does require a bit of thought to work out the best way to represent this on your CV.

  1. If you are applying for a job that is directly related to your degree (e.g. you’re applying for an environmental job and your degree is in environmental science) then you might want to emphasise the overall topics you’ve studied, and the (no doubt fabulous) grades you achieved.
  2. If you are applying for a job which is indirectly related to the degree you’ve studied, or partially related (e.g. a combined studies degree) then you might wish to emphasise some elements of your degree, certain modules or techniques you have become familiar with.
  3. If you are applying to a job which is not related to your degree, you need to think about emphasising the transferable skills you have learned during your time at university (such as communication skills, presentation skills etc) and the general standard of your modules (predicted grade, or average mark for example)

It’s worth getting this right as this information sets the tone for your whole CV.

Experience

This is the section where you can really demonstrate to the employer that you have the skills and experience that they need.  Each job advert that you see probably has a list of competencies that the recruiter is looking for, or a set of essential/desirable criteria necessary for the job.  These criteria will not be the same for all the jobs you apply to, even if the jobs are similar.  A well tailored CV will demonstrate that the candidate has the competencies necessary for the position.

But some people find this easier said than done.  There are a couple of tricks that can make this easier.

  • Try creating a table with the skill/experience required in one column and then the evidence you have that you have experience of this skill/experience in the next column (including which piece of work experience/volunteering you gained the skill during).  This ensures that you have covered each of the competencies, you can use this table to inform what you write about each piece of work experience.
  • The other useful trick is to have a separate section on your CV called ‘relevant work experience’ – this enables you to draw the recruiters eye to the the work you’ve done which is directly related to the job you are going for, even if it isn’t you most recent piece of work experience, or if it was voluntary.  All your other work experience can easily go in another section called ‘additional work experience.

If you follow the tips above for each CV you do, you’ll find you’ve thought much more about the CV you’re producing and should find that it’s a much better tailored document.

As Sarah mentioned last week, I’m doing a Liveguidance session tomorrow evening (19th August) on the topic of applications and CVs, so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to come and have a quick chat with me!

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