Guest post: Emily Valentine
Whether you’re a student looking for an internship or a fully-fledged graduate, having an up-to-date and well-written CV and cover letter is vital.
Writing these can be daunting though, especially as it’s easy to make mistakes but by following these handy pointers you should find yourself well on your way to bagging your dream job.
Where to start
Starting your job application can be the hardest part, so jot down a few notes before you launch into the application. Look carefully through the job spec and ask yourself a few simple questions. Do I have the skills and experience to do this job, and do I really want it? If the answer to both is a resounding ‘yes!’ then you’re past the first hurdle.
How to write your application
All the major recruitment sites such as Monster and Total Jobs have downloadable CV and cover letter templates you can use. Remember to get the basics down before you start with the tricky stuff. Use a simple font at a readable size (Arial 11 for example). Layouts vary but most start with a brief bio followed by relevant experience (most recent first), education and key skills.
When writing about your work experience, remember to highlight what you’re achieved, not just a list of work tasks. Employers want to see what value you could bring to the role, and examples of past accomplishments are one of the most effective ways to do this. Many people leave their achievements out, so including them will put you one step ahead of the game.
Keep your CV short and sweet, no more than two pages long. Recruiters are busy people and haven’t got time to read through a CV that resembles an essay. They’ll usually glance over your application, looking for key bits of info, so you need to make sure yours makes it into the ‘yes’ pile by taking elements from the job spec and accentuating these within your application.
What if you lack paid work experience? Volunteering, internships, uni projects and being part of a student society can all help you rack up transferable skills so don’t be afraid to mention them. Heading up a successful uni project team shows you can be a strong leader, and being an integral part of a uni society demonstrates you're a team player. Just because it's not paid work doesn't mean it's not relevant experience. Think outside of the box!
Don’t lie about your experience (it always comes back to bite you) and make sure dates are correct and the info you’ve given is accurate.
Things to leave out
Once upon a time CVs usually ended with 'references available on request' and a list of your favourite hobbies. Consider leaving these out. Not only do they take up unnecessary space, but nobody cares if you love watching horror movies if you're applying for an engineering role. If you have any hobbies that are relevant to the job role then include an example or two in your cover letter.
Before you apply
Before you submit your application, double-check your spelling and grammar. Spell check is useful, but it won’t pick out poor grammar and punctuation, so make sure you get an eagle-eyed friend to read through your application for you as well.
When it comes to submitting applications, avoid the scatter-gun approach. Employers can spot it a mile off and it’s at the top of their list of pet hates. Rather than fire off a generic application to a million jobs in the hope you might get invited to one interview, spend a bit of time tailoring your application to the role. It might seem like a pain in the neck to start with but, once you've done a few, you'll get the hang of it.
After you apply
If you don’t hear back about the role then (scary as it sounds) you could give the recruiter a ring. By being proactive you’re also showing the recruiter that you’re enthusiastic about the role. If they haven’t chosen you for interview, they might be willing to give you some feedback about your application. Remember: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Emily writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To browse their graduate jobs, visit their website.