Target Your CV Writing

How to target your CV writing for any job advert

Having been a recruiter for 16 years, I can tell you from first hand experience that recruiters do not read every word on your CV as they receive 100’s of applications. Instead they only scan read applications for on average 30 seconds if you are lucky.

Therefore you have to ask yourself, when applying for a specific vacancy, one simple question. What are the recruiters looking for? The answer is always found in the job specification or job advert.

Your CV should should scream out, “I’m the perfect person for this role” and this is how you should go about this.


Every job specification or advert will be split into two sections. First will be the outline of the role they are looking to fill, which is normally a brief paragraph but contains hidden keywords which need to be highlighted. For example the opening paragraphs may be:

Target your CV writing

In every person specification you will find 2 types of skills highlighted. Primary skills (sometimes referred to as job specific skills) which are essential to the role and Secondary Skills (sometimes referred to as Transferable Skills) which are common skills to everyday life and are ideal, but not essential for the role. Our person specification above highlights the following primary and secondary skills

Primary Skills
Sales or Business Development Skills
Ongoing relationship management
Building long term relationships
Working qualified leads
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or above
Aptitude to learn
Excellent written English
Produce written proposals
Excellent communicator
Ability to work independently

Secondary Skills
Knowledge of paid search, web analytics and programmic advertising
Ability to prioritise own work
Experience of working with Clients of varying sizes and at all levels of seniority

Now that you have analysed the job advert you know exactly what the recruiter is looking for and therefore you can begin the CV writing process accordingly.

To increase the chances of your professional CV making the selection for interview, the primary skills highlighted in the job specification should be at the forefront of your CV writing, ideally in the top half of the CV where they can be easily spotted.

If using bullet points for a key skills section, ensure those that are more relevant for the job role are at the top. The secondary skills should be located in the appropriate sections of your CV but should never take precedence over the primary skills.

Quantify and support your skills

The most common mistake when tailoring a professional CV to a particular job advert is to add the skills but not providing supporting evidence. By adding context to a skill you are highlighting it even further and making it harder for the recruiter to ignore your CV.

Let me give you an example. You may have Business Development experience within the paid search sector and placing it on your CV at the top of your professional profile or key skills section would force the recruiter to notice this. However if you supported this skill with a quantified number, your CV would be placed at the top of the pile rather than the bottom.

Let’s suppose you were a recruiting manager and received CVs from 2 individuals with very similar experience and skill sets but the opening paragraphs were different. Which of the 2 following individuals would you invite for interview?

Candidate 1
An experienced Business Development Manager with experience working within the paid search sector

Candidate 2
A highly successful Business Development Manager with 5 years experience working within the paid search sector producing sales in excess of £1.5 million.

I know which candidate would be selected for interview if I had received these CVs. It’s a well known fact that numbers are more easily distinguished on a page and draw the recruiter’s eye to that sentence. Therefore I cannot stress enough how essential it is that you take every opportunity to include numbers and figures on your CV.  Not only does it support a skill but it also promotes that particular skill effectively to the recruiter.

Targeted Covering Letter

Having taken the time to analyse the job description and create a focused CV that has impact, don’t make the mistake and send it to the recruiter with a generic covering letter. It is widely accepted throughout the industry that a generic covering letter reduces the chances of your CV being read by the recruiter significantly.

It is important to spend as much time creating a focused covering letter than it is creating the CV in the first instance.

About the Author

Matt Wallace – CV Writer/Recruitment Mentor

We Write CVs –

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