CVs and covering letters: advertising your value

 

Your CV and covering letter is your chance to show an employer the best of what you've got. It's about selling your skills and experience, and showing them you're the right person for the job.

 

How you write your CV and covering letter is up to you, but there are some basic rules to follow if you want to create the best impression. And don't be worried if this is your first CV - with our help you'll soon have a professional CV and covering letter that are ready to be sent out and get you interviews.

 

 

CV FAQs

 

Your CV is such an important document it's worth taking the time to get it right. When you start writing your CV all sorts of questions can come to mind, as you try to make it the best it can be. Here we answer some of the most common questions about CVs.

 

How long should my CV be?

 

Your CV should be no more than two pages long and have line spaces between each section.

Two pages might not seem like a lot of space to fit everything into but you can free up space by being brief on less important details, such as jobs you held a long time ago. You can even leave some things out entirely - for example, you don't need to put 'CV' or 'Curriculum Vitae' at the top.

 

How should I present my CV?

 

Print your CV on white A4 paper.

Try to use a consistent font all the way through, with bold and bigger font sizes to bring out headings. The layout should be as simple as possible and make use of white space, rather than lines or graphics, to separate sections.

Use the best quality paper you can find – first impressions count! Although some people like to include photos on their CVs, it’s only essential for jobs such as modelling or acting.

 

What kind of writing style should I use?

 

It should be concise and easy to read.

The words you use can make a big difference to how you come across and whether an employer reads your CV. Try to make your words punchy and 'active', especially when describing what you achieved in previous jobs. You could try using powerful words like managed, led and achieved.

Check your final CV for spelling and grammar mistakes. You can use a computer spelling and grammar check but it's also a good idea to get it checked by somebody else.

 

Do I need different CVs for different jobs?

 

Your CV should be tailored for the job you're applying for, matching your skills and experience to the requirements of the job.

If you're replying to a job advert, look at the person specification and make sure these skills are mentioned in your CV.

If you're applying on spec, think about what the job will involve and what the employer might be looking for. Take some time to find out about the main activities of the employer.

 

Doesn't everyone stretch the truth a bit on their CV?

 

There's a difference between selling yourself and inventing things!

Selling yourself is putting your skills and experience in the best light. Never be tempted to invent qualifications or previous jobs. You might be asked for more information about them at the interview stage

 

 

Preparing for an interview

 

It's normal to feel nervous when you have an interview because you want to do your best. If you prepare and practise you can get the better of your nerves.

This can give you the best chance of getting the job. Read our guides to see how you can improve your performance.

 

Interviews - do’s and don’ts

 

An interview is a discussion between you and an employer to find out if you can do the job. It’s your chance to make a good impression. However, there are certain rules you should follow in interviews.

 

All interviews are different but there are some things you should always do, and some things you should definitely not do....

 

What to do:-

 

  • dress smartly, look bright and attentive, and speak clearly and confidently. First impressions really do count - studies show that employers make a decision about whether to hire you within the first seven minutes on average
  • find out where the venue is beforehand, how to get there and how long it takes
  • get your outfit ready the night before
  • find out what kind of interview it will be so you can prepare
  • examine the person specification and your CV/application form, and think about what type of questions they will ask you
  • prepare answers for the main questions - for example, why do you want the job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the main tasks in this job?
  • make about three or four points in each answer
  • quote real examples of when you've used certain skills - just saying you've got a skill isn't enough
  • take your time when answering the questions: make sure you understand the question and take your time if you need to think
  • sell yourself: no one else is going to! Be positive about yourself and your experiences
  • prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview - use it as an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company. (Don't ask about money or perks just yet!)
  • when discussing salary, know your market worth and start by quoting a little higher than this
  • get feedback on your performance, whether you were successful or not
  • turn off your mobile phone: treat the interviewers with respect and give them your undivided attention
  • keep your answers focused on what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you

 

What not to do:-

 

  • don't be late
  • don't swear or use slang words
  • don't slouch in your seat or do anything that makes you look uninterested
  • don't smoke
  • don't lie: the interviewer may see through you. Even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out that you have not been honest
  • don't let your nerves show too much; a few nerves are normal but extreme nerves will affect your performance. Use breathing techniques and try to remember that it's not a life and death situation - there are plenty of jobs out there!
  • don't be arrogant and assume you've got the job. Nothing turns off employers more than someone who is disrespectful and over-confident
  • don't discuss controversial topics such as religion, politics and gender relations
  • don't read from notes or your CV — you should be familiar enough with your own history to be able to talk about it unprompted
  • don't criticise former employers or colleagues. Interviewers may mark you down as a troublemaker and a gossip
  • don't argue with the interviewer, no matter what. Remember to keep things positive
  • These rules apply for most jobs. However, employers in some industries can use more relaxed and informal interviewing techniques. In some creative fields (design and media for example) it may be expected that you turn up for the interview in casual clothes, as that is the dress code in the office. However, smart casual is better than very casual. If you're in any doubt, do some research on typical interview techniques in your line of work.
  • Above all, preparation is the key to performing well in interviews. Research the role and organisation, and prepare evidence and examples of your skills and competencies.

 

Good Luck!

 

 

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