Build a Great CV & Cover Letter

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Your CV (Curriculum Vitae) and cover letter are usually the first impression that a company gets of you, so they have to be perfect. That means knowing how to make your achievements shine.

CVs give basic information about you, your education, work experience, skills and achievements. Cover letters explain why you want the job and what makes you the right person for it.

Key Points

  • Keep it simple. Print the CV in black ink on white A4 sized paper. You want it to be your achievements that stand out, not your use of bright pink paper!
  • Spell out Curriculum Vitae at the top rather than CV, and make sure to double-check the spelling.
  • Use a clear, easy to read letter font like Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Don’t try to put everything about yourself into the CV. Stick to two pages of the most relevant and important info: potential bosses don’t want to know about the Irish dancing medal you won when you were six! NOTE: If you’re applying for jobs in the United States, they look for a one-page resumé rather than a CV.
  • Start with your name and contact details at the top so that they’re easy to see.
  • Make sure to include your education, qualifications, relevant jobs and work experience, achievements and interests that help prove you’ve got the right skills for the job.
  • Don’t include (unless you’re asked) gender, a photo, if you’re married or not, nationality or reasons why you left other jobs.
  • Change your CV for each job you apply for. Look carefully at the job description and emphasise the skills or experience mentioned.
  • If you’re asked for referees, include a past employer, teacher or sports coach. Make sure to ask that person if they will give you a reference. If you’re not asked write ‘References available on request’ at the end of your CV.
  • Read over the finished CV a few times and make sure there are no spelling mistakes. This is extremely important, as many employers will simply throw your CV in the bin if they notice any spelling mistakes. Send it to yourself as well to make sure the formatting is a-ok.
  • Get someone else to read it and check it for mistakes and typos before you email it off.
  • Or, better still, post off a physical copy or drop it in in-person. Even if you don’t have to, some employers value that personal touch.

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CV language

  • Keep sentences short, sharp and positive. Like “Developed training manual for new employees” or “Gained valuable experience in team-leading and problem solving”.
  • Make sure your CV is up to date. There’s no need to include information that’s more than five years old, unless it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • Use bullet points to list your duties, skills and achievements in recent jobs.
  • Try to be original, it can be tough trying to describe yourself. LinkedIn have a list of the most overused words on Irish CVs, check them out and avoid!
  • Don’t include useless information just to fill space. Nobody wants to search through all the part-time jobs you had in the last 10 years.
  • Keep your CV positive and make sure to highlight your achievements.
  • Don’t lie about your experience and skills: you’ll get caught out eventually.

CV checklist

  • Have you included a mobile phone number and an email address that you check regularly?
  • Is your CV relevant to the job you are applying to?
  • If you’re emailing your CV, make sure to save the doc in your own name. If it’s just ‘CV.doc’ it will get lost in a pile.
  • The chances are that your CV will be scanned in 30 seconds, so keep everything clear and concise.
  • Always tailor your CV for the job you are applying for.
  • Always include a covering letter with your CV.
  • Make sure you can account for any gaps in your CV – as you may get asked about this at interview.
  • Most college careers services or youth information centres run CV workshops that will help you to get started.
  • Always get someone to read over your CV before you send it off.

 

An impressive cover letter can make a huge difference.

Sample cover letter

Dear Sir/ Madam

Re: Guardian job ad

I am writing to apply for the position of Youth Sports Counsellor as advertised in The Irish Times. I feel that this is an ideal job for me given my enthusiasm for working with children and my related experience in sports and youth positions.

Working with children has always been important for me, which is why I have developed my career through a diverse range of youth leader positions, from children’s camp to teacher’s assistant. I particularly enjoy positions in which I have an opportunity to spend time with youth outdoors, getting them involved in a diverse range of activities and sports. As you can see from my CV, I have taken my degree in Sports Science and concentrated on the study of child health and fitness.

I am currently a part time youth leader with the Craic Club, a non-profit organisation that aims to give young people somewhere to study, take part in sports and socialise after school hours.

In my position, I work directly with young people (aged 12-20) encouraging them to try new activities and stay fit. I am also responsible for the outreach to youth organisations and getting more youth involved in Craic Club.

I am keen to take this opportunity to develop my career within the youth sector whilst continuing to use my experience and knowledge of Sports and Fitness.

Please find my CV attached. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Sheeran

Editor’s note: If addressing your letter to someone whose name you know, it is best to sign off as ‘Yours sincerely’.

Example:

Dear Mr. Ryan,

Cover letter text here…

Yours sincerely,

Joe Sheeran

 

How to write a cover letter

Writing a winning cover letter.

A cover letter is an important part of a job application. In fact, some say that a cover letter is even more important than a CV, because it increases the chances of an employer actually reading your CV. A good cover letter can seal the deal and make an employer want to interview you. It is essentially your first introduction to a potential employer, so it needs attention!

Why is a cover letter important?

  • First impressions count. If your cover letter is filled with spelling and grammatical errors, you can pretty much forget about getting an interview.
  • A good cover letter can make you stand out from the crowd. If yours is engaging, you have a much higher chance of getting your CV read and thus getting an interview.
  • A good cover letter increases your chances of the employer bothering to read the CV. The employer is likely to have a desk filled with applicants, so a good cover letter makes your application much more appealing.

How to tailor a great cover letter:

  • Tailor each cover letter to each job. So don’t use the same cover letter for an IT job as your friend did for their teaching job. Both jobs require completely different skills.
  • Use words and phrases that were listed in the job advertisement. For example, if the job is asking for someone with experience of Adobe or Dreamweaver, make sure your cover letter states that you are experienced at using these programmes.
  • Use language that demonstrates what you can do for the company, for example, “My skills as a graphic designer have resulted in several awards and an increase in website traffic at the website I worked on”.
  • Try to demonstrate that you have knowledge of the company you want to work for. This shows that you have bothered to research them, which demonstrates enthusiasm. Employers love enthusiastic employees.
  • Try to address cover letters to the actual hiring manager rather than “To whom it concerns”. Again, this demonstrates that you have bothered to do your research.
  • Be as specific as possible. Outline the specific reasons why you meet all the job specifications listed in the advertisement.
  • Try not to be intimidated by the job descriptions; most candidates won’t fit all requirements, just some of them. Soemphasise what you do have to offer and how keen you are on that company.
  • Keep it short and sweet. The cover letter should be brief and to the point. You shouldn’t ramble on for three pages.
  • If you are emailing the cover letter, try to send it as a PDF rather than as a word document. This is because Word files sometimes can’t be opened if the company does not have a compatible version of Word. Plus, believe it or not, not every company has Word.
  • Check and re-check. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes. Cover letters with spelling and grammatical mistakes will make it look like you’ve a poor attention to detail and so a potential employer may not bother to read your CV. And spell check doesn’t pick up everything so don’t count on it to re-read for you!

Originally written by SpunOut.ie, edited by Perysquareagency.ie