Free CV Advice – Tailor your CV; how to master the art

Tailor a CV for every application.

It is one of the most common pieces of Free CV Advice you will hear and for good reason. When you write a CV you have to make it connect and relate to the potential employer. If you don't, it risks being lost amongst all the other CVs they will no doubt have received.

You commonly hear that a CV will only be read for 6 or 7 seconds. Whether that’s strictly true or not (it undoubtedly varies from person to person), it’s probably worth reframing that statement to think of it like this; a decision will be made very quickly as to whether to read on or not.

The reader needs to find the value in committing the time and effort to reading more of your CV as soon as possible. The more they have to read before they find content of interest, the greater the risk that you will lose them, your CV will be put down and they will move on to the next one.

Related Article: How to write a good CV; the importance of readability.

Related Article: CVs are read on screens. What can a CV writer learn from research-based UX?

Tailoring a CV is therefore very important. You want to ensure that the specific information that will be of most interest to the reader, is as accessible to them as possible. Even if a CV is already good and relates well to their role, if they have received lots of strong applications from good candidates and have limited interview places to offer, you could miss out on the opportunity because other CVs allow for a stronger and quicker connection with their requirement to be made. It is worth investing the time to get this right.

Related Article: Free CV Advice is great; but does it actually improve your CV?

If this sounds daunting don’t worry. This article is here to help get you started. If getting it right sounds overwhelming or too time consuming for you to achieve the standards you want for a CV, then we can help with that as well. Our CV Consultation is a professional CV writing service that, through a collaborative and consultative approach, creates a CV that can be quickly and easily adapted to every application that you make.

Find out More: CV Consultation – My CV Guide’s Professional CV Writing Service

There are a number of elements to tailoring a CV well. The following is a step-by-step by process you can follow every time you apply for a role to ensure that you are optimising your CV for each specific application.

5 Step CV Tailoring Process

Step 1 - Do your Research

The best CVs are user-driven. They are focused on providing the information that the reader is looking for, rather than what the writer wants to say about themselves. To truly tailor a CV therefore, you need to develop an understanding of what the potential employer will be interested in. You have to do some research.

Do not limit yourself to just cut and pasting a job description though. You will have more to offer than that and therefore so should your CV. There are lots of aspects you can research and ways in which you can do it. Take a look at the My CV Guide article Free CV Advice – Do your Research? What does that actually mean and how do you do it? for in-depth advice on this part of the process.

Step 2 - Check the Language you have Used

You will often hear of professional CV support offering ATS optimisation; helping you get past the ruthless and automated scanning process of applicant tracking systems by ensuring you have clear formatting, a good structure and are using keywords that the systems will be looking for. Don’t be daunted by this. Instead think of it as a good steer for tailoring a CV.

If you check the terminology you are using and marry it up to the language being used by the potential employer, you will be well covered. Most professions have slight variance on job titles or the terminology that is used. Check on the language that the company you are applying to use by looking through their job adverts and job descriptions or by seeing what you can pick up from their website or social media profiles. Does this match with the language and terms you have used in your CV? Change it if you need to.

Another piece of good practice is to check the key requirements they have highlighted for the role. Do you have those skills, qualifications or experience? If so have you phrased them in your CV in the same way that they have described them? If not then again, make adjustments to the terminology you have used to strengthen the connection that will be made when your CV is scanned or read.

Step 3 - Order the Information

A very easy way to tailor a CV is to re-order existing content. Which elements of your personal profile will be of most interest to the role you are applying to? Which of the bullet points of your key achievements would be of most value and which elements of your previous roles or the organisations that you worked with would truly connect with the environment and challenges of the new position? Throughout the various sections of your CV, make sure that these are highlighted first. It’s a simple adjustment but just means that the elements of a CV that will be of most interest are found as quickly and easily as possible which is key.

Step 4 - Bolster the most Relevant Information

Once you have tweaked the order, are you providing enough details on the most relevant pieces of information? If not then add in some more specifics. This could be details of how you actually achieved your successes or a more in-depth understanding of the context you worked within, such as aspects of the company or team that you were a part of or how you operated and delivered within your role. By being more specific on the most relevant details, you will create a greater connection.

Step 5 - Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Now that you have strengthened the most relevant information on your CV for that particular application, you can ensure the impact it has is improved further by removing any less relevant content from around it. A good CV does not capture everything you have ever done in your working life, it highlights the details and information that are most relevant. Any information that doesn’t add value for the reader is just more information for them to get through with no additional benefit. Is everything you have in your CV adding value to that particular reader? If not then remove any of the content that doesn’t.


If you have a good CV to start from, tailoring it to each and every application can be a very quick and easy process to do. The above steps will help you to do that and the subtle tweaks and changes you make will really strengthen a CV. They can be the genuine difference between missing out on opportunities and securing that all important interview.

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For a professional CV Review or CV Writing service where we provide you full and in-depth support to apply all the hints and tips from this article and others, take a look at the details of our CV Review and CV Consultation Services.

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