Placement / Internship Applications & Job Search.
1. Preparing your cv
You must be aware of how a cv is used / received by a potential stage offeror /
As a means of:
• identifying whether you meet the minimum requirements of the post in question
(qualifications, experience etc)
• establishing how well you can present yourself on paper (If you cannot present
yourself accurately and attractively, how can you hope to present the company?
This is an acid test – so if you have not paid much attention to grammar, spelling,
expression, translation, page layout: beware!)
• seeing how good you ‘look on paper’ compared to other candidates …. Ranking
you with a view to shortlisting for interview. Employers are therefore looking to
differentiate you. When you all have the same level qualifications and roughly the
same low level of work experience, other indicators such as: voluntary service,
responsibilities held (course representative etc), sports participation, other training
undertaken can assume a high degree f importance as a differentiator
• contacting you. Make sure your name, address, contact telephone numbers (fixed
and mobile) and email are all prominently displayed and, above all, accurate.
• Regarding email addresses, try to find one which represents your name quite
closely. Do not use things like ‘cuddlykitten@……..’ or ‘Rambo69@…’.
these are often blocked by incoming mail servers: your mail may not get
through the screen. Above all such address formats just do not look
• If sending your cv to companies abroad remember to add the 00 33 code and
to bracket the first 0 in the number: (0)
Once you have discerned the purpose for which employers use cvs it should be easy
enough to set about designing your own. Some advice on cv design:
• Length. In France, at your level, the market expects you to present your cv as
one side of A4. If you are going for a post with an English speaking company
(US / Canada / UK / Ireland / Australia / NZ etc), the normal expectation will be
for TWO sides of A4 as such nations’ employers tend to take the view that to
differentiate you for the purposes of selection for interview one needs more
information to go on and you therefore need more space to provide it.
• Personal Details.
• Do I need a photo? There is no absolute requirement for this, but the ease of
importing an image is such nowadays that most people appear to do so in
France: it has become almost normative, particularly for the young. (It is not
so commonplace in the UK and US where people are very keen to avoid any
hint of accusations of sex or racial discrimination). Male and almost 50 I
wouldn’t dream of putting a photo on my cv, but were I aged twenty, female
and attractive, I might feel (rightly or wrongly) that this might give me an
‘edge’ in the selection process. (Please don’t take that as a sexist remark – it
is not – it is perhaps just a feature of this ‘marketing age’ wherein there are
still likely to be more male managers sitting in judgement on your cvs than
females). Such a strategy might ‘risk’ being employed for ‘the wrong reason’.
• Your name. Make sure this is written in larger type and stands out.
• Contact details. These need to be prominent and not ‘lost’ in a corner of the
cv. Do not make your potential employer ‘work’ to find you!
• Don’t forget other things like clean driving licences….
• Educational Experience.
• Organisation. Reverse chronology works best: put the most recent and most
impressive at the head of any list.
• Level of detail.
• Employers are interested mostly in what you are doing NOW because they
are trying to work out what you are capable of doing NOW for them, so
you should spend far longer on explaining your present academic
programme than your secondary school education.
• Titles are NOT self explanatory. Give the full title of your programme and
don’t just resort to LPHT / MICAI etc. Tell the employer a bit about what
the programme contains and particularly what it intends to produce in
terms of graduate output capability.
• Titles do NOT translate. If you are applying outside France you will need
not only to translate your cv but also the terminology: ‘Licence’ or
‘Licence Pro’ mean precisely nothing to the UK market. If you were to
explain that Licence means ‘Degree’ (BA / BSc) then they would begin to
understand. Saying the LPHT, for example, is effectively a ‘Top-up’
degree year following 2 years of foundation studies in Business would
explain even more clearly.
• Subject titles help the employer only a little. ‘OK, so you have studied
‘Marketing’… but what can I expect you to be able to DO for me as a
result: can you put together a brochure… create a marketing strategy…. do
market or marketing research??? Put yourself in the employer’s ‘shoes’
• Work Experience.
• Organisation. Reverse chronology works best: put the most recent and most
impressive / relevant at the head of any list and develop these significantly.
• Job Title tells little. OK, so you worked on the Customer Service counter for
SuperU during the summer and every Saturday for the last three years so what
does that tell an employer: Not much…. But what if you were to explain the
skills you developed and employed which are perhaps generic and transferable
to other contexts (such as your potential employer’s) … wouldn’t that look
and sound that much more impressive??? Wouldn’t it show the employer that
you are giving him exactly what he is looking for?
So, SuperU Customer Reception has given you what, exactly (that you can put
to use in other situations and from which a future employer may benefit?) …
See next page:
Super U Customer Service Reception: how to 'sell' this to an employer...
• Customer reception / welcome experience
• Flexibility – had to lean how to deal with any problem that came along as
• Time Management – had to prioritise claims on time in terms of
importance and urgency and organise workload accordingly
• Dealing with irate customers face to face and on the phone –
• learning to listen,
• de-fuse a situation,
• assess a problem,
• consider various options for a solution,
• communicate and deliver solutions with tact and diplomacy
• Retain the customer if humanly possible. It is well known that a happy
customer may well tell 2 or 3 people…. but a very unhappy one will
make it his business to tell everyone that he knows – ie 10 x the
number a happy customer will tell….. (TJ NB. Walusa case study)
• Delegated Responsibility for a customer services budget. Showing
Management trusts your honesty and your judgement.
The KEY POINT
here is that employers are less interested in
a job title and the name of a previous employer
than they are in what
SKILLS and CAPABILITIES
you learned and practised there,
such that they can have a clearer idea of
what you will now be capable of doing for them.
You MUST put yourself in your prospective employer’s position.
• Other Experience / Responsibilities / Interests
Given that at your age, all doing the same programme, all interested in the subject, all
broadly equally qualified and experienced; the main elements of your cvs are all
going to look roughly the same. This does not enable an employer to do his job or
differentiation between all the cvs competing for his attention…. So what might help?
• Voluntary service of some kind that shows a commitment beyond what is
required of you by school, work or university – this adds another
dimension to the ‘personality’ that the reader sees.
• Course representation / event organisation. Shows you volunteered
(others don’t); you were elected / selected (others weren’t); you acted not
on your own but on behalf of others possibly acting ‘upward’ having to
deal with your profs / external clients etc
• Sport… not just an interest, but a real engagement and commitment that is
developing you. Last year a student put down one word: ‘Basketball’ on
his cv, nothing more…. it turned out he was a player of regional / national
standing and for three years he had become sole coach to the under 15s
team and they had won the league last year…. So much for being modest!
That told us he had:
• Developed a high level of personal skill
• Commitment and determination
• Taken official coaching training
• Learned how to teach
• Learned team-building and motivation skills
What a differentiator that would have made to an employer!!! That is a
sign 3 metres high (like most basketball players it seems to me!) saying:
‘Hey, look, I’ve done something different, I’ve learned from it, I can use it
in your organisation’… and the unwritten subtext: ‘I bet no-one else has
something like this’. The result is a big and immediate: ‘He’s on my
interview list’ employer response.
• Creative things. ‘Interested in films and literature’ doesn’t say much, but
if you have scripted a play for the local amateur dramatic society, acted on
stage, write music or poetry or perhaps are teaching yourself a new
language or instrument in your spare time, these all ‘speak’ about you in
terms of interest, commitment, willingness to learn, presentation ability,
and creativity. You must appreciate much of management is about
change, and change requires people who have vision and can be creative.
There are particular fields where creativity is highly prized: PR and
advertising agencies for example, where the employers will be ‘trawling’
your cvs for hints and clues like this…. Make sure they don’t have to work
too hard! There is also a chance that your prospective employer or one of
his family might be involved in exactly the same sort of thing: hence it has
value to him and you have just produced the ‘Halo Effect’: ‘look – I’m just
like you…. So employ me’ and, feeling ‘comfortable’, employers often do
• The cv presentation itself.
• Keep it simple and ‘clean’
• Make sure it is ‘easy on the eye’ and that you line things up with columns and
tabs wherever possible.
• Don’t go overboard on coloured paper or backgrounds, watermarks or
gimmicks – these can make you stand out for all the wrong reasons!
• Don’t squash too much on the page. (Don’t waste space either!)
2. The Covering Letter
• Why do you need one?
• To address your cv to the right place
• To introduce your cv courteously
• To tell the secretary who opens it to whom it should be given and for what
• To build upon your cv:-
• Grab attention
• Hold it
• Get the recipient to want to turn the page and read the cv
• Provide strong reasons:
• Why you wish to be considered for the stage / job
• What the company will get out of YOU!
NB. Most covering letters only do the former, whereas most employers
tend to be primarily interested in the latter!
• To prove that you can set out and write a business letter impeccably in perfect
French / English which articulates concisely what it is that you want and why
the organisation should respond positively to you. (ie it needs structure and
content). When you are not writing in your native tongue, ALWAYS get your
cvs and letters ‘finessed’ by a native speaker.
• Because the covering letter gives you even more of an opportunity to
positively differentiate yourself from your competitors and impress.
A covering letter should never be viewed solely as a sort of long-winded
‘compliments slip’ under which to submit a cv: you MUST see it as a golden selling
opportunity. It is akin to the American so-called ‘Elevator Pitch’ whereby the
applicant has only the time that it takes his prospective employer to take the elevator
from the ground floor to the company restaurant to produce a completely compelling
argument for his employment/ project/idea. In the case of the covering letter you
have the recipients eyes rather than his ears…. But for about the same amount of time
– one can scan such a letter perhaps in 30 to 40 seconds… and during that time you
MUST make a (positive!) impression which persuades the reader to DO something
(put you in the ‘For Interview’ pile).
• Writing the Covering Letter
• Set it out according to the conventions expected of you by the recipient
• Use the salutation expected by the recipient (his / her actual name is
ALWAYS better than Dear sir / madam….)
• In English for example
• Dear Mr. Jolley, Yours sincerely…….
• Dear Sir, Yours faithfully
• Always date it properly (remember the Americans use a different system!)
• Always insert a heading a couple of lines of space after ‘Dear ……’ such as
‘Re: Stage Opportunities with XYZ Co during 2008’. This is important,
the reader should NOT have to work out what it is about by having to read the
Covering Letters (Contd.)
• You need a strong opening / introduction to the letter, your request, the cv
attached etc. This could be something like: “I am writing in response to the
placement opportunity in Tourism Development and Planning as advertised
on your corporate website. I would very much like to be considered for this
position and am therefore attaching my cv for your consideration from which
you will see that I have not only studied Tourism Planning but have 9 months
relevant work experience in this area”. In very few words you have ‘hooked’
the reader….. now you need to keep him/her interested….and develop your
• Then a ‘middle’ showing:
• What you really want of a placement / career
• What you can do for the company
• That you have done some research about the company. Don’t just drop in a
fact unrelated to the content of your letter, weave it in eg: “With the
company’s record expansion over the past three years and the new
strategy to open up Anglophone markets, it is clear that XYZ co is going to
need staff that have Tourism knowledge, intercultural experience and
English language fluency. …..”
• Some distinguishing fact or feature about you: your qualifications,
experience or interests that sets you apart from competitors for the post
and gives the employer a reason to put you in the ‘for interview’ pile. For
example: “Having lived and worked in England for two years, honing my
English language skills and cultural knowledge, I feel I am already well
equipped for a post profiling the English market for XYZ co and will be
able to make an immediate contribution to the company in this area.”
Here you are showing not just theoretical knowledge, but applied
experience. In addition you are also telling him / her that you will probably
need less training than others, less time to get you up and ‘running’. For a
manager less time = less money = more profit!
• A stylish ‘outro’….
• Round the letter off showing that you really want the job and that you are
prepared to provide any further information required and to attend
interview…. Maybe something like: “Assessing myself candidly against
the person specification / job description, I believe I possess all the
‘critical’ and most of the ‘desirable’ attributes required of the post and
accordingly I sincerely hope that you will give my application every
consideration. I am of course available for interview and would be only
too pleased to furnish further information should you so require. I now
look forward to hearing from you…”
The covering letter is essentially like a good song:
1. a great intro that grabs your attention, impresses you and sets up the song and your
expectations of it
2. a strong structure with a ‘hook’, usually the chorus, the key message that is
occasionally repeated for effect. Clever ‘bridges’ / links between chorus and
3. a great ending where the song actually finishes and doesn’t just fade out because
the singer / writer / producer doesn’t know what to do with it.
Songs like that we remember - they pass:‘The Old Grey Whistle Test! ‘ (TJ Story)
1. This is NOT a simple process: it is a HIGH STAKES COMPETITION
2. Average, ‘one size fits all’ approaches are almost certainly doomed to failure.
3. WORK on your cv to ‘finesse’ it in terms of content and layout, making
absolutely sure you are focusing on your capabilities NOW and not just the
subjects / titles of things you have studied
4. Research the company to which you are applying. Find out the name of the
person to write to and his/ her title. Find out some important facts about the
company to show that you have made some effort to get to know the organisation
for which you wish to work.
5. Read the job advert closely. Ask for a copy of the Job Description and Person
Specification if available. Candidly audit yourself against them to see yourself as
the company will see you.
6. WORK at your covering letter. It needs to be technically PERFECT in terms of
grammar / salutation / convention and to create impact and interest sufficient to
persuade the reader to read your cv. Do this by ensuring the contents are closely
aligned to what the company says it wants in the advert, Job Description and
Person Specification. Make sure the letter is clearly structured (beginning /
middle / end) and that you are not just saying ‘give me a job’ – it must be TWO
way – show them what they will be getting if they employ YOU.
7. Use the JD and PS to prepare for questions that you ‘know’ you are likely to get
asked. Also prepare questions to ask which show interest in the company and
your future with it – things like training and professional development
opportunities and NOT: “How many holidays do I get?”