Discover how to build a CV that stands out from the crowd. 

Get personal

There’s no such thing as a good generic CV. You need to tailor your CV to reflect the specific job specification you’re applying for and/or the relevant company values. The easiest way to do this is to create a broad CV that encompasses all of your skills and achievements, which you can then modify to fit a particular opportunity.

Tailoring your CV is particularly important given that the majority of companies now use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to sort and pre-filter CVs and applications. To maximise your chances of getting through to interview stage your CV should be ATS friendly.

ATS uses keywords to search for and identify suitable candidates for specific roles. To ensure that you appear at the top of these search results your CV should reflect the keywords used in the job description, including qualifications, functional skills and relevant software. 

For example, when searching for a suitable candidate for the role of an accountant, recruiters using ATS might search for phrases like ‘Management Accountant’, ‘budgeting’, ‘variance analysis’, ‘SAP’ or ‘pivot tables’. Generic soft skills such as ‘confident’ or ‘team player’ are less likely to form part of their search criteria, so it’s important to emphasise technical skills that are relevant to the role and industry.

Researching the job and organisation will help you find the right keywords to include. Getting to know the organisation will enable you to use relevant language and examples that match their culture and ethos. You could also research individuals who are already part of the company on LinkedIn and see if you can mirror any of the relevant courses, qualifications or skills they have listed.

Rank your skills in the same order as they appear on the job description and remove any unnecessary areas of expertise. 

Your cover letter

This is the first chance you get to attract an employer’s attention. So, as with your CV, tailor the language you use to reflect keywords in the job description or the company’s values. Briefly write about your skills and abilities, and refer the reader to your CV. 

Your cover letter should also explain why you’re writing; whether it’s a response to an advertisement or you’re expressing a direct interest in the company. If you’re applying speculatively make sure you explain what prompted you to apply and why you’d like to work for the organisation. You can get the insight you need to do this from company websites, annual reports or even by contacting them directly and asking for information.

Quick tips

  • The first page of your CV should contain your contact details. Remember, a company cannot discriminate in any way so you don’t need to include your age, gender, sexuality or marital status
  • Sell your achievements, not your responsibilities. Under each job title, explain briefly what you accomplished while in the role e.g. “I saved the company xxxx”
  • Remember the appropriate formalities (sincerely and faithfully) when signing off your cover letter. If you can get the name of the person recruiting, even better. Making your letter personal will have more impact
  • Have someone check everything before you send it off to help you catch any spelling or grammatical errors
  • If you’re emailing your application make sure the formatting is correct by sending it to yourself or someone you trust. It’s worth making sure the format of your CV is compatible with the majority of software programmes if you’re sending an electronic copy 
  • Avoid using fancy fonts and layouts. Consider the reader. They may be working through hundreds of CVs and if yours is difficult to read, then it’s going to end up in the bin
  • Coloured inks can be very difficult to read, and an off-white or cream background is usually the best choice

For further advice and support, work one-to-one with a professional career coach online, over the phone or face-to-face. Contact us today.

Was this article useful?