First impressions do really count: Follow these tips for your CV & Covering Letter

Filling out a job application can be a nerve-wracking process. The quality of a cover letter and a CV determine an applicant’s ability to stand out from other applicants, so much care should go into crafting application materials the right way. Whether you are applying for your first job or your tenth, you need exceptional documents that will land you an interview! Here are four tips to polish your cover letter and CV:

1. Track ALL of Your Work

Writing a cover letter, CV and/or resume is simplified when you already have all the information you need at hand. The Balance Careers suggests keeping a log of all of your important work accomplishments, skills, and changes. This can be done in a spreadsheet or a word processing programme and updated regularly.

What should you track? Keep a tab on your accomplishments, such as awards or promotions received, any evaluation feedback, evidence of project or people management, tasks you do on a daily basis, new skills you have acquired (think courses and workshops!), and any work-related accomplishments. You should also keep a careful log of all of your jobs’ start and end dates, the company’s address and contact information, and contact information of your former supervisors. This will make it easier to provide fill out job application forms and to provide referee information when requested.

Speaking of references, it is wise to keep a list of potential referees along with their contact information. Most jobs will require you to list your current supervisor as a reference, but you should list more than one reference in your application if it’s required at this point in the application process. If references are required after the interview stage, the provide them at that point.

Another important component to track is your compensation and benefits at each job. By tracking this information, you are in a better position to negotiate a salary and compensation at your next job. Still a student or a recent graduate? Record all of your academic and student job information, including your daily tasks, accomplishments, academic awards, workshops or relevant courses taken, and other important information.

2. Draft a master CV from where you can customise applications to different positions

Your master CV is a polished document informed by the information you have updated in your career log. CVs, unlike resumes, are chronological documents that record your complete career trajectory: they document your overall credentials to do a job in a specific field.

CVs include name, contact information, skills, education, and professional experience. They can also include professional associations, certifications and training, grants, and professional licences. Start your CV with a professional profile or summary that explains your competencies and experience. Next, write your education section, which will include A-levels taken. In your next section you will detail your career trajectory by including your jobs in chronological order. Remember to write you daily activities and accomplishments in your master CV so you can use them as appropriate in a customised CV. Use bullet points to describe your skills, including languages spoken and computer software you know how to use. Your CV should also include details of your professional affiliations or memberships, additional training, and, in some cases, personal interests.

From this master CV you are able to customise your CV to each job you apply for.

3. Customise your cover letter

In a similar manner, you should customise the cover letter to be sent with each job application. If you are unsure how to start a cover letter, you can use a template available on the internet.

Then, use your career log and the person specification in the job advertisement to draft each cover letter. Managers expect to see cover letters that address which specific skills listed in the CV are relevant to the position, how your past experience relates to the job description, and what personal value you bring to the company. In short, a cover letter is a document that contextualises the information found in a CV, showing why a candidate is a great fit for a position.

Your cover letter has to express why you are interested in a particular position and how you learned about the position in the first place. If someone referred you to a job, mention this person in the first paragraph of the letter.

In the next paragraph, give examples that demonstrate your capacity for doing the job. Here, you can draw from your job experience and anecdotes to compose a narrative that will position you as an ideal candidate for the job.

Close the letter reiterating your interest in the position, thanking the hiring manager for their consideration.

4. Double-check your information if you fill out a job application

Most companies will require job seekers to fill applications through an automated online HR system. In many cases, these applications require you to upload your CV and cover letter and then input the same information into individualised fields. In other cases, the system will extract information from your uploaded documents to automatically populate each required field. If the online system automatically fills out the fields for you, it often does so with some minor errors. How do you avoid this?

  • Double-check every field to make sure that the information was extracted correctly.
  • Check your fields for formatting issues. In most cases, the information is extracted from your documents without transferring the original document formatting. You’ll have to re-format the information in each field.
  • Upload a PDF version of your document instead of a .doc because this will guarantee that your original formatting, layout, and fonts will be preserved.

These tips will help you organize and execute a successful job application process. The more effort you put into preparing yourself before you start applying for jobs, the easier the application process will be!

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