It’s time to apply for a new job. You’ve recently graduated and are looking for your first job. You’re ready for a step up in your career and are prepping your CV and cover letter to reflect your experience. You’ve been made redundant and are using the opportunity to find a career that you really want. There are numerous reasons why you might need to give your CV and cover letter a makeover..
Your CV and cover letter will be the first thing that the prospective employers will see about you. Follow this short 3-part guide on how to write a CV and cover letter to make sure it’s not the last.
1. How to structure your CV
It’s best to start off with your CV, as this will help you to gather together all of your experience, which will form the basis of your cover letter later.
But how do you write a CV? You might be intimidated by the blank page staring at you, or might already have a CV that outlines your background and experience but needs a refresh. Either way, the best place to start is by creating a structure. In this video, Andrew Fennell, founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV, discusses how to format and structure a CV to get more interviews.
2. What to include in your CV
Knowing how to write a good CV is tricky, but in short, your CV needs to show that your career background and experience matches the job you’re applying for. If this is your first job and you have no previous work experience, this video will give you some great advice on how to write a CV with no experience:
Here are some key points to consider when deciding what to include in your CV:
What questions does your CV need to answer?
As we mentioned before, your CV is one of the first things that recruiters will see about you, so it’s worth trying to look at your CV from their perspective. Does it catch their attention, and does it give them the information they need?
- Include your personal details – name, address, phone number and email. Do not include your age or a photograph unless specifically asked to do so.
- When you write your employment history and education details, put your most recent achievements first.
- Keep your CV short, while still including sufficient detail. It sounds tricky, but it can be done. Academic CVs are usually at least 4-5 pages long, whereas CVs tailored to the private sector should be only 2.
- You can sound professional without using excessive jargon. Keep your writing clear, direct and focused. Remember that the person looking at your CV might not be an expert in your field.
- Use ‘doing’ words on your CV such as ‘developed’ or ‘organised’. This makes you sounds active and not passive. But avoid clichés. You don’t want to be just another “fast learner” with a “good work ethic”.
- Don’t talk about your social life unless your activities display an important skill such as leadership or teamwork.
- Most importantly, proofread your CV. There should be no spelling, punctuation or grammar errors: unprofessional CVs are rejected. If you find editing your own work difficult, get a friend to read your CV.
- Once you have finished it, show it to as many people as possible: your supervisor/mentor, colleagues, even your family and friends. Their first impressions will help you to improve your CV.
Will it get through the applicant tracking system (ATS)?
Did you know that many employers are now using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to assist in the shortlisting of applicants? This is basically software that scans your CV and cover letter for matching keywords to ensure that you are a potential match for the job before sending the application through to HR for review. In short, its purpose is to eliminate the least qualified, not identify the most suitable. So you’ll need to make sure your CV meets the job requirements so that it can get through the ATS and be reviewed by an actual human. Here are 5 things you need to know about how to make ATS work for you.
Have you made any common CV mistakes?
Writing a new CV can be daunting, but going through it with an open and critical mind can be key to writing an effective CV. Look at your CV through news eyes, and try to decide, if this CV came across your desk, would you hire you? Part of the process of critically analysing your CV is to check whether you’ve made any of these common CV mistakes, and fix them.
3. How to write an effective Cover Letter
It goes by many names; personal profile, supporting statement, CV statement, but whatever you call it, your cover letter is as important as your CV. Some could argue more important, because it is what the recruiter will see first, and could have a bearing on whether or not they continue to read your CV. And it would be such a pity if they didn’t, as you clearly match the job criteria (you made it through the ATS, after all). So it’s worth putting the time into making sure that your cover letter is an accurate reflection of you – not just your skills, but your personality as well. You want to make the recruiter remember you.
In this video, Andrew Fennell discusses how to write a cover letter and get noticed:
Start applying for jobs
After all that work, it’s now time to start applying for jobs. Remember that each job will have its own criteria, and to make it through the ATS, you’ll need to customise your CV to match the job description. This shouldn’t be too hard, as you now have a solid base to start from.
Thank you to StandOut CV for the use of their insightful videos. Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.