Guernsey Career Advice
Writing A CV / Covering Letter
Writing a CV is an important task that can take a great deal of time and effort.
A CV should be no longer than two pages if possible, aimed at selling yourself to the recruiter in less than 30 seconds. Remember, they are busy people, inundated with CVs, and your CV should be no more than an advertisement of your key skills and experience.
Recruiters will be looking at your CV to find out if you have the right skills and experience, suitable interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to flourish in the company's environment and the competence and confidence to adapt to the job. These are the attributes you need to try and put across when writing your CV.
Attention to layout and good use of space has a big impact on the weary eye of a recruiter. The traditional CV style wasted an enormous amount of space and included unnecessary information. Use white or cream paper and use a ‘letter head’ style to include your name and basic contact details. Particulars such as marital status, driving licence and nationality details can be included in a brief personal summary at the end of the CV.
Before you begin make a few notes about your strengths and weaknesses and ensure all your dates are correct etc. Remember, the following is just a guide – not all parts may apply to you.
A descriptive or personal profile of your professional designation (e.g. a chartered accountant or web designer), backed up by key features of your professional self, and also including your immediate ambitions. Ideally this should be punchy, precise and no more than three sentences.
Most Recent Job Experience
Basic details of your most recent or most important role so far. Include your job title, the name of the company and date of commencement. This should be followed by a two-sentence description of the role and about 6 bullet points of your key responsibilities, tasks and achievements in the role.
If you've done a good job, the recruiter will be reaching for the phone to call you in for an interview before even reading the second page!
The Second Page
Secondary work experience can appear on the second page. Again, include dates of employment, job title and main duties involved. If you have a long, important, career history then you can indulge yourself a third page.
Minute details of jobs held more than 10 years ago, reasons for leaving a previous job, current and past salaries can be left out entirely.
These should be presented as bullet points – 3 to 5 relevant achievements should be sufficient.
At the end of your CV you can include a brief personal overview including details of any non work-specific attributes and activities such as hobbies, volunteer work etc. Recruiters like to see the 'human' aspect of a candidate and often you can make a further impact by mentioning key attributes of your character that are commendable.
Each time you apply for a job your CV should be customised to suit that position if possible. Remember that less is more, avoid squeezing too much onto the page, use white space to effect and choose a font that is easy to read. Carefully selected wording can turn a dull CV into a masterpiece, but avoid jargon. Including insignificant detail and non-relevant experience is unnecessary. Don't worry if your CV has a few 'holes' in it from a year abroad or a study break - today's recruiters are very understanding providing you have a good explanation to back yourself up in the interview.
Checking your CV is possibly the most important part of the entire process. A small error, or misleading information, can seriously undermine all your effort. At a professional level, grammar, spelling and punctuation should all be impeccable.
- Is it easy on the eye?
- Have you checked the grammar, punctuation and spelling?
- Are the names of all proper nouns correct and capitalised?
- Are all the details you've given on this particular CV relevant to this application?
- Profile details:
- Is it concise, punchy and informative?
- Are your examples specific?
- Is there too much detail?
- Is the personal summary meaningful? If not, leave it out.
- Now, read through it one last time, you're bound to find one final mistake!
Try to print out individual copies of your CV rather than sending out photocopies – it may suggest that you are desperately sending your CV out to anyone you can. It's perfectly acceptable to email your CV, but send it as an MS Word document to ensure it is readable by all PC users.
A covering letter is not just sent as a courtesy, but is an introduction to your potential employer. It is designed to complement your CV and provide extra information about you and is the first impression a potential employer will have of you.
The style of the covering letter should be reasonably formal and business-like. It should ideally be no more than three paragraphs long and should be typed using a clear font on good quality plain white or cream paper, preferably the same as the CV. All this enhances the appearance of your CV, shows that you aren’t desperately sending out your CV en-masse and always gives a professional impression. If you are emailing it, make it look business-like.
Always write to a named individual, whether you are applying for a job or writing a speculative letter. Contact the company to find out the name of the HR/Personnel Manager. Make sure you check the spelling - no one likes to have their name spelled incorrectly.
This should let the reader know why you are writing to them. If you are writing to apply for an advertised position within their company, make it clear which job you are applying for and where you saw the advertisement, giving the title and date of the publication. For speculative letters outline what kind of work you are looking for.
Don’t state the obvious, e.g. ‘I am writing to apply for the position’ or ‘as you will see from my CV’ etc. Rather, reword the opening of each paragraph to get straight to the point, e.g. ‘further to your advertisement in’ or ‘I am confident that my experience would make me a suitable candidate and have attached my CV for further reference’.
This should explain why you want to work for the company, the benefits you could bring to the company and a few attributes which makes you an ideal candidate. Be keen and genuine and avoid using cliché phrases.
This is the most important section of the covering letter and will probably make an employer decide whether to look at your CV or not. You need to flag up two or three of your key selling points and give some concrete information on the skills and experience you have. Make sure you choose points that relate to the job you are applying for so you can match your skills to their needs. The covering letter also gives you a chance to show off skills that you might not be able to get across in the CV, such as maturity and interpersonal skills.
Third Paragraph – Positive Endings
Don’t let your letter fizzle out at the end with just a bland ‘yours sincerely’. Finish the letter with a strong, proactive phrase which sets the scene for the next stage e.g. ‘I am available for interview at your convenience and look forward to meeting you’.
If you have addressed the letter to a named person (and you should have done), you should end the letter with 'Yours sincerely'; if you wrote Dear Sir or Madam, it should end with 'Yours faithfully'.
Here’s a final checklist to make sure your letter includes everything it should do.
- Do you know which individual to send the CV to and is it addressed correctly? Ensure the date is included.
- Does the letter show an enthusiasm for the position you are applying for?
- Does it show an understanding of the employer?
- Does it show clearly what you can offer the employer?
- Has it got a positive ending?
- Have you double-checked to make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors?