5 ways to tailor your CV to a particular role

As mentioned in my previous blog, tailoring your CV is the single most important thing you can do when applying for a new role.  When employers have a pile of CVs to go through, and minimal time to do it in, they will scan the CVs for, on average, 6 seconds and if they don’t see the relevant information, you go in to “No” pile, and no-one wants to be there.

I would say about 80-90% of people won’t tailor their CVs for specific roles, so if you make sure you are in the minority, you are significantly improving your chances of being invited in for an interview.  Before I start, I want to make one thing clear- “tailoring” your CV is not carte blanche to “lie” on your CV.  By tailoring, we mean highlighting your relevant experience/attributes to their requirements and making it as easy as possible to see this.

So, if you have been following this series so far, you can probably guess how many pointers I am going to give you (if not, there is a really big hint in the title to this blog!), and this will be accompanied by another very cleverly constructed and memorable acronym- RAMSA!

  1. Review– review the Job description and Person Specification, and then go through your CV and highlight all the elements on the JD/PS that is covered on your CV. Hopefully, you end up with a reasonable amount of colour on both documents.  If not, then you may want to consider if this is going to be the right role for you to put your efforts in to.  Then look at what you haven’t highlighted and establish if that is because you haven’t got that experience, or if it is just not on your CV.  If it is the latter, get it on there quick smart!
  2. Advert– for me, the advert is one of the most important insights in to what the recruiting manager is looking for. A JD and PS is often dusted off from a previous recruitment process and seldom altered/adapted.  Equally, it covers everything you could ever expect to do in the role, and so doesn’t give you an idea of the emphasis of the role requirements.  The advert, however, will be written with this particular role in mind, will often be written by the recruiting manager, or drafted based on the specific requirements they have.  It will give you hints as to what they want to see on a CV and what the main emphasis for the role is.  So, take this and use it to formulate your personal profile box- use their language, talk about how you meet those criteria and what appeals to you about helping them to achieve their goals.
  3. Manipulate– You will probably have a master CV with a number of bullet points underneath each role. The reader of this CV will often make the automatic assumption that the top bullet point is the most important aspect of your role and will progress in decreasing importance.  Therefore, if a key part of the new role is halfway down your list, move it to the top.  Not only does this make the main points easier to find (you have 6 seconds to get their attention remember), but it plays a little mind trick on the reader, thus improving your chances of being shortlisted.
  4. Separate– I talked in the last blog about ensuring your CV is output/achievement focused. In order to make these as easy as possible to find, there are a couple of ways of separating these out.  You can either separate each role into small sub-headings for responsibilities and achievements, or, I prefer to have a small section before your employment history which summarises 3-5 relevant achievements.  The reason I prefer this is that it means they will be on the first page (some employers will never get to the 2nd page of a CV), it is easy to find, and it clearly reinforces your suitability for the role with minimal effort on the readers part.
  5. Adapt– this is perhaps my most contentious point, but I think merits inclusion (and there is a halfway house option if you don’t like it). We have talked at length about using their language, making your CV relevant to them.  Over the years, Housing has become more and more creative and no more obviously than when it comes to job titles.  Now that is fine internally, but it can often be confusing to other organisations with another language.  Let’s take the simple role of a Housing Officer- just in the Midlands alone that could be called a Tenancy Officer, Neighbourhood Officer, Housing Patch Manager, Housing Advisor, Neighbourhood Champion, Neighbourhood Coach to name a few.  The issue comes when you are applying for a role with another organisation.  Say you are a Neighbourhood Champion for example, and applying for a Generic Housing Officer role.  The tasks within both are very similar, but you open yourself to being overlooked, if the recruiting manager makes an assumption (in those 6 seconds) as to what a Neighbourhood Champion would do.  So you can run the risk, or you can make it relevant and change it to their language.  It isn’t lying, it is helping the reader of the CV to understand in their language what you do.  In reality, in that example, I would absolutely do that, however, if it was the other way round (i.e. a Generic Housing Officer applying for a Neighbourhood Champion role), I probably wouldn’t as that title is quite unique.  And this is the halfway house option.  In that case (or if you were uncomfortable doing the first option at all), I would put Generic Housing Officer (equivalent of your Neighbourhood Champion role), or something to that effect.  It not only avoids any misunderstanding, but again confirms you have spent time on this specific application, which shows your commitment to the position.

So there you go- I imagine I might get some feedback on those, but I’d welcome any discussion!  The final blog will give you some useful tips of what to do with your CV now it is first rate!

Barry Forsythe is Manager of Greenacre Midlands Division,  overseeing the Executive/Senior Level candidacy and vacancies across the East & West Midlands region. Barry has worked in recruitment for over 16 years and works alongside organisations to deliver advice, insights and experience to housing and associated industry professionals throughout the UK.

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