Why you should always target your CV


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Career Rock‘ by Louise Smith

This week Beth Leslie from Inspiring Interns is talking about why you should target your CV to the job and company you’re applying for and gives some useful tips on how to go about this.

Let’s be honest, job hunting is not fun. The path to that fulfilling and high-paying career of your dreams is strewn with obstacles, from all the other applicants you have to compete against, to the fact that some job openings never get advertised.

With opportunities scarce and competition fierce, many graduates are trying to up the odds by applying to every role they come across. They bung across the same CV and cover letter, cross their fingers… and get rejected 99% of the time.

The fact is that if you want a decent chance of scoring an interview for your dream job, you have to tailor your CV for the role. Have a look at some example CVs and you’ll soon see that different industries require different formats to be utilised and different skills to be emphasized.

Still not convinced? Read on:

You Only Have 11 Seconds to Convince Employers You’re Qualified 

Hiring managers are busy people who are often inundated with hundreds of CVs. They cannot take the time to read each one properly. So they scan them. Quickly. If they don’t instantly see the specific skills and experience they outlined in their job spec, your CV is going straight in the bin. And pretty much the only way to make sure your CV matches their job spec is to tailor it to it!

It gets worse. Often, your CV won’t even get those eleven seconds of human eyeballing without first overcoming the dreaded ATS software. ATS (applicant tracking system) is a computer program that inspects your CV to determine your suitability. It’s looking for specific keywords or phrases related to – you guessed it – the job spec. The ATS can reject reject a huge number of CVs without a human ever looking at them.

Read the job spec thoroughly before applying, and use the exact same words and phrases in your CV. So if a company highlights their need for a “team player”, dedicate a section of your CV to talking about how much of a team player you are. If it asks for computer literacy, take time to detail all the software you can use, and your competence in each of them.

Coming Across as a Cultural Misfit Will Sabotage Your Chances

Being a cultural fit doesn’t mean you can identify every Beethoven piano sonata or discuss the relative merits of different Impressionist artists. It just means that you align well with the company’s values, visions, and work style. It’s super important to employers – so much so that they usually plump for cultural match over competence when deciding between candidates.

While a lot of cultural assessment is done at the interview stage, your CV can also send off the wrong signals. A company known for it’s casual, collaborative culture will be turned off by a self-described “go-getting and independent individual who thrives under pressure”, while a non-profit would be underwhelmed by a CV that doesn’t detail at least some volunteering experience.

Basic research on a company (try review sites like Glassdoor) should give you a feel for the way a company positions itself, and you should ensure your CV reflects the same sort of ethos. If you feel that this would be a massive misrepresentation of your personality, it’s worth considering whether you’d actually be happy working for anywhere so at odds with your own preferences.

You Need to Show Genuine Interest in the Role

If you’re currently desperate to move out of your parent’s house, you might be willing to take any job going. But companies only want to hire people who are bought into their company, passionate about the industry, and excited to take on the role on offer. The more generic your CV is, the less it seems like you care about their job.

Demonstrating the sort of interest that will get you an interview requires a two-pronged approach. Firstly, you need to show that you understand what the job actually is. So if you’re going for a Business Development role, you need to play up any past sales experience you have, such as hitting store targets at your part-time retail job.

Secondly, you need to demonstrate a passion for the industry by detailing relevant hobbies and interests. If you want to work for a publisher, emphasize your membership of a book club. If you’re looking for a job in IT, highlight the coding boot camp you did last summer. The more examples you have of getting involved in things related to the job, the more likely it is that a hiring manager will believe you when you say you want to work there.

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles. Or; if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

Need some extra help tailoring your CV? Check out the CV section of our website, or come to our drop-in sessions Monday-Friday 1-4pm to get your CV checked.

1 Comment

Filed under Advice

One response to “Why you should always target your CV

  1. Pingback: 3 Ways to Stand Out When Applying for Graduate Jobs | University of Leeds Careers Centre Blog

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