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How to write a successful CV and Cover Letter

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On the 8th October I took part in the Guardian Careers live discussion on CV and Cover Letter writing and came across some interesting and relevant questions that I have included in the article below along with my answers. I hope these will assist you in crafting an effective and successful CV and Cover Letter. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask in the Comments section below.

Q: I did a short stint of seven weeks at my local Citizens Advice Bureau in 2010 to brush up on my office skills. I am now pursuing vacancies in admin roles, i.e. general office-based posts. At CAB I answered general queries by phone dealing with clients aged 60 or over and those with disabilities. I also set up various cases on the database, took messages and other office tasks etc.How can I tailor this experience on my CV?

A: This is very good experience if you are aiming to pursue a career in admin. Answering the queries on the phone, updating databases, using computer skills, dealing with various people across organisations including your own – are all great examples of your administrative and organisational abilities and skills. So I would suggest including all the above under your CAB experience with a bullet point for each. Good luck!

Q: Is a CV and covering letter as important as work experience? What’s the best way to get into employment for graduates?

A: CV and Cover Letter are the documents that reflect and explain to others your work experience. As a graduate you should be able to demonstrate your excellent academic credentials along with some work experience/internships/voluntary engagements you may have undertaken parallel to your degree. Work experience is becoming more and more important for employers when they screen potential candidates for graduate full-time positions. Hope this helps.

Q: I struggle with writing a competency based CV. Do I need to provide examples packed with key words?

A: Competency-based CVs are quite tricky as yes, you will need to provide some evidence for the statements you have made. For example, if you are claiming your have outstanding maths and analytical abilities, you will need to provide some evidence from your education or employment supporting this claim. Concentrate on facts, figures, improvements you have made to an organisation. Packing with keywords in not necessary – as long as you include the main words from the job description along with good examples, it should suffice.

Q: I am a MA graduate applying for EA roles within the media industry. Most job descriptions found on job sites are very vague and do not include what company is hiring. How do I make my CV and cover letter stand out, when I cannot research the company before submitting my application?

A: I hear this question again and again from my clients. This is precisely the reason why you should always aim to contact the companies direct and check for vacancies on the companies’ websites in the first instance. In many cases, they prefer to recruit direct not through agencies as it avoids them a lot of cost and risk and this is why more and more companies are moving their recruitment in-house. So prepare a shortlist of media companies and then visit their websites and select the openings of most interest.

Q: This is a pretty minor issue but when it comes to cover letters, is it OK to send the cover letter part of the application as an email, and attach the CV to that email? As opposed to an email with 2 attachments (cover letter + CV).

A: All depends on the job and the requirements. If it says nothing on the job description, then it is safer to attach CV and letter as separate documents and it generally looks more professional. Some jobs ask for the letter to be included in the body of an email – in this case go ahead and do that. Good luck

 

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