Writing your CV and covering letters
Your CV, or Curriculum Vitae, and your covering letter are very important ‘sales tools’. It tells an employer what you have done and what you are good at. Here are some guidelines for you to follow.
Writing your CV
Your CV has one role – to get you an interview. So you only need a short summary to say who you are and what skills, experience, training and qualifications you have.
There are lots of different ways to write a CV and there’s no right or wrong way. Start with a basic format and adapt it to show your skills in the best light. There are 2 samples provided here in rich text format that you can download to guide you and a link to Careers New Zealand who can help you create a CV online.
Here are a few simple guidelines:
- keep it short (1-4 pages)
- put your best skills first
- use simple language and short sentences
- be positive and enthusiastic
- don’t staple lots of things to it
- make it look good – and always type it
- check your spelling and grammar (get someone else to check it too).
Make several copies. Don’t attach original certificates and references or send them to an employer – they could get lost (just take them along in a separate folder when you have an interview). Always take a copy of your CV when you visit an employer.
Write your career objective
Try writing a short career objective for a couple of different jobs. It should state your goal and the skills that make you suitable.
For example ‘I’m looking for a career, preferably outdoors, where I can develop my skills. I’m hardworking, strong, versatile and in good health.’
What should my CV say?
Here are the main things you need to include:
- Personal details.
Give your full name, and an address and phone number where the employer can contact you. Age and family details are optional.
- Career or personal objective.
Say what you want to achieve in your working future. This helps the employer relate your skills to the job.
- Work experience.
List the jobs you’ve had, starting with the most recent and working backwards. Give the job title, the employer’s name, the date you started and finished, and a brief description.
- Skills and abilities.
List your work-related skills and abilities. Some of these might be skills you learnt outside work. So include unpaid, community or family work and say how these skills might suit the job you are applying for.
- Education and training.
Include your schooling and other training. Give details of technical and trade certificates, and any study or courses you’ve done (even if you haven’t completed them).
- Other things.
Give brief details of your hobbies and interests. Include anything else you think is important such as driver’s licence or your state of health.
Include at least 2 people who can talk about how well you’ve worked in the past. Give their name, position, and phone number. But check with them first. Let them know they may be contacted and ask what they will say about you.
Issues with work history?
An employer looks at your work history to see if you are suitable. If you don’t have specific experience in the job, highlight relevant skills and include your other experience (it doesn’t have to be paid work to count). If you have a gap in your work history, include a short sentence to say what you did and the skills you developed during that time. You don’t have to say in your CV why a job ended. But if you’ve had lots of jobs, have been out of work for a while, or have gaps in your work history, you may be asked about it and should have a brief explanation ready.
Cover letter tips
- Always send a cover letter as part of any job application.
- Be neat and tidy: type your letter on unmarked, white A4 paper.
- Keep it concise: ideally just one page.
- Attention to detail: ensure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes (especially the correct job title and name of who you are writing to).
- Make sure you include your contact phone and address details.
- Be professional, positive and confident.
- Bullet points are great to describe your key skills / achievements but remember you are writing a formal letter. Most of your letter should be written in full sentences and split into relevant paragraphs.
What to say
- Include where you saw the job advertised and the vacancy reference number if applicable.
- Describe why you are interested in this job.
- Include highlights or key achievements from your background but remember you don’t need to repeat lists of responsibilities from your CV.
- Make it relevant to the job you’re applying for: you need to show how your skills, experience, and qualifications match what they are looking for. (Refer back to their job advertisement or job description).
- Don’t forget that any skills gained through education, training, work experience, voluntary work and/or community activities might also be relevant.
- Cover off any other details as applicable: for example, your willingness to relocate if you live in a different town from where the job is based.
- Confirm you would appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed. Say if you are going to be unavailable during the likely interview process timeframe.
[Acknowledged source: Careers New Zealand]
Below is an example of a covering letter which you can download and use and a link to Careers New Zealand covering letter templates.