Creating a CV and cover letter
Unless you've been headhunted, your CV is going to be your primary selling tool. A well presented CV can secure you an interview by catching the eye of an employer, can encourage the interviewers to see your experience as a valuable asset, help you focus on the key points that you need to expand upon in interview and remind the interviewer about you once the interview is over.
Always remember the following points:
Presentation & formatting
- Always type your CV on good quality paper.
- Print it in black ink on white paper.
- Use the same stationery for your cover letter.
- Unless specifically requested, do NOT include a photo.
- Use common face type and lay your CV out neatly.
- Use bullet points, be concise and to the point and avoid lengthy essays.
- Always ensure that contact details are on both your cover letter and CV.
Spelling & Grammar
Always check for typos and grammatical errors. If an employer notices these, you will very often not be called to interview as it could indicate that you are careless and disorganised.
No gaps and correct dates
Always ensure that there are no gaps on your CV. If you have been travelling, explain that in your CV. Employers need explanations for gaps whether you've been doing courses, travelling or taken personal time. Always ensure that you haven't duplicated dates or overlapped on dates.
Your personal details should come first and should include your contact details.
A brief personal profile should be next which should include your education and qualifications. List your professional memberships. This may be expanded into a short paragraph highlighting your key skills.
The main body of the CV should include your career history which should be presented in reverse chronological order with your most recent employer first.
Extra Achievements - if you've been nominated or you've won an award, do put it in. Clearly make sure it's relevant but mention of awards and achievements shows employers that you are ambitious and self-driven.
Lastly put references - you do not actually have to include the text of the reference, merely the referee's name, their professional title and a contact number. If you are uncomfortable doing this, simply state at the bottom of your CV "references available on request".
Know your CV inside out
Be prepared to discuss every point on your CV however small and to expand upon it in interview. Don't assume just because a point seems a little irrelevant to you may be of interest to the interviewer and they could question you on it.
Tailored CV vs Generalist CV
A single generalist CV is unlikely to be sufficient. Just as you are an individual, so too is the organisation that you are applying to and you need to think about your audience.
If you are applying to a specific job, ensure that the skills required match up to your skills and highlight them in your CV. Eg. If it's experience within forensic accounting, make sure that you highlight any experience you may have gained in past roles or any involvement in liquidations / receiverships.
If you're applying to a specific organisation, do your research first and find out what type of employee are they looking for or if they're expanding or creating a new niche market. You can then highlight any relevant experience or qualifications in your CV.
Tailor your Cover Letter
Never forget to tailor your cover letter. This is just as important as your CV. Outline in a brief paragraph the role you're applying to (or if on spec, then explain why you're applying to that company).
Always include your contact details in the cover letter - if applying internationally, remember the area code for your mobile / telephone.
Always include a (brief) outline of your skills and main experience.
Attach all information
If you have said that you are attaching references, then ensure that you attach them or copies of your qualifications if requested by the advert / company. This shows attention to detail and won't have the interviewer scrambling for information which hasn't been attached.
Interests & Hobbies
Hobbies and interests should be nearly the last item on your CV. Employers like to see a well rounded individual. Don't fall back on old reliables such as "reading" or "cinema". Nor should you put "clubbing". And never lie to make yourself seem more interesting.