Ask James: Should I tailor my CV?

Not sure whether you should tailor your CV?

In his monthly column, career coach and Chairman of, James Reed, shares his expert advice to help you tackle your biggest career concerns.

In this month’s column, James gives his top tips on tailoring your CV…


The Question:

Dear James,

I have been applying for lots of jobs recently with no luck. I have been sending the same CV to each job role and some of my friends have said that I should tailor it to each application, do you advise this too?

I look forward to hearing your tips,

Thank you,

Not so funemployed


The Answer:

Dear ‘Not so funemployed’,

This may not be the answer that you want to hear but I do advise that you have more than one CV. Writing a CV is no mean feat and it takes some time, so I understand that you are questioning putting yet more effort into tailoring it to each application. It does take more time but consider this: it’s far more productive to put an extra hour or two in to sending out three CVs that win you an interview than in to 10 that go straight to the delete folder.

I recently wrote a book titled ‘The Seven Second CV’ off the back of some research confirming that seven seconds is all the time a recruiter will give your CV before it goes into the ‘interview’ or ‘reject’ pile. You need to capture their attention quickly and tailoring is an effective way to do just that. You don’t need to write an entirely fresh CV each time, you only need to tweak it.

The best CV elements to tailor are your personal statement, work history, skills, work-related qualifications and training. It is a simple two step process:

  • Research the company and the job, so you know exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate.
  • Adapt your CV to show why you’re the right fit for the specific role on offer.

When researching the company make sure you take a look at the job advert, and the full job description if you have one (if not, call the company’s HR department and ask if it’s available – it often is). Read things carefully and highlight the words and phrases that seem important. You’ll want to concentrate on the job factors that are mentioned more than once, or that stand out to you.

What skills and experience are they after? What does the job entail? Put these in your list. Then, do a matching exercise, take a piece of paper and on the left-hand side list the skills and experience you’ve identified as key from the job advert, or job description that you’re interested in.

On the right hand side, list your own skills and experience, including soft, hard and transferable skills. Then draw a line from each job requirement to one or more of your own skills and experience. You’ll notice some of the latter have more than one line ending up at them and others none at all.

The ones with lots of lines are the ones you want to highlight on your CV.

I hope this helps. If you want any more CV advice or more information on how to tailor your CV then let me know and I will send you my book, ‘The Seven Second CV’.

Good luck in your job hunt.

All the best,


Tailoring your CV: What you need to know



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Looking for more CV advice? Download ‘The 7 Second CV’ now