HOW TO CREATE A GREAT
CV AND COVER LETTER
You are your CV
To someone who doesnʼt know you - thatʼs all
they have to go on. Itʼs your calling card, your
sales and marketing pitch. No matter how highly
skilled, incredibly experienced and all round
fabulous, you really are, if your presentation is
poor, you will be considered to offer little or no
value, to a prospective employer.
The jobs market is highly competitive with lots
of really good people looking for work, looking
to change career or looking for new
opportunities, so a ﬁrst rate CV is critically
important. Your CV has the power to make or
break your chance of an interview.
Low quality CVs get absolutely no attention. They do
not engage, they frustrate the owners, damage self conﬁdence and waste valuable
time. In a highly competitive market, if you donʼt have a high quality, professional CV you are
ﬁghting a losing battle.
To improve your chances for interview you need to communicate relevant information about your
skills, knowledge, competence and experience.
With twenty years experience working with HR professionals in teaching, management and
consulting, I know a little about what is required. This guide is intended to help you plan and create
a professional CV and accompanying cover letter.
You donʼt need anyone to tell you that itʼs tough out there. The jobs market is especially difﬁcult in
certain sectors but, there are opportunities in some areas.
If thereʼs anything we can do to help with your job search or, in the area of training and
development for re-skilling or up-skilling please get in touch; weʼd be delighted to hear from you.
And if we canʼt help, we will happily point you in the direction of someone who can.
A CV is designed to get you the interview. Nothing
You have 10 seconds to make an impact before you get
put in the bin, so make it count. If your ﬁrst page does
not scream ʻperfect for the jobʼ then your CV is failing
you. Itʼs the companyʼs very ﬁrst impression, so itʼs really
important to get it right. Content needs to be strong,
professional, with quantiﬁable evidence to back up what
Split your CV under the following headings to make sure itʼs easy to read:
Include your name, address, mobile and email contact.
Proﬁle or Personal Statement
This is very important, itʼs the ﬁrst sales and marketing pitch on your CV.
Use action verbs in short sentences, with measures where possible, to communicate positive
contributions youʼve made in earlier roles.
Include each organisation (with dates). Start with your most recent job, include a 2-3 line summary
of each role, expertise and key achievements (donʼt duplicate achievements mentioned earlier).
Account for gaps in employment dates.
Education and Professional Training
List your qualiﬁcations (highest ﬁrst and work based, before academic). Include accredited training
and other courses completed relevant to the role. For example, professional development courses
such as Presentation Skills, Time Management and so on.
Include anything here that you feel may be relevant to the performance of the job, for example,
ﬂuency in languages, full driving licence etc.
There is no need to include references on your CV. Unless you are speciﬁcally requested to do so, it is normal to
supply references after qualifying rounds are completed
Anything on or after the third page is unlikely to
be read. Keep your CV to a maximum of 3
pages. No one has the time or, the desire, to
read your life story.
Writing in the ﬁrst person - ʻIʼ
Over use of the word ʻIʼ communicates self
indulgence and appears unprofessional.
Remove the use of it entirely. Use action words
like designed, improved, completed, or
If you have ten years experience donʼt put
Education on the front page. Itʼs really not as
important as your most recent experience.
Also, too much detail on education. If you have
ten years experience, no one cares about your
B+ from years ago. List them as a one line
summary. For example:
2:1 Degree in Dog Training from UC Labrador
Masters in Worm Farming from UC Earth
This does not apply if you are a recent
graduate or, youʼve just completed a career
training course, with little career experience in
that sector. In that case, go into some detail
about your course and areas of it that are
relevant to the job for which you are applying.
Achievements state the measurable beneﬁts
you provided for previous employers. Itʼs how
you justiﬁed the salary. Achievements are
things you did that ʻsaved money, made money,
made more money, saved time, which made
money....ʼ Achievements demonstrate that you
are commercially focused rather than someone
who ʻdoes thingsʼ that are not connected to
business beneﬁts or outcomes.
No Proﬁle or Personal Statement
You need a ʻPersonal Statementʼ or Proﬁle, that
says precisely what you are. Otherwise, the
reader is going to have to guess by reading
your CV and, they donʼt have time to read your
full CV. So, make their life easier by including a
This short statement highlights skills and
personal qualities. It should grab attention and
hook the reader. Itʼs important to tailor your
statement to the requirements of the speciﬁc
job for which you are applying. Make your
statement descriptive, speciﬁc but not an
essay. 50 words is a useful guide. Make it clear
and donʼt use jargon. Above all else, tailor it to
the job speciﬁcation. In case you donʼt realise
how important this is; tailor your proﬁle to the
actual job for which you are applying. Itʼs so
important, the next page is dedicated to it!
Put yourself in the shoes of the people who are
going to read your submission. You have mere
seconds to make that ﬁrst impression. Your
front page has to convince them, in no
uncertain terms, you are a likely person for the
Courtesy of Zeraph Dylan
Itʼs a Process
As you know, the CV gets you the interview. A signiﬁcant focus during the interview is
obviously on the content of the CV. So, as the creator of the CV, you also determine the
key discussion points during the interview.
Tailor your CV to the speciﬁc job and focus on how your skills, qualities and prior
achievements prove you can do this job - this will help to focus interview questions on
areas you want to discuss.
Back to the Proﬁle or Personal Statement
Be conﬁdent, assertive, but above all else,
tailor your statement to the speciﬁed job. Get
your pen and highlight exactly what the
employer is looking for. You are looking for
descriptors of personal qualities, skills and
experience in the role speciﬁcation.
As well as minimum years of experience
and required technical skills, you are also
likely to see some of the following in job
Attention to detail#
Include the relevant descriptors in your ʻProﬁleʼ. However, as Iʼve outlined earlier, because
these illustrative words are a bit vague, you then need to clarify, qualify and quantify in
your ʻAchievementsʼ section. What challenging goals did you set and, how exactly did you
achieve them? What speciﬁc things did you do to motivate your team to perform? What
was involved in scheduling your teamʼs work?
Remember, employers want to see concrete examples of how you were able to contribute
to a former company, and how the organisation was better off as a result of the work that
you performed. This means that, in addition to describing attractive qualities and skills,
you will use numbers and statistics that show quantitative change. So how do you do this?
To help you think through, how you can articulate an achievement to impress, letʼs look at
why companies are in business for some clues.
Companies usually want to do some of the following:
• Make proﬁt
• Sell more widgets
• Become more efﬁcient
• Get more customers
• Improve customer satisfaction
• Enter new markets
• Improve quality
You need to communicate achievements which generally support these types of objectives
and demonstrate your ability to deliver.
To Structure an Achievement use STAR - Situation, Task/Activity and Result
When describing an achievement consider three (or four) parts:
• What was the Situation - what particular technical skill or personal attribute was in play.
• How did you carry out the particular Task or Activity
• What was the measurable, quantiﬁable Result or beneﬁt.
When using STAR ask yourself the ʻso whatʼ question for each part of your CV. Read the
achievement in the context of the job. Are you Impressed, Mildly impressed, or left asking
yourself ʻSo What!ʼ
Example 1 – So What!
Achievement: “Mentored other team members”
Response: So what! You trained some staff, and then what? The company spent money for
you to train staff and what beneﬁt did it achieve for them? So what?
Example 2 – Slightly better
Achievement: “Mentored team members which improved skills”
Response: Better than so what, but still doesnʼt inspire. So, you used your training skills to
train some people, which resulted in them improving skills, and then what? How did they
apply those new skills and what was the result?
Example 3 – Thatʼs the business!
Achievement: “Used knowledge of customer service to design a response system that was
50% faster than before. This enabled the business to reduce stock by 15%, beat
competitors in delivery times and subsequently capture 60% market market share”.
Response: Very impressed. Can you come and do this for me!
Successfully including achievements in your career path is likely
to be the most challenging part of developing your CV. However,
it can give you that competitive edge over other candidates and
get you to that all important interview and eventually get you the
So that’s the CV:
Writing a covering letter for a job application can be a
daunting. What should you include, what to leave
out? The good news is thereʼs a formula for letters.
If you are responding to an advertisement, go
through the text of the advertisement and list the
words and qualities the employer (or recruitment
agency) is looking for. Youʼve done this already, for
your personal proﬁle - so youʼre right on track.
Your letter will echo these back to the prospective employer so that they see you straight
away as a good ʻﬁtʼ. Before writing the letter imagine yourself in the role, what qualities is
the job likely to require and put these on your list.
Next, work on the format of the letter. Clearly indicate the job reference, the job title and
where you saw it; the website, job-site, local press, whereverʼs relevant.
The salutation - If the advert gives the person's ﬁrst name, address them that way (ʻDear
The ﬁrst paragraph should explain why you are writing. The objective is to express interest
in the job, but do it from their point of view. The aim is to get them interested, not to explain
why you desperately want to be considered! Match the tone of the advert, mirror the
“In response to your advertisement for an experienced eLearning Manager with ﬁnance
sector and team leadership skills, I am enclosing my CV for your consideration.”
Next you need to hook their interest some more by picking out particular items from your
CV which relate to the skills/ experience they've asked for or which you've deduced they'll
wish to see. The easiest way to do this is to use a few well-chosen bullet points.
“In particular I would like to draw your attention to the fact that I have recently completed
the implementation of a management development programme for ABC Plc. I led a team
of three trainers where we developed an eLearning platform with structured systems
design, development and evaluation, to develop management skills, knowledge and tools
in ﬁnancial services.”
Ideally, you should end the letter in an assertive way, which communicates that you expect
them to want to see you, again using key adjectives from the advert if you can - example:
"I look forward to meeting you in order to discuss my team leadership and technical
Wishing you an enjoyable and fruitful career.