CV, cover letter and
application form tips from
CV tips and hints
What is the purpose of a CV?
A CV gives employers an
overview of your skills, education
and work history. Your CV will
help the recruiting manager to
decide whether to invite you to
an interview – it is your chance
to get your foot in the door!
How long should it be?
No more than two pages.
Remember, whatever advice you
get, a CV is a personal
document and how it is set out is
The following headings should
• Contact details
• Personal profile
• Work history
What shouldn’t go on a CV?
Irrelevancies such as:
Age, sex, gender, marital status, sexuality, National Insurance number.
Writing a description of your achievements is sometimes a difficult
thing to do. Always get someone to read through your work. Use
spellcheck (UK) and be prepared to make changes.
Be careful when you select fonts and borders.
Most CVs are presented in the default setting in Microsoft Word and
in the same size font. Try to be different without looking
Borders and page number footers can look effective but keep
Coloured text for headings is also a way of bringing attention to your
A simple but effective way of creating a personal profile is to think
about your skills and qualities and combine them into a paragraph of
no more than 5 lines.
Skills are things that you learn i.e. driving, computing, accounts.
Qualities are your personal attributes and characteristics i.e. patient,
Examples of skills
Good telephone manner
Attention to detail
Customer service skills
Able to meet targets
Health and safety knowledge
Full UK driving licence
Food and safety hygiene
Teacher qualified status
50 wpm typing speed
Managing own workload
• My 3 skills are teaching, developing projects and computing.
• My 3 qualities are being an excellent communicator, being practical
and having a professional approach.
• My profile could then sound something like:
‘An excellent communicator who has teaching and computing
qualifications and experience of developing projects. Works well both
independently and as part of a team, with a practical and professional
Skills and abilities
• This should be a bullet-point list which outlines
your key skills and achievements e.g.
- Good telephone manner
- Excellent attention to detail
- Full UK driving licence (clean)
- SIA licence
- Computer literate
- CSCS card
Include employment history and work experience here, starting with the most
Structure this section to make it quick and easy for an employer to see the
organisations you worked for, your job title, the responsibilities you had and
the dates of employment. Please see the example below:
Delivering a structured programme of employability skills and
coaching, for young people aged 16-18 who are looking to start work
or apprenticeships. Management duties included. I also gained
experience of delivering Basic Skills to groups of adult learners in a
group or 1:1 basis.
March 2010 - Present
Education / training
Think about all the training that you’ve had or qualifications that
you’ve gained. If you achieved school qualifications more than 5 years
ago, then you don’t necessarily need to list them all. Again, work
backwards and include dates and who the awarding body was for
your course of study.
Education / training
October 2012 - Delivery of Effective Customer Service (Level 2)
July 2012 - (ERS) Apprenticeship in Employment Related Services (Level 3)
July 2012 - Functional ICT, Literacy, Numeracy (Level 2)
Oct 2011 - (CTTLS)Certificate to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (Level 4)
March 2011 - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Diploma (Level 5-Distinction)
Jan 2011 - CLAIT Plus/Advanced Diploma in MS Office applications (Level 3)
Interests and hobbies
This section should be short and to the point. It gives you a
chance to show the personal side to you and the kinds of
things you like to do in your spare time.
Try to show a range of interests and be sure to include any
that might be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Any hobbies that are out of the ordinary can help your CV to
stand out from the crowd – but be sure you put down things
which you can talk about confidently if asked about them at
For example: ‘I enjoy learning and am currently working
towards a photography qualification and am also learning
Spanish. I like live music, the theatre, playing golf and am
passionate about good food.’
Some of these activities indicate a creative side, but you
could include activities that demonstrate team working skills
or leadership qualities i.e. Captain of your football team.
You can include 2 referees, including your
most recent or current employer. Make sure
your referees are happy for you to put them
Many CVs will often just say:
References available on request.
Hello I have
What is the purpose of a
A cover letter is used to accompany a CV or
completed application form. It gives you a chance to
highlight what’s in your CV and to provide a few
examples that demonstrate your ability to do the job.
A speculative letter is what you would use to
accompany your CV when no specific job has been
advertised, but you feel that you would be interested
in working for a company and would like to find out if
there might be any jobs available in the future.
Cover letters and speculative letters should be no
more than one page long.
Formatting your letter
Make sure that you use a program that an employer can open
up properly. Try to use Microsoft Word (not Wordpad). If an
employer can’t open the attachment, they’ll discard your
Quite simply, make sure that the font you select for your letter
is legible and looks professional
Make sure the font is the same one that you used for your CV,
to show consistency
Check for spelling and grammatical errors using the spellcheck
The advert that you see will tell you exactly how to apply. The example
here tells you what to send and where to.
Remember when writing a letter,
you must include your name,
address and contact telephone
number in the top right hand
corner of the page.
You should also include the date,
the job role and any relevant
reference numbers – sometimes
a company might be recruiting
for more than one vacancy at a
time, so it is important to make it
easy to tell which role you are
The first paragraph
The opening paragraph states the reason for you writing, where you
saw the position advertised and on which date. If you are writing
speculatively, it will be slightly different, as below.
The second paragraph
The second paragraph outlines why you are looking for this sort of
position and what makes you the most suitable candidate. Include some
of the information on your CV and keep the information relevant.
The final paragraph
This is a nice simple summing up and reminds the prospective employer
to look at your CV and hopefully invite you for an interview! Don’t forget
to sign your letter.
• If you haven’t received any responses within a week, pick up the
phone and give the employer a gentle reminder to see how your
application is going.
• Make sure you keep an accurate record of who you applied to and
the expected date you should hear a response by. Keep a copy of
your application by either printing it out or storing it on your
Many employers will ask you to complete a job application form. As this is often
your first contact with the employer, it is vital that it should give a good impression.
Below are some tips to help you get it right:
When your application form arrives:
- Ideally, photocopy the original form or copy out the questions onto a piece of
- Put the original form back into the envelope in order to keep it clean and put it
Completing the application form:
- Give yourself plenty of ‘quality’ time to fill in the form but check the closing
date and ensure it arrives on time.
- Read the photocopied form carefully and follow the instructions ‘to the letter’
e.g. ‘complete the form’
- in BLOCK CAPITALS
- put family name first
- in black ink
- tick the box
- delete as appropriate
Ensure that you understand all the questions – if you don’t, ask
someone to help you.
Practice writing out your answers on the photocopied form. When
you are totally happy with what you have written, only then transfer it
onto the original. This may take several attempts but it is vital that
you get it right.
Complete all the questions as fully as you can. If a question does not
apply to you, say so. Try not to leave blank spaces as this gives the
opportunity for question marks to arise in the reader’s mind.
If there is not enough space for you to answer questions fully, you
may use a separate piece of paper. Ensure that your presentation is
equally as good on this sheet as it is on the original form and that it is
firmly attached using a staple.
How to improve presentation
If the application form is not lined, either draw some, using a pencil and
a ruler, or use a lined backing sheet underneath as a guide. (Don’t
forget to rub out any pencil lines before sending the form).
Use a ruler to underline headings or separate sections.
If you make a mistake, use ‘Tippex’ to mask it, making sure it has dried
out thoroughly before writing over it. Alternatively, use a ruler to cross
the mistake through once.
Use a good quality pen rather than a cheap ball-point which may blot.
If your handwriting is not particularly good, take extra time and use
Check your spellings carefully- this is best done before transferring
your work onto the original form. Use a dictionary or ask someone you
know who is a good speller to check it for you.
What if I have a criminal record?
Do I have to tell an employer about my criminal record?
You have to declare all criminal convictions, or any still pending, unless
they are ‘spent’. A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from
getting into your career.
Certain jobs and courses such as teaching, health and social work are
‘excepted’ from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) and
require that you disclose all convictions, even those that are spent.
If you want to work with children or vulnerable adults then you will have
to declare any conviction. To work in teaching, health or social work
you will have a Disclosure and Barring Service check.
A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from getting into your
chosen career, but if you have concerns about this speak to a careers
When you have finished
Check through the completed form one last time to make sure
everything is correct.
You may like to photocopy the completed form to use as a reference
tool in the interview or to help you fill in future applications.
Use a large envelope (don’t be tempted to cram it in to a small one)
and address it as instructed, quoting the reference number if required.
When completing online applications, if you save them into a ‘Jobs
Applied For’ folder, you can usually copy and paste information from
application to application.
Fill in an online application form as carefully and accurately as you would
any other application – remember that first impressions count!
For further information:
0800 101 901