Hopefully as a professional with good research skills, you are already aware that you’re supposed to adapt your CV for each job application, assuming the jobs have different characteristics. However, sometimes it’s not obvious how to give the employers what they’re looking for. The key lies in identifying what the ‘core results’ are of each target role – what skills and experience do the employers want to see on the CV? Once you’ve worked out the ‘outcomes’ of the CV – i.e. what it’s trying to achieve – then it’s relatively straightforward to tweak the CV so that it highlights that information more effectively.
How to identify ‘core results’
A great place to start is the job advertisement or specification. The area to focus most attention on is of course the ‘candidate essentials and desirables’ paragraph, which frequently starts with ‘you will have’. Very often, these criteria will be listed in order of importance, so make sure the top three are uppermost in your mind.
Don’t forget to work through the role description; frequently there will be some hidden deliverables in there that you can also use to focus your CV.
Write down all the key outcomes you need to see on the CV. Examples might be any keyworded hard skills or industry-specific jargon, as well as softer skills such as teamwork or leadership or communication.
Align the summary profile to the outcome keywords
Think of this in terms of keywords or key phrases that reflect what you’ve seen in the job spec. Your CV profile should clarify what you can deliver in your target role, think about the commercial results they are seeking. It should ideally encompass 2-4 bullets focused on most relevant skills and experience; make sure you’ve hit the main ones for each job application in the summary. Highlight the relevant industry, if you have experience of more than one.
Do the same for professional experience
Then read through the rest of the CV – can you insert more of your key words anywhere? It will almost always be possible to tweak the summary part of each post you have held. Then check the bulleted achievements; it will usually be possible to re-order them to more closely align with the outcomes and skills required. Ensure the ‘results’ of each bullet – in other words, how the achievements helped your employer – match the criteria of the job. Ideally, the most recent role should have the same ‘top three’ skills you identified earlier.
Highlight most relevant achievements
You might have achieved many things at your current job; enough, perhaps, for 12 bulleted examples. However, these will have varying relevance to the target role and white space is important on a CV. So delete anything unimportant or irrelevant. Any more than 6-8 bullet points is too many. You can then expand on each of these at interview.
Adapt for style – Use the same language
Frequently the job ad you’ve just responded to will have been written by the same recruiter who takes the decision whether or not to include you in a shortlist, which is why so many of them are badly written. Try to use, where possible and appropriate, similar language, without falling into the trap of writing poor English, or cutting and pasting whole sections. Paraphrase succinctly and accurately; make it clear you have read the job spec, without just copying verbatim.
Take out short-term or early jobs that aren’t relevant
If it’s taking up space on the CV and doesn’t enhance your chances of securing your target role then delete, particularly if it’s negative, of course. You are under no obligation to include everything you have ever done; so if it’s merely filling up time on the CV, don’t be afraid to take it out. The days of having to justify every part of your career are long gone in most professional environments.
Make sure the location works
If you’re applying to a different city, change the location to your target. If you’re applying in a different country, the most effective way to get a call back is to obtain a number from that country – Skype or any other VoIP service is useful for this.
Research the decision-makers
If you can find out who will be reading your CV, do a little background check and try to find something of common interest; have you worked with the same clients? Do you have a hobby in common? Inserting little hooks that show your connection to the recruiter, line manager or company you’re applying to is a great way of obtaining interviews, and then making those interviews more dynamic and interesting once you get there.