Writing a CV and cover letter
Your Curriculum Vitae, or CV, is very important. It tells an employer what you’ve done and what you’re good at. The aim of your CV is to get you an interview.
There are lots of different ways to write a CV. Start with a basic format and adapt it to show your skills in the best light.
There are two examples on the next pages. They contain information you need to include, and also some detail you may choose to tell the employer.
Make several copies of your CV so you’ve got them on hand for visiting employers and when you come across people who can help you get a job.
Issues with work history?
An employer looks at your history to see if you’re suitable. If you don’t have specific experience in the job, highlight relevant skills and experience. 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, be prepared to explain these things in an interview.
If you’re worried about how to deal with any issues, talk with us – we may be able to help.
- Keep it short (one to four pages).
- Put your best skills first, or those that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Use simple language and short sentences.
- Be positive and enthusiastic.
- You don’t need to attach certificates – just list your qualifications in your CV and make sure you’ve got the documents handy to take to an interview.
- Make it look good – no handwriting.
- Check your spelling and grammar (get someone else to check it too).
Two main ways to set out your CV
1. Skills-focussed CV
This example shows a skills-focussed CV. It matches your skills to the job you’re applying for. It lists your skills (both work and non-work) and then gives details of your experience and education. This approach helps if you’re applying for a different type of job than you’ve had previously, or you have gaps in your work history. It probably means you’ll need to change the CV for each application so it’s a good match for the vacancy.
2. Work-focussed CV
This is a work-focussed CV. It records your jobs and training. This is a general CV and can be used for a range of positions. With this CV you show experience first and give details of work tasks. It’s good to have this type of CV when your work history matches the type of job you’re seeking.
Writing a cover letter
Always send a cover letter with your CV.
This applies if you’re:
- applying for a job
- following up on a job lead or making contact with a potential employer.
Your letter will probably be the first thing the employer sees, and they may decide whether to read your CV based on it. Write a tailored cover letter for each role or job lead outlining why you’re suited to that particular position.
Two templates follow. One is written for an advertised job. The other is written to follow up a job lead.
- Be neat and tidy: if you’re sending a hard copy of your CV, print your letter on unmarked, white A4 paper.
- Keep it short: ideally just one page.
- Check your spelling and grammar and make sure you’ve got the correct job title and name spelling for the person you’re writing to.
- Be professional, positive and confident.
- Most of your letter should be in full sentences and split into paragraphs. You may wish to use bullet points to list key skills and achievements.