The ABCs of writing the right cover letter and CV
29 September 2015
Author: Padraig O’Connor, a qualified coach and psychometric tester, and member of the Association for Coaching, and registered with the British Psychological Society, is based in Athlone, Co Westmeath
Recently I (http://www.coachyourgoal.com/) have being helping a lot of my clients with their CV and cover letter. While advancements in technology have afforded us the opportunity to access vast amounts of information, information without knowledge can lead to confusion and frustration. The following tips are the cornerstones when writing a CV and cover letter. – and they also happen to be the areas my clients struggle with most.
Clients who have a substantial career track record will often struggle to keep their CV concise and focused. Potential employers and recruiters should not receive a CV of more than two pages. To help you with this, consider the following:
- For each role only describe the key responsibilities and achievements, keeping it to about two key achievements and four key responsibilities.
- Rather than using the ‘conventional’ chronological layout use the less common ‘functional’ CV where you describe responsibilities and achievements under area’s of expertise.
- Leave out detail on roles you fulfilled that are not relevant to the job you are applying for.
And the Oscar goes to…
My clients can quite easily describe day-to-day responsibilities, but often struggle when asked to think about achievements and how their actions positively impacted an organisation or situation. It is crucial a CV contains your achievements as this gives potential employers some insight into your past performance. To help you with this try the following:
- As you review your skills and job duties one-by-one ask yourself what positive difference you made to your employer while you were performing that particular activity;
- Another way to look at it, identity a situation you were presented with or problem you encountered, and ask yourself what action did you take? What was the positive outcome? This is better known as the STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result). There are plenty of examples if you search for them on the web;
- Remember achievements don’t need to be earth shattering. They just need to reflect the positive contributions you made to a company.
One size does not fit all
A CV must be tailored to each job you apply for. This is necessary because the job description for the role will dictate what skills, experience and achievements you need to put more emphasis on. To help you with this you can consider the following approach :
- Develop a ‘Master CV’ that contains detail in equal measure describing your skills, experience, achievements, education and so on. This CV is likely to be a longer than two pages.
- Make a separate copy of the ‘Master CV’ for each job you apply for.
- Based on the job description edit it so relevant information has sufficient detail and other information not so relevant is summarised or if necessary removed, keeping it all within two pages.
A cover letter is not a CV
I came across a great quote that clearly states the difference between a cover letter and a CV.
“The CV focuses on you and the past. The cover letter focuses on the employer and the future. Tell the hiring professional what you can do to benefit the organization in the future. (12)”
When writing a cover letter you can employ the structure described below.
- State how you have become aware of the position and that you wish to apply. Say why you’re attracted to the role/company – What is it about the company you admire? It can be a product or something they do or represent.
- Summarise your employment experience stating one or two achievements – all targeted towards the position on offer.
- Say why you’re a good fit for the company –Highlight some of your skills you feel you can bring to the role.
- End with an invitation.
And the things to avoid
- Don’t misrepresent or put a positive spin on your skills, experience or achievements. Say it like it is;
- At the same time the cover letter must not come across as negative or pessimistic;
- Don’t fall into the trap of repeating all of whats on your CV. Stick to the structure outlined above.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to writing excellent CVs and cover letters that will grab an employer’s or recruiter’s attention.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/09/29/the-abcs-of-writing-the-right-cover-letter-and-cv/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/right-cover-letter-8.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/right-cover-letter-8.pngBioeducation,training