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9 invaluable tips for your CV and cover letter

Category: Career Experts, Graduates, Advice, Students, Opportunity, statement, recruiters

9 invaluable tips for your CV and cover letter

Job hunters are bombarded with mounds of contrasting advice which often makes it difficult to create that perfect CV.

You’ll never encounter anything more frustrating in your working life than writing a CV. Despite the simple concept of the document, the process of piecing one together can be anything but straightforward.

We’ve been there, we know the struggle, and that’s why we spoke to Chris Rea, one of the experts at Propects, the UK’s leading provider of information, advice and opportunities to all students and graduates, to get the low down on writing your CV.

1. Perfect your personal statement

The opening paragraph is the first and most important aspect of a CV. It has to grab the recruiter’s attention and make them want to read on, as opposed to dropping the pages straight into the “no” pile.

That being said, there is probably nothing worse for a recruiter than to read the most overused terms in the history of CVs. Yep, leave “hard-working”,“punctual” and “keen” off, along with all those other worn out adjectives.

“It should go without saying that you possess all those qualities. Take the opportunity to showcase your skills, experience and aspirations, and explain why these things combined make you a powerful proposition,” Chris said.

He added: “The best CVs are the factual ones and do not just resort to lazy cliches that may or may not be true.”

2. Your writing is everything

Keep the paragraphs short and succinct, you’re not writing a 15,000-word dissertation. Ultimately, you want the recruiter to read your CV in its entirety, so make the process as painless as possible for them.

“There are a million things you shouldn’t do but when it comes down to it, the traditional basics are: it’s got to be clean, clear, well written,” Chris said.

“As long as the content is right, and the structure encourages the reader to engage with the content, then that’s the job done.”

Oh and given you’ve had hours upon hours to write, check (and double-check) your CV, there is absolutely no excuse for spelling errors.

3. Every experience counts

Coming fresh out of uni with only a few jobs under your belt, it’s understandable if your career history isn’t that well-developed. But any work held from the age of 16 is both useful and relevant as it proves firstly, you’ve been proactive from a young age, and secondly, you possess a certain amount of skills and experience of the working world.

And, as futile as you may think your stint at the pub has been, don’t leave it off your CV. Any experience, no matter how apparently mundane or low level you consider it, is important.

“A lot of people underplay the extent to the amount of practical experience they’ve had in the workplace because they think it isn’t relevant,” Chris said.

“Every bit of experience is relevant and it doesn’t have to be dressed up or over-embellished. As long as you can distinguish how it helped develop your skills and strengths and what you’ve learned about the industry while working in that position, it’s worth keeping on your CV.”

If you haven’t had any employment experience whatsoever, Chris advises turning to volunteering or internships – which may not be as fulfilling but shows productivity.

4. Make the most of social media

While a CV is undoubtedly very important, it’s worth remembering that what makes one candidate stand out from a sea of other eager beavers, is their social media presence.

“The extent to which you’re following or being followed on Twitter, the videos you may have uploaded to YouTube or any blogs you actively write in – it all gives you a huge advantage in the employability stakes,” Chris said.

The more you engage in online, the more your name and profile is out there for potential employers to observe, and it gives an alternative indication to a candidate’s personality and passions – something a CV may struggle to achieve.

If there was one online profile Chris insists every job-hunter must have, it’s a professional and up-to-date LinkedIn account as it’s the first social media page any employer is most likely to click on.

5. Know your stuff

Learn as much about the organisation’s history, values and cultures and use the information to shape your CV. It will take extra tweaking for every employer you apply to but the extra graft will give you that edge above other candidates.

“Doing your homework now is a lot easier than it ever was and you can do it in a much more informed way,” Chris said.

“You’re applying for a job, looking to impress and hoping the recruiter to make a decision in your favour. The more you know as an applicant about the employers, the better and the stronger it makes your CV.”

6. Your education history is not as important as you think

You may be tempted to broadcast your incredible four As at A Level and those extra two GCSEs you took six years ago but you should probably be a bit more selective with your education history.

“Not to say your academic achievements are unimportant but it’s probably not the most important aspect to recruiters. They don’t expect to see your GCSE results, or even your A Levels, so there’s no need to go to town on them,” Chris said.

He added: “Having completed a degree, employers can only assume you’ve achieved a certain standard to progress thus far, and what’s more important is identifying the skills you’ve developed along the way.”

7. Neither are your interests

Ah the “interests” section. It’s a tricky little aspect of the CV and to be honest, it’s probably completely ineffective – unless it’s compulsory to include them.

Recruiters should be interested in why you want to fill the position and how well-suited you are to the company, and not if you like reading, socialising or playing football.

“Unless it’s beneficial, for example you’re learning a new language or completing a qualification as a sports coach, your interests may not make a difference to your CV and they shouldn’t effect your employability,” Chris said.

8. Keep the layout simple 

As eager as you are to grab the attention of the employer, fancy lettering, pictures and illustrations are not the way to do it. They can make a page look cluttered and the reader will be more inclined to skim over the content rather than actually reading it.

Instead opt for an simple layout and consider everything down to the architecture of the page – this include minimal bullet points, plain text format, basic indentations.

“The more simple the layout the better. It’s an obvious thing to say but it’s a text-based document and in most cases, an elegant black and white document works absolute wonders,” Chris said.

9. A cover letter is the introduction to your CV

Think of the cover letter as the introduction to your CV, to the point but less formal, mechanical and structured. It’s your chance to explain what attracted you to the role, why you’re interested in working for the employers and what you can offer them.

“You should certainly demonstrate knowledge of the role so use the cover letter as an opportunity to highlight key experiences that’ll prove valuable within the position,” Chris said.

He added: “Keep it short – be succinct, punchy and precise. Employers receive hundreds of applications per vacancy and if you can compress all the relevant information to one side of A4, you definitely have a chance of your CV being read.”

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email [email protected] for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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