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How to tailor your CV to each job application

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 17 Nov 2021

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Job applications are often the first introduction an employer gets to you. Whether it’s a job application, a CV or cover letter submission, you should consider personalising them for each job you apply for. Applying for a single role can be a long process, but by thoroughly reading the job spec and understanding what they are looking for in a candidate, you can ensure your CV and cover letter point out those strengths.

Recruiters and employers will often ask for both a CV and cover letter to begin with and it’s important to make sure that you put just as much effort into both documents. Cover letters are something that is often forgotten about or left until the last minute, but they can make or break a successful application.  

Where to begin?

To start, you should create a simple template for both your CV and cover letter, so when it comes to altering the information for each job application, it’s easy to remove and add elements as you go. This will save you time and help make the application process easier and hopefully less stressful.

The main parts of your CV are likely to stay the same. For example, your past job experience doesn’t need to be tailored for a job application. Unless you want to double check the duties of your past roles and make sure they align with the role you are applying for. Your skills section is likely to be the same as well. If you are looking for jobs in the same sector, your skills section isn’t going to need much rearranging. However, if there is a role that asks for ‘time management skills’ specifically, make sure you put this at the top of the list. Also include examples of this skill in your personal statement and experience sections.

Understanding the job brief

Before you start tailoring your CV, save yourself some time and make sure you have thoroughly read through the job spec. It may be stating the obvious, but it is important to know the job you are applying for, before sending them any kind of application. The job title can sometimes throw you off and think it is right for you, especially when some jobs just require you to upload a CV and it’s done! However, make sure it’s right and save time for both you and the employer.

Almost all job briefs will include duties required for the job and it’s highly likely that these will be ranked in order of most important to least. It’s important to consider if you would be comfortable with the daily tasks l or if you think with training (if they provide this) you will be able to deliver expectations.

There is more to a company than just the job description. Make sure you are also doing your research and making sure you know what the company does and if there has been any news about the company recently. It’s likely that they will post a link to the company page or website in the job brief, so try and find it there. It’s worth knowing if you are going to like the company, agree with what they do and if they look like the right culture fit. A simple task that can really help your job seeking experience.

CV Layout

The layout of your CV does matter. Both your CV and cover letter should be sectioned into clear and concise segments that are easy to read with an organised structure. In other words, it might not be a good idea to go for anything too creative (depending on your sector) and definitely not a good idea to submit a CV that is bulky and over-filled.

Your CV sections could include key skills and experience, achievements, qualifications, and necessary education. Depending on what sector of engineering you are working in, it’s important to use the correct terminology when necessary within these sections, on both your CV and cover letter. This will make it clear to the employer that you have relevant understanding of engineering terms and are aware of their meaning. But don’t go too overboard, only use relevant terminology where necessary.

Your key skills section can include all skills that you feel are relevant to the job specification and your area of expertise. It may be easier to list your skills in bullet points to help it look more organised and to the point. For every job you apply for, the skill section should be altered. (If necessary) Depending on what the job brief asks for, you may have to change the arrangement of skills into priority, from most important to least. Each job will have different skill priorities, so if you have the skills they want, make it easy for them to find.  

When writing the cover letter, it may be important to talk about your skills and assets after your personal statement. The most important things you want to present to the employer should always be at the top, it’s what keeps them engaged and read the whole letter. The cover letter is the extra opportunity you get to shine. Talk highly of yourself and mention your strengths, why you are the right candidate and what you think you could bring to the role. This is your chance to give a little bit of extra detail.

The cover letter

As mentioned above, the cover letter gives you an extra chance to talk about your strengths and why you are going to be the right candidate for the role. The basic structure of a cover letter consists of your contact details, a salutation (address it to the person of interest) the body text of the cover letter and your signature.

The structure of a cover letter should stay the same, it’s the body text that needs tailoring for individual job roles. You want to use the job spec to your advantage and make sure you are pointing out the skills they want, especially ones that you have. Take the time to talk about your experience, why it is relevant to this role and the things you have learnt. It’s important to mention your strengths, but also a good idea to talk about what this job would give you. Why you would be a good fit and what you could bring to the company. Cover letters are more personal which is why it’s a good idea to tailor them. Each job can give you something different, acknowledge that.

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a key aspect of both your CV and cover letter and should never be forgotten. It should be the first thing on your CV and should be the introduction to your cover letter. However, they should be slightly different on each document. Much like your skill section, they should be changed as and when you think. It’s an opportunity for you to introduce yourself, and why you think you would be a good fit for the job. This will be the main part you alter for each individual job application. It should be edited after you have read the job spec, so you know what skills to prioritise and what tone to use. It’s usually the part employers read first and if they don’t feel interested, they won’t carry on.

Your personal statement is about you and should think about sharing something slightly personal. Whether that be an interest, skills you are proud of or what you want to learn from this experience. The personal statement on you CV will be shorter than the one on your cover letter, but just provide a short summary on your CV, making sure you tick all the boxes, and your cover letter will complete this. This represents why it is so important to complete your cover letter with care.

It's important not to forget about the basics, make sure you use the spell-checker, read through your applications more than once and keep it formal. Make sure you address the recruiter politely at the beginning of your cover letter and include simple basics like the date and your electronic signature. Tailoring your job applications can take a bit of extra time, but you are more likely to see positive results by doing it. You have the power to make sure they keep reading, they give you all the information in the job brief, you just have to utilise this.