Tailoring Your Graduate CV: Why, When, How

Career Advice
02 April 2020 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Even two advertised roles with the exact same job title can vary significantly when you look below the surface. As a candidate, aiming to secure that all-important interview, it’s vital to identify what the employer and role are really looking for and tailor your graduate CV to exactly that.

Let’s crack on with looking at why you need to tailor your CV, when to do it, and how to tailor your CV for each job application.

Why should you tailor your graduate CV?

Applying for graduate jobs takes time and effort; there’s no way around that. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that your chances of success are greater. The way to do this at the graduate level is to focus on quality over quantity.

If you choose to take the scattergun approach of dashing out a generic CV to anyone and everyone then you’re wasting both time and effort. What’s more, you probably won’t actually secure the dream job, but end up with a pot luck approach.

Having decided to opt for quality over quantity, you quickly realise that tailoring or customisation is the key to success.

Your CV needs to be tailored to the exact requirements of the job and the employer, regardless of the job title or your basic CV template.

We’re not saying you have to start from scratch each time either, so let’s look at when and how to do it.

When should you tailor your CV?

Have a good basic graduate CV saved and ready as your template to work from.

As you peruse graduate jobs, be more discerning in the ones you apply for. Ask yourself if this is really the role you want. Do a little research into the employer – would you like to work for them? What would your commute be? What would career progression be like?

If, following this exercise, you want to work for this employer in this role then it’s time to tailor that basic template for this application.

How to tailor your graduate CV

Your template provides an excellent framework on which to build a customised CV. This process will become quicker and more efficient the more you do it.

Your overall aim: Aim to showcase the precise evidence and skills that are being sought by this employer, in this role.

Armed with the job description, candidate specification, advert and any information you can find about the employer, do the following:

  1. Edit your personal statement:

Edit your personal statement to reflect the brand persona of the employer (e.g. formal or youthful etc.). Steer clear of clichés, but instead, write authentically about why you are ideal for this position.

  1. Match evidence and skills to the job:

Go through your CV and match the evidence and skills you list to those listed in the advert. So, if the advert calls for someone who is flexible, make sure you list that time you took on a project outside your remit, and why it was a success.

  1. Identify your gaps:

During step 2, you may discover you’ve got some gaps between your skills and experience, and what the recruiting manager is asking for. Now’s your chance to think creatively and think about transferable skills you should include to address those gaps.

  1. Catch all the details:

If you’ve been reading a fair number of job adverts, you’ve probably taken to skim reading and skipping over basic facts. However, whoever wrote that advert wrote each point for a reason. For example, if they specify they want applicants to have a 2:1 or higher, make sure you put your degree classification on your CV.

  1. Shift the focus:

Look at what’s most important to the recruiter. You need to make sure this is addressed in the first quarter of your CV. Therefore, you may need to shift things around a little to get the focus in the right places.

It does take a little more effort to tailor a CV. However, it’s time and effort well spent. With a tailored CV, you are far more likely to showcase yourself as their ‘ideal’ candidate, and have them calling you for interview over anyone else who sent in their generic CV.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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