Tailoring your CV for different jobs; skills based CVs

Tailoring or targeting your application shows to the employer that you have thought about what you have to offer and why the job appeals to you. This is especially important if you are applying for a position where your degree is not directly relevant to the work. You must aim your CV at the needs, objectives and requirements of the employer:

Cut out all superfluous detail so that every point you make is valid and important

Give evidence of your qualities from examples of accomplishments and achievements in your work, study and free time activities

Hobbies and interests should be relevant to the job you want and act as extra selling points

Emphasise the general uses your skills can be put to; working under pressure and to tight deadlines, presentations, in depth research etc

When we consider CVs that are based around your area of study, a science based CV would have some differences to a humanities one. Most humanities degrees are non-vocational, so it isn’t necessary to list all your modules unless applying for a job such as teaching. However it would be wise to add modules that demonstrate relevant skills; creative writing, for instance, would be of value for journalism.

Scientists, on the other hand, should include all their course modules, as well as laboratory experience gained on their degree course and course projects. Projects are the nearest thing you have done that approaches real scientific work and so are very important. You might have gained, and should therefore mention, important skills such as time management, problem solving, team work and an ability to work independently. The exception to this would be if you were applying for a job outside science. If you decided to opt for a career in banking you could omit most of your modules and laboratory experience; but include mathematical or computing skills.

Originality and imagination are needed in jobs in the creative fields of advertising, the media or graphics and the multimedia. A creative CV shows imagination but also an understanding of what the job entails. The content should not be overwhelmed by style nor the message swamped by the medium. If you start by producing a standard CV then you will be sure to have the basics right; get the content right before focusing on the design. The content and the presentation are more important than design gimmicks. However, if you have a design related degree, you should be able to produce a well designed CV. It is a question of finding a balance between doing something different and maintaining a professional promotion of your style. Being unusual, just for its own sake, may detract from the key purpose of your CV, which is to demonstrate the range of your skills that relate to the job. Your creative skills can be illustrated via your portfolio; provide a link on your CV to a website with examples of your work. Employers are interested in content, practical skills and work experience; give evidence of what you have created from listings of exhibitions etc. If you decide to introduce a design element to your CV, remember it’s a high risk strategy; some companies may love your design, others might hate it!


Tailoring (verb)    Adapting for a particular end
Superfluous (adj)   More than is needed, pointless
Deadlines (noun)    Time limits
Non-vocational (adj)   Not relating to special skills
Modules (noun)    Units, components
Opt for (verb)    Choose
Omit (verb)     Leave out
Entails (verb)     Involves
Swamped (verb)    Overwhelmed, burdened
Gimmicks (noun) Tricks, devices designed to attract extra attention
Detract (verb)    Divert, draw away, diminish
Portfolio (noun)    Set of pieces of creative work