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Applications, CVs and covering letters / 1

Applications, CVs and covering letters

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Contents Curriculum Vitae (CVs) – What is a CV? – Why do you need a CV? – Types of CV – Tips for compiling your CV – Format – Sections of your CV – Personal profile – Commercial awareness

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Covering Letters 12 – What is a covering letter? 12 – How does a covering letter differ from a CV? 12 – Format, style and content 12-13 – Emails 13 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Forms and online applications 14 – Competency based questions 14 – Personal statement 15 – Demonstrating attributes employers want 16 – Action words and phrases 20

Authors: Careers Service Staff © University of East Anglia, 2014 Visit UEACareerCentral @UEACareers Version 1.0

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Stand out

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‘Our new online Careers Resources – available now – provide useful tools and advice to help build your future. MyCareerCentral is launching to students in Spring/ Summer 2014 and provides a single access point for careers services and information, including appointments, vacancies, events and resources.’ James Goodwin, Joint Head of Careers

New online careers resources – View hundreds of employers giving advice and tutorials on CVs, applications, interviews, career paths and much more. --------------------------------------------------------------------

– Search for jobs internationally or for companies and contacts by sector. --------------------------------------------------------------------

– Use interactive tools to help you build your CV, practice interviews, track your progress, complete cover letters and application forms. --------------------------------------------------------------------

– Take mock psychometric tests and assessment centres. With self-development modules you can also analyse your skills and develop your own career plan.

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What is a CV? A CV is your unique marketing tool – your personal document that demonstrates to employers why they should interview you. It is a summary of your experience and skills to date which highlights your strengths and suitability for a particular job or employer.

Why do you need a CV? A CV, accompanied by a covering letter or email is needed for: – Job, work experience placement or further study applications. – For speculative job or work experience applications. – For posting onto job and recruitment agency websites. – For careers fairs, recruitment events and other networking opportunities. TYPES OF CV Chronological Stating the most recent information first, this CV lists details of your education, experience and other activities in reverse chronological order. Skills-based Places an emphasis on the particular skills needed for a job by using a different sub-heading for each skill. This approach can be useful if you have gaps in your work or education history.

Academic The emphasis is placed on academic qualifications, research interests and experience. It is common to produce an appendix page with a list of publications, conferences attended and papers presented. Contact CareerCentral for specialist advice from our Postgraduate Careers Advisers.

DID YOU KNOW? In 2014, there are over 11,800 paid work experience programmes for students amongst the UK’s leading graduate employers

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Build the right CV Position the information that will get you the job on the first page of your CV, not the last - they may not read that far.

Tips for compiling your CV – Research the employer and post, for each application, tailoring your CV to match. – Identify competencies they value, particularly if listed in the job advert. – Keep your objectives clear: what are you trying to say? Who are you saying it to? Why should they be interested in you? – Be creative, especially if the role requires it. – Compile a reference CV containing all your experience and skills. From this choose the relevant information for each application. – Look out for future CV and application workshops. Pick up a copy of our event calendar from CareerCentral. FORMAT Length, layout and style – Use no more than two sides of A4 unless applying for an academic post or you have considerable relevant employment experience. – Arrange all sections in reverse chronological order, most recent first.

– Use clear headings. –U  se consistent, legible fonts (smallest size 10pt) and format throughout. –A  void providing a photograph, unless asked to do so. –G  ood spelling and grammar is essential. Get someone to check it before sending, then check it again. Content In short statements, use concise and positive language to give essential information about what you have personally done, and the skills you have developed. The acronym CARL can help you (see p15). Context Give evidence to back up your claims by using examples. Avoid general statements like ‘a good communicator’ – employers want to know how you gained these skills and when you have used them. Begin sentences with action verbs like ‘demonstrated’ or ‘initiated’ (see p.20) and avoid jargon, explaining any abbreviations.

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Health issues or disabilities are normally disclosed on a separate form.

Sections of your CV Include your personal details, education, experience, skills, interests, achievements and references. Personal details – Ensure that your name stands out by making it the main header rather than the word curriculum vitae. – Use up-to-date, reliable contact details including a sensible email address, phone, mobile, and both term-time and home addresses. Include your LinkedIn profile if you have one. – Recent age discrimination legislation means you do not have to provide your date of birth. – Marital status is best excluded from a CV. – Nationality is optional.

Education and qualifications –E  mployers are unlikely to know
 what your course has involved. List relevant units taken, dissertation title and subject, notable skills developed (e.g. presentations, research skills), year abroad and project placements. –L  ist A-level subjects and grades (or equivalent). –G  CSEs or equivalent can be listed horizontally to avoid using too much space. Group them by grade, starting with the highest. Contact CareerCentral for an onthe-day quick query appointment to get feedback on your CV.

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Prioritise your information to grab the recruiter’s attention to motivate them to interview you.

Employment, work experience and voluntary work Graduates often begin a CV with their education. However, it is your wider experience, and what you make of it, that is more likely to set you apart. Begin listing your work experience on the first page. Work experience includes paid work, internships and placements, part-time jobs and voluntary work.

Additional skills Incorporate a section that lists additional useful skills, such as knowledge of computer software and languages. Interests and achievements Try to make your interests sound unique. Include what feels relevant such as voluntary and community work, membership of professional organisations, positions of responsibility, music, arts and sport.

‘What was your job title? What were your responsibilities? What skills have you developed as a result of your work experience? Were there any notable achievements? The employer will not know any of this unless you tell them.’ Rachel Rose, Careers Adviser, Science

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 ive your referees a copy of your CV and application so they have G positive information to refer to when they’re writing your reference.

Referees – Name two contacts: one academic and one work related. – Will your referee remember you? Always ask their permission beforehand. – Avoid using personal referees, such as friends or friends of the family. – For speculative applications, use: ‘References available on request’. For feedback on your covering letter contact CareerCentral and get an on-the-day quick query appointment.

Personal profile Also known as a ‘career aim’ or ‘profile’ this is a short summary of what you have to offer which appears near the top of your CV. This gives the employer a positive first impression of your CV by appearing professional and focused. For example: ‘A motivated management graduate with proven analytical abilities and excellent communication skills seeking work in an IT environment. Experience includes placements within the communications and retail sectors, and advancement to a management role within a part-time job during undergraduate study.’

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‘Keep personal profiles punchy and positive. Refer to relevant experience.’ Adrienne Jolly, Careers Adviser, Humanities

Commercial awareness Impress an employer by learning the language they speak in their sector. – What are the ‘buzzwords’ in their field? – Are there any technical terms or acronyms for systems or training that you should know? – What are their current projects? If you are concerned about your grades, ensure that your subsequent education shows improvement and progression. There are many reasons why people don’t get the grades they expected. In cases of illness or unusual circumstances you can include a brief note explaining the situation, highlighting your subsequent achievements.

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Covering letters Make a positive first impression and persuade the employer how they will benefit from your skills and achievements.

How does a covering letter differ from a CV? A covering letter is usually the first document that recruitment staff read when they receive your application. Its purpose is to make a positive first impression by highlighting the most relevant parts of your experience and capabilities for the role. Use the covering letter to demonstrate your enthusiasm and suitability for the specific role, detailing why you are applying for that job at that particular organisation.

read Demonstrate you’ve ge relevant media covera

Length and layout –U  se one side of A4 and a maximum of three strong paragraphs. – Address the recipient by name if possible using either name format: Dear Miss Burton, Dear Diane Burton. –W  here you know the name, sign off ‘Yours sincerely’. – If you can’t find a name, use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and sign off ‘Yours faithfully’. – Double check your letter and show it to a trustworthy friend to check again. Style –W  rite in a positive, engaging and professional style. –B  e persuasive – show the employer how they will benefit from your skills and achievements. –A  void starting too many sentences or paragraphs with ‘I’; use alternative starting words such as ‘Whilst’.



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Do your research, and use your covering letter to show employers that you know about the type of work you are applying for, and how your skills match.

Content – Explain the purpose of your letter early. – Use the letter to highlight and expand the most relevant points on your CV and to add other information in your favour. Focus on your strengths and achievements. – Demonstrate that you have taken the trouble to research recent news about the organisation. Avoid quoting from their graduate recruitment literature unacknowledged. – For speculative applications adapt and send each one individually. – Use the last paragraph to state what the next step will be. Speculative applications require you to be proactive, so state that you will follow up by phone. Make sure you do what you say.

style Use positive writing


Emails –E  ither write the covering letter within the email, or attach as a separate document. –F  ollow the same principles as with a covering letter. –K  eep it brief; people spend much less time reading text online. –F  or speculative applications do not send a group email, which publicly displays every address. Adapt and send each one individually. –S  ign off ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Best regards’.


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Forms and online applications Target applications to the job description. Clear evidence of your skills and experience is critical.

Show evidence As with CVs and covering letters it is vital to target what you are writing in your application to the job description and person specification. The employer will match the evidence you give against their criteria for the job. Competency based questions Demonstrate how and when you have used a particular skill. The employer will score how effectively you back up your claim, for example: ‘Please give an example of a time when you have had to work in close collaboration with others’. To answer this question well you must demonstrate where and when you have used teamwork, initiative and problem solving skills. Employers expect a structured answer, and the acronym CARL can help with this - see opposite.

‘Please demonstrate your commitment to promoting Equal Opportunities’. (taken from the Prospects website Example answer: ‘I have always tried to ensure in my personal and work life that I am sensitive to and inclusive of the cultures and circumstances of other people. In 2006, I worked as a mentor and facilitator to a group of students on the Aim Higher project to encourage pupils from nontraditional backgrounds to consider university. I designed projects and activities that recognised and focused on the diverse experience within the group. The programme was successful for the pupils and a rewarding learning experience. It showed me that working together with mutual respect is more productive and rewarding.’

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Use CARL to provide structured answers employers want to see.

Personal statement This is the empty white box usually at the end of the application. It’s your blank canvas to draw together your skills and experience with examples. Highlight Use bullet points or sub-headings and reflect the following: – Enthusiasm for the role, the company, and the research you have done. – Avoid waffle – every sentence and statement should count and every paragraph should have a theme. – Reflect on key experiences, showing what you have learnt. 

Context Give a brief background to your answer.

Action Explain what action you personally took in the situation.

Result For example gaining a high score for a presentation, getting positive feedback, or achieving a target.

Learning If relevant show what you learned from this experience.

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DID YOU KNOW? 84% of recruiters agree that volunteering helps you find work

Demonstrate attributes employers want
 Applications are increasingly scored using evidence-based methods. Use the following: Written communication – Essays, dissertations, project reports. – Secretary of a student society. – Publicity materials for a voluntary organisation. – Letters to raise sponsorship for an event. Planning and organisation – Managing and prioritising your personal workload. – Project work, dissertation, revision timetable. – Organising social, sporting, charity events. – Arranging a travel itinerary. 
 Adaptability and flexibility – Working part-time whilst studying. – Successfully changing courses. – Combining study with family commitments. – Shift work, working at short notice. 

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Aim to give brief written evidence to demonstrate your claims.

Problem solving – Creative solutions to coursework problems. – Leisure activities such as chess, logic games, computing, role playing. – Overcoming obstacles to achieve an ambition.

Initiative – Getting relevant work experience, project work, sponsorship. – Starting a new club or society or resurrecting an old one. – Creating your own website. – Independent travel.

 – Work experience in a job involving significant use of numbers, e.g. treasurer of a committee.
 – Reading the financial press (track a company or industry that interests you). – Cash handling.

Teamwork – Opting for group project work. – Team sports, outdoor pursuits. – Work experience and any group work. – Travelling with friends or playing in a band.

Computer literacy – Reports, essays, spreadsheets, statistics, charts and graphs. – Designing a web page. – Using PowerPoint for a presentation. – Specialist software and data analysis. Leadership and management – Directing or producing an event. – Editing a paper or periodical. – Working with young people in summer camps, schools etc.

Interpersonal communication – Work experience (e.g. market research, telesales, bar work). – Course or hall representative. – Students’ Union work. – Being a mentor e.g. in schools. Verbal communication – Giving presentations, talks or campus tours. – Workshop participation. – Customer-based work experience. – Being a student ambassador.

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DID YOU KNOW? 80% of the UK’s leading graduate employers are offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates

Action words and phrases Use some of these words to suggest how you have made an impact. Remember you will still need to make your CV stand out. Experience – Extensive academic or practical background in … – Experienced in all aspects of … – Provided technical assistance to … – Co-ordinated … – Organised … Ability – Trained in … – Knowledge of, experienced as ... – Proficient in, competent at … – Expert at … – Working knowledge of … Success – Promoted to … – Proven track record in … – Instrumental in … – Awarded ... – Achieved ... – Delivered ...

Responsibilities – Supervised or delegated … – Experience involved or included … – Familiar with … – Employed to or handled … – Assigned to … – Project managed … – Member of ... Roles – Established, created, designed … – Formulated … – Initiated … – Managed … – Presented … Personal attributes – Committed to … – Confident … – Diplomatic … – Enthusiastic user of … – Actively sought … – Motivated to …

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Write in a positive, engaging and professional style.

Communication – Collaborated with … – Supported ... – Worked closely with … – Led team of … – Dealt tactfully with … – Supervised ... Research – Created ... – Developed ... – Investigated ... – Solved … – Interviewed … – Surveyed ... – Designed ...

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Useful websites For help and advice on anything related to jobs and careers --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- View listings of local and on-campus student jobs, internships and graduate vacancies with local, national and international employers --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For help and advice on anything related to volunteer work --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For more information on a range of internship and mentoring opportunities --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Graduate vacancies and work experience across the East of England --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The national website for graduate level vacancies and online career services ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CareerCentral University of East Anglia Norwich Research Park Norwich NR4 7TJ 01603 593452 UEACareerCentral @UEACareers

UEA CareerCentral – Applications, 2014