The Ultimate Guide to CV & Cover Letter Writing

Every successful job hunt starts with a good cover letter and great CV.

If you aren’t sure what to write in your cover letter or how to start putting together your CV then our Ultimate Guide To CV and Cover Letter Writing will answer all your questions.

Ultimate guide to writing a cv and cover letter

How to Write a Cover Letter

You should always include a cover letter with your application even if the employer doesn’t ask you for one.  Why? Well, it’s a fantastic way to add information that doesn’t fit into a CV.  It will also help to give your  application a bit more ‘personality’.

When it comes to cover letters, most employers look for the following:

  • Tailored skills from the job description
  • Well written and formatted content
  • Further details from information in your CV (but NOT a direct copy)
  • The ‘value’ you would bring to the organisation. In other words, why should we hire you?
  • Perfect spelling & grammar
  • A reflection of your personality

Top Cover Letter Tips

Get the Balance Right

There is a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. At the same time,  you have to showcase your skill and experience.  For example, saying “Although I don’t have vast experience as a leader, I have led teams in the absence of supervisors”, won’t impress anyone. It is better to say “I have led teams for 10 years in various phases in my organisation and gained [skill X] during each occasion.”

Pick at least 3 of  the qualities mentioned in the job application and briefly refer to them in your cover letter.

Stick to the facts surrounding your achievements. Don’t’ be tempted to show off in your cover letter but this can come across as arrogant which is a real turn-off for employers.

Show Evidence of your Abilities

Pick at least 3 of the qualities mentioned in the job application and briefly refer to them in your cover letter; they should already be listed in your CV. It’s always best to use hard data in terms of facts and figures when necessary. For example, “During my financial executive role in Cork, I was involved in banking contracts ranging from €40 million to €150 million” is better than “I was a financial executive in Australia.”

Discuss the Company

Research the company then mention the aspects of what it does that impresses you the most. If you love its innovation, give an example of how it is leading the field in this department.

Keep it Short

There is no need to go beyond a single A4 page because unless the application is for a managerial/executive position, the recruiter won’t go past page one anyway. Your cover letter should consist of the highlights of your career to date and should be brief. You shouldn’t have more than three paragraphs and each one should get straight to the point.

Send as a PDF

Every computer can open a PDF file without the need for conversion. The last thing you want is to send your cover letter in a file that needs to be converted as the recruiter might just move onto the next person instead.

Personalise (If Possible)

If you’re savvy you’ll perform the necessary research to find out who you’re sending the application to. “Hello Mr. Johnson” is much better than “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” However, there may be occasions when you simply don’t know who will be reading the letter. In this case, it’s better not to address anyone. The only thing worse than a generic opening is addressing the person by the wrong name!

Proofread

How to write a cover letter - proofread

You would be astonished at the number of spelling and grammatical errors contained in the average cover letter. The reader will assume you were too lazy or haphazard to check your own work which almost guarantees rejection. Get a friend or family member to read over it after you’ve proofread it yourself.

Stick to the Point

Hiring managers read dozens of cover letters and the last thing they want is to sift through irrelevant information on a page. Rather than focus on activities and tell the company about your love of bowling, look for ways to align the company’s values with your own.

Cover Letter Template

A classic cover letter should contain 3-4 paragraphs. Try to address a specific person if necessary and then do the following:

  • Opening Paragraph: Outline what you have to offer that is directly relevant to the role. If you begin rambling you will immediately lose the reader. You can also state the position you are applying for and the reasons why you applied. While this is seen as a complete waste of time by some, there’s a chance that the company will be advertising more than one job.
  • Middle Paragraphs: This section should include details on how the skills, experience and education you possess make you an ideal fit for the specific requirements of the job. This is where your research comes in handy; you can include details on the company itself (and why you specifically want to work for them) to show that you have done your homework.
  • Final Paragraph: Conclude by thanking the reader for their consideration and state that you would welcome the opportunity for an interview.

Cover Letter Example

Dear Mr. Jones,

 

I am applying for the available marketing assistant role advertised at www.jobs.ie.

As well as having experience in the marketing field, I graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) with a BA in Marketing. I am now looking to use the knowledge gained so far in my career to further help clients achieve their sales targets and the opening at Acme Business presents me with the ideal opportunity to achieve this goal.

I believe I meet all the criteria needed for the role. In the course of my studies, I learned a great deal about the financial side of running a business including details on setting a budget. I worked as part of a group for a number of projects and feel comfortable as part of a team due to my interpersonal and communication skills.

At Johnson Marketing, I worked for a variety of major international firms and helped them learn crucial details about customer behaviour. As a result, we were able to streamline the marketing campaigns of these clients to reduce costs while increasing ROI. I worked with five different clients during my tenure at Johnson Marketing and all five enjoyed a sales increase of at least 10%.

In addition to this extensive marketing campaign experience, I also have strong administrative, communication, problem solving and time management skills. This broad background makes me an ideal candidate for this position and I believe I will bring flexibility, efficiency, reliability and innovation to your company. Please read the accompanying CV which will provide you with further details of my skill set and academic qualifications.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my application and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind Regards,

Jane Smith

Cover Letter Dont’s

Beginning with your Name

This is unnecessary since your name is already on your CV and other parts of your application. It is a weak opening and you’re already on the back foot. A better way to start your cover letter is to open by stating that you have a qualification relevant to the job opening.

Beginning with “I’m a marketing professional with 15+ years of healthcare industry experience” is far better than “My name is Jane Doe.”

Repeating Your CV

It is a total waste of time and paper to turn your cover letter into another version of your CV.   Remember it actually attached your CV!

Your cover letter is your opportunity to show an interest in the field, curiosity and your  personality.

Always Google the hiring company and don’t be afraid to throw in a historical fact or two related to the company’s past. For example, tech professionals could talk about how thrilling it is to be part of the industry’s transformation and perhaps mention a recent change that altered the field.

Lying

This should be an obvious point and it also applies to your CV. You may think it can improve your chances of landing the role but in reality, it’s very likely your deception will be uncovered. These days, companies take no chances and are extremely thorough when performing background checks.

These days, companies take no chances and are extremely thorough when performing background checks.

All it takes is one ‘white lie’ to be uncovered and your chances of being employed are finished. Worse still, word might get around and other companies will be reluctant to hire you also.

Adding References

References are irrelevant when it comes to cover letters and are a waste of valuable space. From the hiring manager’s point of view, all you’re doing is including the names of people that mean nothing to them.

Trying to Justify Quitting or a Redundancy

The reader of your cover letter is only interested in current information and isn’t too concerned about why you were laid off or even why you quit your last job. In fact, bringing these issues up in your cover letter could set off alarm bells in the mind of the hiring manager. They may believe that you still have unresolved issues and are unable to move forward. The interview is the time and place to discuss these matters.

How to Write a CV

As you probably know, CV stands for Curriculum Vitae.  Bear in mind it is not the story of your life.  Instead, think of it as a sales brochure which is a summary of your experience, skills and education written to convince employers that you are the best choice for their vacancy.

How to write a cv

Top CV Tips

Keep it to 2 A4 Pages

There is no reason to ever go beyond two A4 pages when writing a CV. Remember, hiring managers tend to ‘skim’ the content and have to read a host of applications. If he/she is confronted by a CV spanning several pages, it will end up in the bin.

Your CV is an opportunity to show a company that you tick all the right boxes and the goal is to get an interview. As a result, you have to keep things relatively short and sweet. You can let your personality shine through in your cover letter.

Think of your CV as a sales brochure. The product you are selling is you! 

Ensure it is Error Free

A staggering number of CVs sent to employers have at least one spelling and/or grammatical error. This is cause for immediate rejection.

In other words, meticulous proofreading will immediately increase your chances of being called in for an interview!

Other potential errors to watch out for include providing the wrong contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) and getting the dates in your education and employment history wrong. Double check everything!

Show that you Understand the Job Description

You wouldn’t believe how many people apparently skim the job description only to create a completely unsuitable CV. Always read the job description from start to finish and highlight keywords. Try to find out the aspects of the job you can satisfy and those you can’t.

You don’t need to be a 100% perfect fit in order to have a good chance of getting an interview for the role.

If you find there are a few areas where you’re not strong, compensate by adapting your existing skills. This process will be a lot easier if you have a number of ‘transferable’ skills. By carefully reading the job description, you can avoid wasting time by applying for jobs you have little chance of getting.

Show Your Value

The person reading your CV wants to know if you can do the job and if you are a good fit for the company’s corporate culture. A good CV should answer both these questions conclusively.  and involves making the most of the Skills and Interests sections. Include key skills relevant to the role; they may include Teamworking, Problem Solving and Communication skills.

To do that make the most of the Skills and Interests sections. Include key skills relevant to the role; they may include Teamworking, Problem Solving and Communication skills.

Take a moment to consider how you’ve grown your skills. You don’t necessarily need to have gained them in a working capacity. You may have gained Leadership skills by running a volunteer scheme for example.

When it comes to your Interests, avoid being generic and adding things such as ‘watching TV’. Such hobbies may make you seem unsociable and the reader may even perceive you to be lacking people skills if your interests are all solo endeavours. Add examples where you worked as part of a team. For instance, you may have worked for your college’s newspaper or been involved in a local GAA team.

Make the Most of Your Experience

You should focus on your most recent 2-3 positions unless you have older jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for. When describing your employment history, try and be as specific as possible when listing responsibilities, duties, skills and achievements.

It is always best to include details of how you managed to help your employer. For example, in your role as manager you could outline how you increased productivity by 20% or saved the company money by eliminating inefficient processes. When talking about your experience, you need to forget about showing how amazing you are and concentrate on how you can be a fantastic acquisition for the company.

Keep Your CV Updated

You need to keep your CV updated on a regular basis and add new experience or skills as you achieve them. For example, don’t neglect to add details of a new project you’ve just worked on. Employers are always seeking people who are constantly looking to improve their existing capabilities.

Add References

This is a tricky one. In a lot of cases, you could get away with adding ‘references available upon request’ but in some instances, employers will specifically ask for them.

Try to get your references from past employers as they can back you up when it comes to skills and experience. This is why you should always look to leave your current workplace on good terms.

If you haven’t worked before, use a teacher or a tutor as your reference. Most employers want two references.

Create Your CV for the Search Engines Too

An increasing number of people are applying for jobs through online sites. In this instance, you need to include keywords specific to the industry and the role you’re applying for in order to ensure the search engine picks you out from the crowd.

For example, if you’re applying for a marketing position, you could include terms such as digital marketing and SEO. Go online to find out the keywords best associated with the job title.

Mind that Gap

If there are clear gaps in your CV, employers immediately become suspicious. First of all, don’t try and change the dates of past jobs to make everything ‘fit’ as employers can just ring up past employers and uncover your deception.

A better tactic is to try to ‘reframe’ your absence from the workforce as a positive. An example would be to mention any volunteer work you did and mention that it helped you develop soft skills such as project management and teamwork.

Use Professional Fonts

Good font choices include Times New Roman, Arial or Garamond and size 11 or 12 lettering is ideal. You should also use bold font when starting a new section to separate it from the rest and make it easier to ‘skim’.

CV Template

A typical CV should have the following layout:

  • Contact Information: Include your full name, address, mobile phone number and email address. Don’t include your full home address if you are posting the CV online.
  • Personal Profile: This is a great way to begin a CV as it immediately provides the reader with an outline of why you would be a great fit for the role. A surprising number of CVs don’t have a personal profile so adding one immediately gives you an edge. Include a few skills and achievements relevant to the role and use them to highlight your experience in the field. Keep this section to 200 words or less.
  • Education: Include details of college and secondary school information with the most recent first. Be sure to add any professional qualifications you’ve achieved to date.
  • Skills: Pick at least 5 skills and show how they relate to the job in question.
  • Work Experience: The most recent jobs should be listed first and then you work your way backwards. Don’t include more than 3 or jobs and only include older roles if they are relevant to the job opening. You can also include volunteer work and internships if relevant.

Is There Anything Else?

If you are asked to provide references, include two from past employers. Make sure these people will give you positive feedback!

You can include hobbies if you wish but please ensure they are in some way related to the job opening. While learning a spare language in your free time may be seen as useful by an employer, spending hours watching the latest TV shows does little for your chances of getting an interview!

You should also leave the following information out of your CV:

  • Date of Birth: Legally employers can’t discriminate on age so you don’t need to include your date of birth on your CV
  • Place of Birth: There is no need to provide this unnecessary information .
  • A Photo: CVs with photos are more common in the US but less so in Europe so there is no need to include one.

CV Sample

There are different CV types but the sample below relates to a ‘traditional’ CV.

Jane Smith

14 Lighthouse Lane, Lucan, Dublin

Mobile: xxx xxxxxx               name@email.com

 

Personal Statement

A Marketing graduate from University College Dublin (UCD). Possesses the skills and knowledge essential for managing an organisation’s key areas along with the problem solving skills necessary in the field. Looking for a post in marketing where I can use my communication and sales skills.

Education

2010 – 2013: Dublin City University

BA (Hons) Marketing 2:1

Modules included:

  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Human Resource Management

Completed two dissertations in the final year including one on the immediate impact of the global financial crisis on marketing strategies.

2006-2010:  St William’s Secondary School, Dublin

Leaving Certificate Honours: Mathematics, English, History, Physics, Business Studies, Irish and Accounting.

 

Work Experience

Feb 2014 – Aug 2016:           Market Researcher, Johnson Marketing, Dublin

This role involved helping clients make effective decisions about their products by researching and analysing customer opinion data. Worked as part of a team that determined what our clients’ target audience wanted, why people chose the brand and why they purchase certain products.

Also worked in a number of high profile projects for clients such as Tyrell, Jones and Mitchells. Was a member of teams that identified the needs of clients’ target audiences and increased sales revenue. Jones saw an 20% increase in profits in first 6 months after we gave them our findings.

June 2012 – Jan 2014:          Retail Assistant, Marks & Spencer, Dublin

This role involved working the tills and taking deliveries. Worked as part of a team that was entrusted with reducing queuing times and increasing customer satisfaction levels. Was chosen to count the till receipts and open and close the shop on a regular basis.

Oct 2010 – May 2012:           Ladieswear Advisor, Primark, Dublin

Supported the store in delivering outstanding customer service, successfully promoted products and helped customers choose purchases by offering 1-on-1 advice in a friendly manner. Helped customers to further understand the features and benefits of the clothing on offer.

 

Key Skills

  • Interpersonal: Ability to develop good working relationships with people of all backgrounds while encouraging development of colleagues in order to achieve specified team goals.
  • Innovation: Uses a methodical and detailed thought process to resolve in-depth queries with the aim of finding efficient, safe and appropriate resolutions.
  • Initiative: Resourceful, energetic and results-driven. Keen self-starter who enjoys taking ownership of her work to ensure the expectations of colleagues and customers are managed.
  • Communication: Experience dealing with internal and external customers via telephone and email and has the ability to actively listen and ask probing questions to discover a solution.
  • Flexibility: Versatile, adaptable, and multi-skilled. Has a penchant for forward planning with long-term targets in mind.

Additional Achievements & Interests

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office packages including Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
  • Experienced in social media content marketing.
  • Volunteered at Johnston’s Conservation Club 2012-2015
  • Enjoys reading business articles in a bid to learn more about marketing techniques and increasing customer satisfaction.

References

Mr. Paul O’Shea                                                                    Mrs. Kate Brady

Manager                                                                                  Assistant Manager

Johnson Marketing                                                                Marks & Spencer, Dublin

 

Tel: 086543210                                                                      Tel: 0876543221

Email: poshea1999@email.com                                          Email: kbrady8765@email.com

Download CV Templates

cv_template_image

New Job CV Template

If you are thinking of looking for a new job then this is the CV template for you.

This CV focuses on your achievements and work history so this is the  best CV to use if you are going a job in a new company or looking for a promotion with your current employer.

cv_template_image

First Job / Graduate CV Template

If you have just left school or have graduated from college then this is the CV for you.

In this CV you need to focus on your skills, training and enthusiasm. Remember, if you are applying for a junior or graduate role most employers won’t expect a huge amount of work experience.

CV Types

There are several different types of CV and you’ll need to create the one that bests suits your skills, education and situation.

Traditional

This is also known as a chronological CV and it is designed to match your work experience and qualifications with the job’s requirements. It should be written in reverse chronological order with your most recent education and work experience added first.

With this CV you can offer clear details of your work history, responsibilities and qualifications which match the job description criteria.

Skills Based

This is sometimes called a ‘functional’ CV and is a good choice if you wish to cover some gaps in your employment history. It’s also useful if your degree doesn’t match the job opening or if you don’t have much experience.

With this CV type, you can show employers your ‘transferable’ skills. These are skills which work in a variety of settings. When creating a Skills Based CV, be sure to match the skills with the job opening and show evidence of how you’ve used these skills in a real world situation.

Technical

This type of CV is primarily for IT jobs such as IT consultant, applications developer or web developer. You should open with a paragraph that outlines your technical skills and experience and add in a Key Skills section which enables you to go into more detail.

Make sure you highlight relevant skills and remember, the document will be read by non-technical people so keep jargon to a minimum. Focus on your problem solving abilities, communication skills and ability to maintain software applications while designing new ones.

CV Don’ts

Lying

Lying on your CV may seem like a good idea at the time but it will only end badly. Even a minor lie will torpedo your chances of landing a job and it will probably kill your chances of landing a job in the industry if word gets out. If you were to lie and claim you achieved a higher grade with your university degree, it could be seen as ‘fraud’ and you could be classified as a criminal in extreme cases!

You may think you’ll get away with it but the past has a habit of catching up with you. For instance, you might get the job despite your lie only for it to be discovered later on. Then you face the prospect of being fired! A more likely scenario is that you get asked questions you can’t answer at the interview.

Use Lengthy Sentences

Sentences and paragraphs in your CV must be kept short and to the point. Even if you have the ability to write like Shakespeare, your CV is NOT the place to showcase your talent for flowery prose.

A better method is to write almost in a news headline style. An ‘action-result’ format usually works well in a CV. For instance, you could say something like “Cut 20% off company’s budget plan by eliminating inefficiencies.”

 Employers hire people who get things done. Don’t tell them your responsibilities,   tell them what you achieved.

Not Minding Your Language

Make sure your CV isn’t bogged down by dull language. If you want to send a HR manager to sleep include phrases such as “my duties included” and “I am applying for.” You need to use action verbs at the start of your sentences such as “transformed.”

However, you must avoid going too far in the other direction by filling your CV with vague phrases. You might think you’re an “innovative problem solver” but can you prove it? Don’t include things you can’t back up with concrete examples.

Many interviewers use a candidate’s CV as a jumping off point for their interview questions so only include examples and statements in your CV that you are happy and confident to talk about.

Bad Formatting

Since recruiters spend approximately 8 seconds skimming every CV they receive, you need to ensure yours is easy to read. Your CV should be  concise and well-formatted so it can be absorbed quickly. A typical mistake is to use too many fonts or font sizes rather than sticking to the tried and trusted fonts we outlined above.

Not Selling Achievements

Always look to highlight relevant successes as this shows employers that you’re someone who gets results. A lot of people tend to shy away from this process as they think it makes them come across as arrogant. In reality, selling your achievements in the right way will likely send you hurtling to the top of the queue.

Of course, you have to understand what is important to the business you want to join. For businesses, the best achievements to mention are decreasing costs, increasing revenue and streamlining processes.

Undervaluing experience

Although you have to trim down your experience, leaving out relevant information from more humble roles can be a mistake. For example, you might not mention that you were the leader of a club in college. If the club achieved something under your leadership, it is well worth mentioning. Even working part time in a bar in university can show your ability to effectively balance work and study.

Too much detail

Day-to-day details of previous jobs are unnecessary and often dull. For example, don’t include details of your duties in a bar during summer as they are fairly easy to guess. Instead, concentrate on whether you were trusted to take payments and how many customers you had to serve per shift.

No evidence

It isn’t enough to say ‘Profits increased’. You have to specify the level of profit and make sure it is accurate! This means saying something like “Profits increased by 15% over a 9 month period once we implemented the changes.”

Tailoring Your CV & Cover Letter For Each Application

Hiring managers can receive up to 100 applications for a job so they’re well-versed in the art of uncovering generic cover letters and CVs. Do this and your application will end up in the nearest bin.

Use a template to make sure your format and layout is correct but tailor the content so it meets the criteria for every single position you apply for even if the basics are the same.

Tailor Made CVs

When it comes to tailoring your CV to suit a specific role, here are a few things to consider:

  • Reading the Job Description: Think about what the words in the description actually mean when it comes to your day-to-day role and look at ways to make your CV ‘fit’. This can help you show that you have what it takes to handle these responsibilities.
  • Terminology: It is okay to add a technical term or two in your CV when appropriate but don’t get bogged down with jargon. For the most part, use ‘everyday’ language and throw in an applicable term just to show that you understand the industry.
  • Company Culture: Your research into the company should help uncover its culture. For example, if it is a ‘work hard, play hard’ type environment, you can tailor your Interests section to show how you would fit into such a culture.
  • Skills: In your Skills section, use adjectives similar to those you see in the job description. Obviously, you have to be a little creative or else it will be obvious that you blatantly copied the company.

Tailor Made Cover Letter

Since a good cover letter involves thinking deeply about the role you’re applying for, it takes a lot of time and effort. If you don’t bother writing one or come up with a generic version, the reader will assume you’re simply too lazy to make the effort and are clearly not worth considering. Here are a few quick tips on tailored cover letters:

  • Make it Memorable: The reader should be able to remember key things about you by the end of the letter.
  • Personalise: Take the time to find out who will read the letter and address it to that individual specifically.
  • Show Your Interest: Outline why you’re interested in the job and the company. Reference some of the company’s recent projects to show that you’ve done your homework.
  • Provide Evidence of your Skills: Explain why you’re the best candidate without repeating the CV’s content. Use examples to demonstrate why you’re the right choice for that particular firm.
  • End Strongly: Reiterate your enthusiasm for the job and the company and say that you’ll provide any further information they need.

Conclusion

If you adopt a common sense approach and tailor your CV and cover letter to the specific needs of the employer, you have an excellent chance of being called in for an interview.

Remember, companies aren’t that interested in how good you say you are, they want to know why you are the best pick for them.

Show the company that you’re the ideal choice and they’ll have no choice but to interview you to find out for themselves.