You’ve probably heard you should tweak your CV for every job application – but there’s more to it than just reversing your work history and hoping for the best. If tailoring your CV to the job has you stumped, this is the cheat sheet you need!
Start with a master CV
Before you start slicing up your resume, you’ll want to start with a master template. This is the mother ship: the version of your CV which lists every job, voluntary position, skills day, training course or achievement you’ve ever nabbed.
Because it’s just for you, your master CV doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just start with some basic headings and log the details every time you score something suitable:
- Work history: what you did, when, where and for who/how much
- Education and training courses
- Voluntary work
- Achievements (work or personal)
- Any skills you want to shout about.
You can substitute any headings you want but, however you work it, the key is to make it thorough and keep it updated (and don’t lose it!).
Log the little stuff
While you don’t need to get all Wimpy Kid about it, fleshing out your master template with real-life examples makes for a stronger CV later on. We’re talking things like:
- That time you did something awesome, whether you saved your boss cash, fixed a problem, improved a process, or went the extra mile for a customer
- When things didn’t go so well – and, more importantly, what you learned from the experience and would do differently next time
- Things that inspired you, or cool stuff others have said about you.
Being light on work history doesn’t mean you’re short of ‘experience’, either: whether it’s from volunteering, working for yourself, training courses, family life or things you learned while travelling – it counts!
Cherry pick your CV
So you’ve got a master CV – now what? Well, when it’s time to run off an application for real, you just cherry pick the stuff that’s relevant to the gig you’re going for:
- Print off a copy of your master template and get it lined up next to the job ad or person spec
- Go through the job listing and mark anything on your CV that matches (keywords, skills, training, job titles)
- If you can’t find any exact matches, look for anything similar that you can re-word or edit to match
- Copy the good stuff across to a fresh CV and you’re good to go!
Remember that everything on your CV has to earn its place: you’ll have to either explain how your work history or skills are crucial to the job in question (this is where your real-life examples pay out!) or leave them off.
Having a blueprint of everything that makes you awesome makes it a doddle to pick the best bits, plus you’ll always have a complete record to fall back if you need to reset!
Don’t shirk the work
Making a fresh CV every time you apply might sound like a lot of leg work, but it’s worth going the distance:
- Just tweaking the last CV you sent out might seem quicker, but it’s too easy to miss a killer detail that could clinch your application
- It’s hard to sound fresh and enthusiastic when you’re just bashing out the same application for everyone. Just saying.
- Reviewing your master CV against the job listing can be a useful reality check, and can flag any skills or training you might want to polish before firing off an application
- A master template means you’re always ready to apply for pretty much any job going, in any industry (as long as you reckon you can match the criteria, obvs!)
However you don’t always need to create a bespoke CV for every job application you make, as for example with digital job platform Coople, they do the ground work for you. By registering, uploading your master CV on the platform and selecting job profiles you are interested in, Coople will do the ‘cherry picking’ for you and communicate back to the employer the relevant experience you have for that particular gig – letting the work come to you.
Nonetheless, in order to get the best chances of securing great work, regularly updating and reviewing your work history and achievements on your CV is a great habit to get into. Not only will a blueprint of your best bits remind you how far you’ve come, but it can keep your CV sharp for years to come. Job done!