We here at Graduate Rescue spend a lot of time listening to recruiters and employers – in the end they’re really the only people who know how you can get the job, because they’re the ones making the decisions.
I can tell you categorically that the complaint we hear the most is applicants sending out generic CV and cover letters, ones that have clearly not been adapted for the individual job.
So unfortunately if you want a CV that stands out in a pile of hundreds, you need to spend time tailoring it to each and every application.
Tailoring your CV
Tailoring your CV is all about the job description. It’s about reading the job description carefully, understanding what they’re looking for, and pulling out your skills and experiences that match.
Say the job description puts a lot of focus on the customer facing elements of the role, then you want to be picking out your customer service experience and putting greater emphasis on those skills and experience. Or maybe it’s a position that requires particular technical skills that you’ve acquired through your degree or other study, then you should pick out those aspects and highlight them. It might be a good idea to take the job description and make a note of all the key points and attributes before you start.
What do I mean by highlight? Simply making them more prominent – mentioning them in the personal statement at the beginning of your CV, putting the relevant aspects at the beginning of your descriptions and giving them more space.
Some recruiters like you to put the sort of work you’re looking for in your personal statement at the beginning of your CV, others think it’s a waste of space – so you have to judge for yourself. Obviously if you do include it make sure what you say you’re looking for matches the role you’re applying to.
On a side note – If you can find the recruiter on twitter why not ask them what they prefer?
‘@JohnSmith Question from a graduate – do you prefer candidates to mention the type of role they’re looking for on their CV or leave it out?’
‘@JohnSmith Question from a graduate- should I include the type of role I’m looking for on my CV or is that better placed in my cover letter?’
Make sure you don’t make any spelling/grammar mistakes. If you have any luck with this let us know – @GraduateRescue
You should have a standard CV that you work from and upload to the job boards, so recruiters can find you. But every time you apply for a job you should take that standard template and adapt it to the job you’re applying to.
Tailoring your cover letter
Sorry, cover letters aren’t dead, in fact some recruiters even say they are more important than your CV.
The first tip for tailoring your cover letter is an easy one – make sure you include the position you’re applying for! Apparently this is a common mistake and one that can lead to your application getting lost or simply ignored.
In a recent twitter chat Aimee Bateman gave a great basic cover letter template – “Keep it to three short paragraphs: 1) Why you picked them. 2) Why they should pick you. 3) How much you want it.”
From this it’s easy to see that the whole thing has to be tailored. Paragraphs number one and three require research, you want to show the firm that you’re committed to pursuing a career with them and that you’ve done your homework. If you’re sending the cover letter to a recruitment agency and don’t know who the firm actually is, focus on why you want the role instead.
The second paragraph is all about the job description. Similar to tailoring your CV you need to pick out the key attributes they mention in the description and match them to your skills and experience.
You may be reading this and thinking – how the hell can I tailor every application when I’m sending out 20+ a day?! And we agree, that’s an inhuman effort. But if you’re sending out hundreds of application a week, not having a tailored CV and cover letter won’t be the only problem you’ll encounter. A good (and therefore hopefully successful) application takes time, thought and commitment – give yourself that time by choosing the jobs you apply for carefully! Read more on selective job applications here.