OFFICE OF STUDENT AFFAIRSCVs and Cover LettersA Short Guide on How to WriteEffectively to EmployersGuidance & Employabilit...
IntroductionThis booklet contains a treasure trove of tips, ideas and information on how to understand two of the most tra...
CVs and cover lettersRelate – Demonstrate – CaptivateSell yourself effectively for the position that you are applying for....
RelateRemember, focus on your target audience and all else will follow. This section will look at how to research not only...
Exercise: ArchaeologyVery often we have to do some digging to uncover relevant examples that match the employer’s requirem...
DemonstrateProvide relevant examplesOnce you understand what the employer’s requirements are, you need to link these with ...
Headings that employers pay special attention to (Part 2)As you have seen, it is crucial to relate to your employer very q...
CV templatesChronological CV templateA typical chronological CV starts with your personal details, followed often by educa...
Cover letter template                                                                                              Tunde N...
CaptivateThe aim of your CV and cover letter is to differentiate you from the competition. So you need to add extra impact...
Final checklistYour name and contact details are at the top of the page. (There is no need to write ‘Curriculum           ...
Further helpBooksThere are many books on CV writing if you feel you need some more information and examples of CVs. The bo...
12
For information on the University of Greenwich,                please contact:                   UK students              ...
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GET CV and Cover Letter advice

  1. 1. OFFICE OF STUDENT AFFAIRSCVs and Cover LettersA Short Guide on How to WriteEffectively to EmployersGuidance & Employability Team (GET)
  2. 2. IntroductionThis booklet contains a treasure trove of tips, ideas and information on how to understand two of the most traditionalcareer-marketing tools (CVs and cover letters) that employers use as a standard screening tool.The purpose of this booklet is to support your transition from student to graduate by creating CVs and cover lettersin three simple steps, which we’ve termed ‘Relate’, ‘Demonstrate’ and ‘Captivate’. By following these, you will learnhow to change your style and content to meet both your own needs and the needs of employers.Relate: 90 per cent of undergraduates and graduates do not sufficiently research their targeted employer. This is whyit is crucial to make sure that you really understand what the employer wants; this is the only way that you will be ableto make sure that your CV and cover letter relate to employers’ needs.Demonstrate: this emphasises the importance of providing specific evidence by quantifying and qualifying yourstatements. You will learn not only to tell the employer but show the employer through examples that you have whatit takes for the job at hand. In short, you will demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and traits that theemployer is looking for.Captivate: you need to sell what makes you stand out from the other candidates. A degree is not enough. You needto provide evidence of your extracurricular activities.The bad news is that there is no one perfect CV, in the same way that there isn’t one right way to write your CV andcover letter. However, there are certain principles that will increase your chances of being invited for interview.This booklet has a companion website at www.gre.ac.uk/students/get/learningforwork, where you can downloadfree templates and access more information on learning for work.Good luck in your job hunting!The Guidance & Employability Team
  3. 3. CVs and cover lettersRelate – Demonstrate – CaptivateSell yourself effectively for the position that you are applying for. Learn how to relate to employers, demonstrate yourskills and capture their attention.RelateFocus on your target audience and all else will follow. What is it that they (the employer, industry, market, etc.) want?Then, what are your relevant skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes that will match these requirements?Creating the content for your CV and cover letter is therefore about making conscious decisions on inclusion andexclusion. If anything, it is more about subtraction than addition. Omit all unnecessary words, i.e. any information thatis not relevant to the specific job that you are applying for. This takes time and careful thought about what constitutes‘relevant information’ – what recruitment consultants call ‘fit’. Do your research and find out exactly what fit means inyour particular instance.DemonstrateOnce you have your relevant information, you need to provide evidence that you have the skills, knowledge, abilitiesand attitudes that the employer is looking for. You must give specific examples, making sure that you quantify all yourstatements. Employers will take you seriously if you back up what you write with relevant facts and details.Write your CV and cover letter in a professional, business-like style. The subtitle of this booklet is ‘A Short Guide onHow to Write Effectively to Employers’ because the best way to get your message across is to understand how tocommunicate quickly and accurately in a professional context. Be specific, concrete and consistent in your writing (aswell as in your layout designs). If you are in doubt, err on the side of formality.CaptivateYou need to sell what is unique about you. You need to deliver more than expected. The aim of your CV and cover letteris to differentiate you from the competition. So you need to add extra ‘oomph’ to both.A way to capture the attention of a prospective employer is to include an achievements section in your CV. Here youcan talk about your successes, such as voluntary work, awards or positions of responsibility, or any entrepreneurialprojects, mentoring schemes, community projects or fund-raising campaigns that you have been part of, languagesthat you are fluent in, or university societies that you have joined. 2
  4. 4. RelateRemember, focus on your target audience and all else will follow. This section will look at how to research not only theemployer but yourself to make sure that you create a powerful CV and cover letter with effective one-to-one marketing.Relevant informationEssential information you need to be crystal clear about:n Employer’s requirementsn Your relevant skills, knowledge, abilities and positive attitudes that match the employer’s requirements.Employer’s requirementsIdeas and pointers about areas you should research Role Company Commercial awareness Essential skills and attitudes that In-house literature (for example, Be aware of competitors. What the role requires. the graduate brochure or annual are they doing that is similar and report). dissimilar? Desirable skills the role requires. Qualifications required. Company website. Pay particular Keep an eye on market trends and attention to the company’s vision link them, where possible, to your Experience required. and strategy for the future. academic knowledge. Occupational profiles listing the The company itself. Don’t be Keep track of current affairs. We key attributes for over 400 jobs afraid to contact the company – live in a globalised economy; you can be found at it shows you have initiative and need to be aware how things are www.prospects.ac.uk/links/ confidence. interconnected. occupations. 3
  5. 5. Exercise: ArchaeologyVery often we have to do some digging to uncover relevant examples that match the employer’s requirements. Thinkhard about what you have done in your life that might provide the most effective examples of the skills or abilities youare looking to demonstrate. The sentences that follow will help you carry out this detective work. See these as a startingpoint for thinking about relevant examples.Complete the following phrases:1. My favourite relevant academic topic is … because ….2. My relevant degree courses, essays and research topics are ….3. The relevant key skills I developed during my degree are ….4. The way that I developed my key skills was by ….5. What I do differently today because of what I learned is ….6. This is relevant to the job I am applying for because ….7. My favourite extracurricular activity is …. because ….8. My favourite magazine related to the sector I’m applying to is ….9. An interesting article I recently read that is related to this sector is ….10. I really enjoyed this article because ….11. My top three favourite companies are …. because ….12. My significant achievements are …. and the benefits I have gained from them are ….13. I’d describe myself when I am working at my best as ….14. People often praise me for ….15. What motivates me to jump out of bed every morning is ….16. The last time I contributed an idea to a team project was ….17. The last time I experienced life in a child-like, fully absorbed way was ….Headings that employers pay special attention to (Part 1)The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has made a study on how long employers spend looking at aCV, and the average time is eight seconds! Therefore, it is important to make sure that employers can find theinformation they need as soon as possible.The best way of putting across your message quickly and succinctly is by being shrewd about your use of headings.There are some headings that employers always expect to see:n Personal details (name, surname, address, telephone number and e-mail address)n Education and qualifications (employers look for relevant degrees, courses and grades)n Work experience (especially relevant work experience).The other headings you use will depend entirely on what the employer is looking for and what your relevant experienceis. Learn how to use heading flexibly and to your advantage when selling your skills and you will be well ahead of thecompetition. See Part 2 for more ideas and different headings you can use. 4
  6. 6. DemonstrateProvide relevant examplesOnce you understand what the employer’s requirements are, you need to link these with relevant examples from yourown life. Quantify these to provide enough evidence for the employer to conclude that you have the required skills forthe job. To this end, you must make your examples as explicit and detailed as possible. This will build your credibilityand increase your chances of being invited to interview.The STAR acronym gives you a structure to provide evidence that you have a particular skill: S Situation – when, where, who was involved? Tip: Quantify! T Task – what was the specific challenge? Try to quantify everything that you say. Always clarify timelines and numbers. A Actions – what did you do, what was your role? R Results – what was the outcome, what did you learn?Writing phrases such as ‘I have great team-working skills’ is not enough; further detail must be supplied. The followingis a STAR example of team-working skills: S Situation – when, where, who Throughout the three years of my degree, I was involved in six was involved? different team projects with over 25 different classmates. T Task – what was the specific To maintain my 2.1 grade (and, where possible, to exceed it). challenge? A Actions – what did you do, I took responsibility for co-ordinating the weekly team meetings, what was your role? reviewing goals and progress, identifying weak areas and suggesting solutions, and motivating the team to achieve a 2.1 or over. R Results – what was the I obtained a 2.1 in five of the team projects (over 67 per cent) and a outcome, what did you learn? First (80 per cent) in one of our projects. I learned the importance of reviewing task management.Layout exampleDon’t forget to link and organise this relevant information and to insert in it appropriate places in your CV. If, forexample, team working is very important, make sure that you do not just write:2008–11 BA Hons Marketing, University of Greenwich (expected 2.1 grade)Instead you should use the opportunity to sell your team-working skills:2008–11 BA Hons Marketing, University of Greenwich (expected 2.1 grade) In my Global Marketing Management course I worked in six different teams obtaining a 2.1 (over 67 per cent) in five projects and a First (over 80 per cent) in our last project. My contribution lay within reviewing our task management.In this case, the new material has been inserted under the ‘Education’ heading, but it could have been placed, equallyappropriately, under other headings. 5
  7. 7. Headings that employers pay special attention to (Part 2)As you have seen, it is crucial to relate to your employer very quickly by providing the facts and examples that will buildyour credibility for the role and get you to the interview stage. Therefore, after including the headings that employersexpect to see (see Part 1), you will need to add other headings that will best suit your needs.The other headings that we recommend are:n Additional skills (this allows you to provide any other relevant information that does not fit under the Part 1 headings)n Extracurricular activities and achievements (this is a favourite among employers as it allows you to showcase those leadership skills most employers want).Other headings you can use are:n Voluntary work (this is suitable if you have lots of voluntary experience)n Positions of responsibility (if you have a position of responsibility within a society, team, club or other organisation)n Awards (if you have been awarded scholarships, medals, etc.)n Languages (languages that you speak other than English with details of your proficiency level)n Publications (any articles, reviews, pamphlets, books, etc. that you have published)n Hobbies and interests (these should be as relevant and interesting as possible)n IT skills (make sure you include the level and do not misspell packages and software information)n Personal statement (a short summary of your main relevant skills)n Career objective (a short sentence demonstrating to employers your aspirations and goals)n Skills profile (remember to provide relevant examples here to give evidence that you have the skills you state)n Relevant work experience (to highlight experience listed under ‘Work experience’ – see Part 1).The main point here is flexibility: identify the employer’s needs, think of good examples, and carefully select theheadings that suit you most.When you start reading and looking at our next section on CV templates, please bear in mind that these are not set instone. They are just ideas on how you can present your relevant key information in order to get you to the interviewstage.Tip: flexibility of CV headingsLearn how to choose your headings based on your skills and you will be steps ahead of most undergraduates andgraduates. 6
  8. 8. CV templatesChronological CV templateA typical chronological CV starts with your personal details, followed often by education, work experience, otherspecific skills and achievements, leisure interests and referees. It emphasises continuity and career development andhighlights names of employers. Name, surname Address (home and term) Telephone (with a professional voicemail message) E-mail address (with a professional e-mail address) Personal profile (optional) (You should present employers with a profile statement that sums up your proposition concisely. Ideally, this should be three lines that establish your key strengths in relation to the vacancy and give employers a feeling for your aspirations.) Education (most recent first) Date University, programme, qualification (grade or predicted grade) Subjects or courses studied, title of dissertation if relevant to the job advert Date School/FE college A-levels (grades if good)/other qualifications GCSEs (grades if good)/other qualifications Work experience (most recent first) Date Company name, job title Main responsibilities (quantify your statements) Skills gained (Give examples. Do not just list ‘communication’, ‘team work’, ‘problem solving’, etc. Make sure you mention any significant achievements.) Skills and achievements Languages (level) IT skills (be specific) Other skills relevant to the job Any community work/extracurricular activity/positions of responsibility Interests and hobbies (Not just a list – try to make them relevant to what the employer is looking for, e.g. “Travelling around Europe helped develop my communication skills through meeting a variety of people.” Think carefully about the mix of interests and hobbies; ideally include three types: a physical activity, a mental activity and a team-based activity.) References available on requestBrief remindersn Use headings to the best of your advantagen Keep all your information relevant to the job you are applying for. 7
  9. 9. Cover letter template Tunde Nayim 86 St Marys Road Gillingham Kent ME7 1JL Tel: 0794 660XXXX E-mail: tunde_nayim@gmail.com 2 March 2009 Dear Sir/Madam, Re: job title (job advert reference number) Introduce yourself in relation to the above job position. State why you are a great match for the particular job that you are applying for. In particular, discuss skills not covered in your CV and/or emphasise relevant examples. Remember to use the STAR structure and to quantify your examples as much as possible. Highlight your main achievements and relevant work experience. Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. Link yourself to the company by showing your commercial awareness. Say how you will contribute to the company. Refer to your academic knowledge and to recent press articles, specialist journals and perhaps company reports. Make sure that you say clearly why you are attracted to that particular company. In your final paragraph state follow-up action, availability for interview and best time to contact you. Yours faithfully, Tunde NayimE-mailsHere are a few tips on how to present your e-mail if you are sending your CV and cover letter electronically.n Take as much care with an e-mail as you would with the rest of your writing.n Use an appropriate subject title including the job reference for the job you are applying for.n Use a formal greeting (‘Dear X’) and a formal sign-off (‘Warm regards,’) following standard letter conventions. End with your name, job title, phone number, etc. (use the automated signature option available in most e-mail programmes).n Formality in the text: if in doubt, err on the side of formality.n When attaching your CV and cover letter, save them under your name in the format ‘CV_Name_Surname_Date’ and ‘CL_Name_Surname_Date’.Tip: look at some sample cover lettersVisit www.gre.ac.uk/student_information/get/careers/guides/covering_letters. 8
  10. 10. CaptivateThe aim of your CV and cover letter is to differentiate you from the competition. So you need to add extra impact toyour CV and cover letter – always deliver more than expected! Never forget to be appropriate to your target audience. Do Most CVs... If you have technical skills and a portfolio of work, Do not have a personal website or portfolio on their consider including this in your contact details at the contact details. top of your CV. Create a results-orientated CV. Only state duties and responsibilities. In the worst case scenario, CVs only provide a list of dates and places, n Be achievement focused. Remember STAR? giving little indication of achievements and skills Emphasise the results, talk with conviction about learned. what you achieved and what you learned along the way. n Demonstrate your solutions to challenges and note the results you generated for your organisation. Begin each bullet point in your CV with the strongest Are written in the passive voice. action verb that accurately conveys your contribution. Verbs like initiated, solved, created, liaised, led, volunteered, organised, planned, influenced, persuaded, analysed, presented, recorded, co- ordinated, collaborated, devised, designed, scheduled, reviewed, budgeted. Get involved in extracurricular activities that Only talk about the applicant’s education and work demonstrate your leadership skills. experience, with little evidence of extracurricular activities. For example, get involved in voluntary and community work and in university societies, teams, clubs, etc. Sell your achievements: scholarships, awards, publications, conference presentations, languages. Make your hobbies and interests interesting and relevant. Tell a story in your personal profile. Tell the employer in Have personal profiles that are boring and full of three lines who you are. Give the employer an insight clichés. into where you come from and where you are heading. 9
  11. 11. Final checklistYour name and contact details are at the top of the page. (There is no need to write ‘Curriculum YesVitae’, it should be obvious what the document is. Do not include your date of birth.)The information is accurate and truthful and follows the ‘Relate-Demonstrate-Captivate’ Yesprinciples.The CV and cover letter is targeted at the job or sector that you want a job in. YesThe important facts are prioritised through your use of headings, and the most important Yessupporting evidence is made prominent using a STAR structure.The CV fits on two pages. (This is the length that most employers prefer.) YesIt is clear and easy to read and pleasing to the eye. (There are no fancy typefaces, and the size of Yesfont is ideally between 10 and 12 points.)Your CV creates the right impression. (Use good-quality paper that is a neutral colour. Do not fold Yesor staple your CV.)It only includes relevant information that supports your application. YesYou have demonstrated all your relevant skills, both transferable and subject related. YesYou have given evidence for every claim you have made about yourself. YesThe CV is interesting to read and flows in a logical order. It captivates the employer and is always Yesrelevant to the job.Proof read. Ensure someone else has checked for errors and that the spelling and grammar are Yescorrect and have been checked and double checked. Make certain that there are no typos.You have included a covering letter that draws attention to the impressive and relevant informationin your CV. (Be aware, however, that some companies will circulate your CV but not your covering Yesletter, so ensure everything appears there.)You have asked permission from your referees and given them a copy of your CV and told them Yesabout the type of work or job for which you are applying.10
  12. 12. Further helpBooksThere are many books on CV writing if you feel you need some more information and examples of CVs. The bookslisted below are available for reference from the Employability Centres at Greenwich, Avery Hill and Medway.Making Applications, AGCAS Information Booklet. This is available free from the Careers Centre. This has a detailedsection on applying for jobs using the Internet.High-Impact CVs: Make Your Resume Sensational (52 Brilliant Ideas) by John Middleton.Brilliant CV: What Employers Want to See And How To Say It by Jim Bright and Joanne Earl.DVDs and videosLooking Good on Paper, AGCAS. This is available to watch in our Employability Centres.CV agenciesProducing a good CV takes a lot of time and thought. You might be tempted to use an agency or company whichspecialises in CV writing. However, a CV agency can only use the information that you give them, so you must still carryout the initial research and preparation yourself (see ‘Relate’). A company will usually produce a CV that looks attractiveand includes the main points. However, while some firms have a lot of expertise, others do not, and you may bedisappointed by the results. Companies also tend to produce CVs that fit their standard format. This is particularly thecase if they also act as recruitment agencies or offer job-matching searches on the Internet.If you decide to use a company to produce your CV:n Check the costn Make sure the company writes it and sets it out in the way you want it to ben Decide what information you want to includen Check the CV for mistakes and correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.Computer packagesThere are various software packages on the market that can help you to write your CV. Bear in mind, however, that theycan help to structure your thoughts, but they won’t tell you what information you need to include or the best way ofexpressing it. They may also not be able to process information that does not fit into their pre-defined templates.Computer-generated CVs can look wooden, and an employer may already have seen 50 CVs produced using the samesoftware. If you use a computer package, make sure your CV is the one you want, not the one that the computerpackage says you should have. In short, use them as a guide, not as a straightjacket. 11
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  14. 14. For information on the University of Greenwich, please contact: UK students Enquiry Unit Freephone: 0800 005 006 Fax: 020 8331 8145 E-mail: courseinfo@gre.ac.uk International/EU students International Office Telephone: +44 20 8331 8136 Fax: +44 20 8331 8625 E-mail: international@gre.ac.uk Website: www.greenwich.ac.uk 2008 Register for publications and become a Greenwich VIP D1889-9 Updated E June 09 www.gre.ac.uk/study This document is available in other formats on request University of Greenwich, a charity and company limited by guarantee, regis- tered in England (reg. no. 986729). Registered office: Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9LS

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