Two documents are critical to your success in catching the attention of a possible employer:
- A letter indicating your interest in the position - The Cover Letter and
- A copy of your CV - created or modified for the particular position
Your CV is an important document. It is basically a summary of your personal details, educational qualifications and work experience. It should also include your key skills and other relevant information together with the names of 2 people who will provide a reference for you.
Personal details - Name, address, contact number and email address. Provide contact details where correspondence will reach you promptly. Make sure you have a genuine and professional-sounding email address.
Educational qualifications - Presented in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Provide grades (or expected grades) and dates.
Employment or work experience - List most recent first. Include paid work and unpaid internships. State what you achieved and learned through the work, not just the tasks you carried out. Write with your career goals in mind.
Additional information - This could include skills, interests and achievements. Include anything that will highlight your employability and make you stand out.
Referees Names of referees and contact details (check with them first). At graduate level this will usually be one academic and one employer or personal referee. (Actual references are never included on or with CVs. It is also acceptable to say 'References available on request'.
Personal statement / Career aim - a short (usually one-sentence) summary of your experience and aspirations. It can be helpful when you want to highlight your suitability for a particular job or sector. It is useful when sending a speculative job application and is typically included at the beginning of your CV.
Used well, it can help you stand out. Unfortunately, it is often not used well and can sound phoney if you're not careful - Only include a personal statement if you are sure that you can be specific, avoid cliches and add value. Ensure that there is evidence elsewhere in your CV to support any claims you are making.
Personal statements can be useful where are sending speculative applications - the recruiter can see at a glance who you are and what exactly you are looking for. [Examples]
Use it carefully!
- You are not expected to include age or date of birth.
- You don't need to include the word 'Curriculum Vitae or 'CV'
CV Styles and Formats
There are different formats of CV. Check out examples of CVs but never copy a CV template exactly - employers will be able tell. Sample CVs can be useful to get you started, but always take the time to adapt it to the particular job for which you are applying and to your own circumstances.
A graduate CV is typically fairly short - keep it to one A4 page, maximum two pages.
There are three main ways to present the information in your CV, depending on whether you want to promote your experience, your skills, or a combination of the two.
- Chronological CV
- Skills-based CV
- Combination CV
In each case, your name and contact details shoul appear at the top.
A Chronological CV is the traditional and most common type. It is the most relevant style of CV if you have worked previously or have a lot of work experience. This model presents information in date order under the headings 'Education' and 'Employment' (or 'Work experience'):
- List your education first (in reverse chronological order).
- Add your work experience and employment history. Start with your present or most recent job and work backwards. For past roles, start each bullet with an action verb i.e. "Created", "Managed", "Increased", "Improved" etc., rather than "I created" or "I managed".
- Include a 'Further information' section at the end.
A Skills-based CV is useful at graduate level where you may not have a lot of work experience, so instead you wnat to focus on your skillset.
- Arrange your key skills under three to five headings i.e. ‘Communication skills’ and ‘Teamwork’ etc. and write about your relevant experience and accomplishments under each skill heading.
- Add a brief paragraph listing your work experience (provide dates, employer name and job titles only).
- Include education details in a separate section after these
A Combination CV combines elements of the chronological and skills-based CV, and can be useful if you want to highlight past employers as well as your personal qualities.
Different types of CV to above may be required in certain situations e.g.:
- Academic jobs tend to require longer CVs and include additional sections such as teaching experience and publications.
- Convention in the USA is to provide a 'resumé' which should be just one page long.
- The UK typically follow the same format required by Irish employers.
1. Keep it short and concise
If you can fit your whole relevant career experience into two pages, it not only shows focus, but a willingness to condense data into short useful bites. The majority of employers looking to fill business positions will really appreciate this. Bullet points are useful in these situations.
2. Don’t sell yourself short but keep it short
Many people take for granted the skills they have and presume employers will assume they have them too. If you know your way around Microsoft Office or you’re good at a skill which an employer needs, then state that. If you don’t state something clearly, we will presume you are being vague for a reason. Tell us who you are and tell us how you can help us. Don’t leave it up to an employer to dissect your CV.
3. Tell an employer what they want to hear
So you just graduated college with that important degree for the job you always wanted. Unfortunately, so did a couple of hundred other people. How do you stand out? Don’t just tell them you have a degree, tell them how your experience and knowledge of that degree can help them. Are you good with computers or with filing or typing? Don’t just state that on a CV, tell an employer how it can help them. Make them need something they didn't think they needed before.
4. Consider adding a personal statement to your CV
Most people don’t think of including one. As a rule of thumb it can really help your chances of securing employment. Movies have trailers that make you want to go see it. A CV acts in the same way, a taster of what you’re worth. Sell yourself in 2-3 lines so that an employer will want to read more of your CV.
5. Know the job you are applying for
Try and learn as much as you can about the place you are applying to. Some of this information can go into your CV in a subtle way to show that you are aware of the needs of the position. Spot anything the business does which you think you could improve upon - Do you think you could be an asset to them? If so, tell them how in your CV. This why copy and pasted CVs frequently find themselves on the rejection pile! Employers can get annoyed at the fact that you are not sufficiently interested in the position advertised to do a bit of research.
Last but not least ...
Spelling and punctuation must be perfect! After you proofread it yourself, have a friend check it over for readability and any errors that you may have missed.