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Increasingly employers ask applicants to complete a job application form, but many still prefer a CV. An effective CV will not only show your current abilities, but also demonstrate the potential you have to be successful in the working environment. You can use a CV for a speculative job application too.  Remember that if you are sending an employer your CV, you will need to include a covering letter.

  • Preparing to write your CV

    For information on how to write your CV including typical CV headings and basic principles the following links will be useful:

    There are many different ways to structure your CV, for example: chronological, skills-based, targeted, academic, artistic or technical.  For more information and guidance on which format will be the most appropriate for your circumstances, have a look at section 3: Different types of CV

    Common CV questions:

    • Do I need to include my date of birth?
    • Should I include a photo?
    • Do I need to include a personal profile?
    • Do I list work experience or education first?
    • Should I include my interests?
    • Should I list all my GCSEs and grades?
    • Do I include the names and addresses of my references?
    • Do I always need a covering letter?
    • Should I mention my disability?

    For answers to these questions check out our handy CV Guidelines handout.

    Useful Links:

  • Writing your CV

    Tip 1: Write concisely and avoid too much narrative

    Most employers skim and scan when they read and spend seconds rather than minutes reading CVs and letters. Recent research indicates the average time is 8.8 seconds! So avoid too much narrative, and write short concise sentences. Here's a good article from jobs.ac.uk to help you with using buzz words and impressive language.

    Tip 2: Tailor your CV to the job

    Tailoring your CV and covering letter to suit the requirements of each particular job can greatly increase your chances of securing an interview.

    Start by researching the top essential skills and knowledge that the job requires. Make these top skills and knowledge requirements clearly visible in your CV. You can do this in a number of ways:

    • Mention them in your profile.
    • Describe your responsibilities and achievements for each job role, and highlight the skills and knowledge that was required/developed.
    • Use words and terminology that you know will resonate with the employer. Use the same words mentioned in the job advert, person specification or job description.
    • Leave out or reduce any information that isn’t relevant to the job you are applying to.

    Here's an article from The Guardian about how to tailor your CV for interview success.

    Tip 3: Pay attention to language and tone

    Using the right tone in your CV can make a significant difference as to how the reader sees you. Using active verbs such as ‘developed’, ‘initiated’ ‘organised’ ‘contributed’ can be an effective way to highlight your skills and qualities. Here's a guide to pitching the right tone in your CV.

  • Different types of CV

    There are different ways you can structure your CV.

    Chronological CV

    A chronological CV is the most popular format.  It involves presenting details such as your education or work experience under headings, starting with your most recent. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘traditional CV’.

    Skills-based CV

    This type of CV can be effective if you want to emphasise your skills and potential rather than your employment history. It’s sometimes referred to a functional CV and can be useful if you want to show employers how transferable skills gained from other experiences will be relevant to the post.

    Hybrid CV

    This type of CV is a mix of the chronological and skills-based format.  Information is presented in a chronological format but  the emphasis is more on skills developed and achievements rather than responsibilities.

    Academic CV

    An academic CV for jobs in academia can be longer than a conventional one, as it’s important to detail information about your research interests, funding or scholarships received, details of any publications, and any experience you have of teaching or academic supervision. Here are a couple of guides to creating an academic CV: Academic CV template and Applying for an academic job

     

    Useful Links:

     

    Further help and CV advice for specific sectors: 

     

    International CVs:

  • How to write a covering letter

    Your covering letter supports your CV and needs to state clearly what job you are applying for and where you found out about it; and importantly, why you believe you would be suitable. Highlight your skills and abilities and relate these to the job. You want to persuade the reader to meet you!

    Key points:

    • Write to a real person, preferably the individual who is responsible for recruitment. Avoid Dear Sir/Madam.
    • Use a clear business style font such as Verdana, Arial, Calibri and use size 11-12. Don’t go smaller.
    • Follow a standard business letter format with block paragraphs.
    • Aim for one side of A4.
    • Avoid sounding overly personal or informal. Aim for an upbeat, professional tone.
    • Support any claims with brief examples.
    • Check your spelling and grammar carefully.
    • Print on white paper.
    • If emailing, put your covering letter in the body of the email and send your CV as a pdf attachment. 
    • Keep your cover letter brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. 

    For more information on how to structure your cover letter, you can find a useful guide on Prospects.

    Useful Links: 

  • Disclosing a disability or health condition

    You don’t have to disclose your disability or health condition to an employer as there is no legal obligation to do so. It’s a matter of personal choice. However being open and upfront has many benefits. Employers have a legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, both in the recruitment process and in the workplace itself, so if they are unaware of your support needs, you may find you are at a disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person. 

    If you choose to disclose, where, when and how is best?

    You may wish to mention your disability in your covering letter; or include a short statement as part of an application form. You could even add a short explanation within your CV. Alternatively, you may prefer to discuss the matter at interview, or once you have received a job offer. Focus on your strengths and what you can do, rather than what you can’t do.

    Further help

  • Application Forms

    Many employers ask applicants to complete an application form, rather than submit a CV and covering letter. Increasingly these are online forms, which are linked to the employer’s website. Paper, Braille or audio applications may be available. Find out more about job application forms here

    Our Top Tips:

    • Read the job advertisement and application form guidelines very carefully.
    • Research the organisation.
    • Use Word to draft your answers then copy the information over to the online form.
    • Give yourself enough time to complete and submit the application.
    • Save a copy.

     

    Writing style: 

    Avoid informal language, jargon and clichés! Write concise descriptive sentences and use active verbs when you describe your achievements or experience. Verbs such as organised, developed, achieved, planned, supervised, managed, initiated, designed, persuaded will highlight your skills.

    Mirror the keywords stated in the job description. Large companies who receive hundreds of applications often use scanning software to search for keywords and will only shortlist the applications that contain these words.

    Avoid writing lists of words (e.g. a list of your skills or interests) as this will not tell the employer anything useful about you.

    Aim to fill all the space provided on the form. Too much blank space can make an application form look incomplete, and is a wasted opportunity for you to make a positive impression. If a section does not apply to your situation, write ‘not applicable’ so it’s clear that you haven’t inadvertently missed the question.

     

    The ‘further information’ section:

    Many application forms have a blank section, which asks the applicant the opportunity to explain why they believe they have the skills and qualities to do the job. Some forms state that you can extend your answer onto a separate page if necessary; on other forms, there may be a strict word count.  This is the most important section on the form, and what you write may well be the deciding factor as to whether or not you are shortlisted for interview.

     

    How to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience they are looking for

    Clearly show how you meet the essential and desirable criteria listed in the job description and person specification. You will only be shortlisted for an interview if you can prove you meet all of the essential criteria!

    Explain why you are suitable for the advertised post. This means showing that you have researched everything about the employer and the post and you can show how your strengths, values, interests will be a perfect fit. 

    Use the STAR framework (situation, task, action and result) when you describe your examples. You can download our STAR technique Handout or read this blog post. There are variations on the STAR model you can use too. For example, PAR (Problem, Action, Result) and CAR (Challenge, Action, Result). Note that each of these involves describing what you did (your actions) and the consequence (the result).

     

    Useful Links:

     

Did you know that you can get feedback on your CV, cover letter or job application? Simply submit it for review on My Career Enriched, along with the job details (job advert, job description, person specification) and we will give you some written feedback and advice on what might need improving. We aim to respond within 5 working days so please take this into account with regards to closing dates.