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How to tailor your resume to a job description
You might be worried your graduate CV looks a little thin and vague. If you’ve bulked it up with part-time jobs and extracurricular activities – perfect! But to really stand out from the crowd, try to tailor your CV to each role you apply for.
A simple way of doing this is picking skills and attributes out of the job specification and ensuring your CV reflects them, showing through examples that you have the skills and aptitude required for the role.
It will be obvious to the hiring manager if you just copy and paste exact words and phrases out of the job description, so instead try to mirror the tone and key points in your own words.
As an exercise, take a look at the desirable skills section in the job description for a marketing assistant below.
- Business/commercial awareness.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills; both written and oral.
- An ability to work under pressure and manage own workload as and when required.
- Flexibility and an ability to adapt to changes in workflow demands.
- Drive, passion and tenacity.
- A desire to further own knowledge.
- IT literacy and experience of using design software - e.g. InDesign, Quark, Corel Draw - as well as Microsoft Office packages.
- Analytical and numeracy skills.
Review the text
Comb through the text carefully and think about what the employer asking and the ways you can demonstrate your suitability. It’s better, for instance, to offer examples of flexibility and adaptability than to simply say you’re flexible and adaptable.
Make a list of the key words and phrases to use as your basis for writing about your past work experience, skills you’ve developed while at university and in your cover letter.
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Use your own words
For instance, instead of saying you’re driven, passionate and tenacious (as above), think how you can echo this sentiment without using these words. ‘My career ambition is to develop a keen insight into the industry and set myself apart as an expert in my field’. This demonstrates your drive by showing you think long-term, your passion to grow professionally and your tenacity because you want to be the best at what you do.
On the other hand, it’s important to name hard skills accurately so that your resume will be picked up in any keyword search conducted by hiring managers or recruiters. The job outlined above requires specific software packages, so name them explicitly if you have those skills.
This company is looking for someone with commercial/business awareness. Here’s a great chance for you to bolster your resume with some stats. Did you recognise an opportunity in your retail job or internship that led to increased business? Mention it!
Some examples might be ‘Exceeded sales targets by X% by featuring a specific product over Mother’s Day sales’ or ‘Implemented a weekly newsletter at a local charity that generated an X% increase in donations.’ It’s important to be specific and to use numbers if you can.
Tailor for the next job, too
If you don’t get the job you applied for, don’t be deterred – most people will go through many job applications looking for their first. Take the time to tailor your resume every time you apply for a job, and you’ll be on the right path to an interview.
For more CV writing tips, check out our resume advice hub.
To have the best chance of success when you submit your resume, you need to tailor it to meet the job specification. This means:
- Echoing but not copying the words and phrases from the job listing
- Using essential keywords (for instance, when describing technical skills) that will be picked up by a keyword search
- Using examples to back up your claims wherever possible