CVs and Cover Letters

  1. Background
  2. When writing your CV, you have to keep in mind that your CV is your introduction to recruiters, and the first glimpse they have of you. At the first stage of the recruitment process, recruiters have to sift through hundreds of CVs. One research study suggested that most recruiters only spend 6.25 seconds reading each one.

    Your CV should therefore reflect your personality, have a summary of your latest educational background and the skills/strengths you can offer to the company/organization. It needs to be focused, and easily navigable with clearly labelled headings. Study job descriptions closely and customize your CV to strictly include information relevant to what the employers require. Avoid making grammatical errors, repetition, clichés and using negative language and email addresses that look unprofessional. Most importantly, do not lie. In this case, honesty is truly the best policy.

    CV writing might seem like a daunting task now but not to worry. The purpose of this guide is to give you a rough idea on how you can give your current CV a facelift, focusing on the important parts of the CV that might garner more attention from the recruiters.

  3. Content
  4. 2.1 Personal Statement

    For some, this is probably the most difficult part to fill in since you are required to describe yourself as accurately as you can while keeping in mind that it should catch the attention of the recruiters and impress them at the same time.

    Remember that you should attempt to have your CV on just 1 page or the most, 2 pages, and that recruiters usually just spend about 6 seconds skimming through your CV. You therefore need to make sure that this part is written in the most concise way possible while highlighting your best qualities.

    One way you can summarise that as briefly as you can (preferably in two or three sentences) is to use the space to advertise only your most marketable traits. For example, “Energetic graduate with a passion and knack for the English Language, with 2 years of experience as a translator at the local court.” Putting the best details ahead of the good ones should usually be the theme of your overall CV.

    Another way you can do this is to find out about your personality type and just use the result you got for this part providing that you agree with the result. If you are willing to pay for the personality test online, you can opt for the Myers-Briggs test, although free alternatives are available. Take a look at our personality test page for more information.

    2.2 Past experiences & Skills

    The experiences which you are frequently exposed to and harness contribute to your set of skills and these are the ones that employers are mostly interested in. It tells them of how eligible you are to be considered and included in the application process.

    In today’s competitive job market, employers have transitioned beyond just looking at your academic qualifications. Nowadays, there is a rising demand on “soft skills” or non-cognitive skills from employers. The Bloomberg Recruiter Report identified a set of highly sought-after skills that corporate recruiters look for:

    a) Strategic thinking

    b) Creative problem-solving,

    c) Leadership skills,

    d) Communication skills,

    e) Analytical thinking, and

    f) Ability to work collaboratively.

    Knowing both your own skills and those skills that you should develop in the current job market can help tremendously in your career search journey.

    It is advisable that you start building up your portfolio now if you have not yet done so. Be active and research the available opportunities out there. We suggest that you gain experience on- and off-campus through volunteer work, internships, workshops/classes, or join established clubs in order to learn new skills and expand your network.

    2.3 Design

    Experts mostly recommend a CV to be between one and two pages. We understand that it is terribly tempting to include all that you have done but doing so might lead to your best features getting buried and might increase the risk of your CV ending up in the rejected pile.

    What you can try is to make it into a bullet style format, with the best or most relevant at the top followed by the onesyou deem less noteworthy or applicable. For those of you with LinkedIn accounts, you can also try to make use of their format by utilising their “Convert Profile to Resume”. That way, you will be working with a format that is readily available and the recruiters will be able to know more about you via your online presence on LinkedIn.

    In some cases, recruiters have been known to keep an eye out for unique CV designs and have a preference for those that reflect the field the applicant is interested in. For example, someone who is interested in web design might send a soft copy of his CV in the form of a website which showcases his portfolio at the same time. In the case of professional CVs, however, it is best to keep it short and simple but packed with a punch.

  5. Dos & Don’ts
  6. Once you have grasped and decided on what you need to do and include, it is time to get started on giving that CV a makeover. Like any decent makeover, there are a couple of things that should be avoided and you should look out for.

    Do’s Dont’t
    Keep it clear and concise. Use cluttered and flashy designs.
    Pay close attention to how you choose to arrange the details and stick to one format. Make sure that you do not have any grammatical errors.
    Tailor your past experience to suit the employers’ expectations for that particular post. Fabricate information.
    Use active language. Avoid repetitions, clichés and negative language.
    Have another person check it to get his/her opinion on it. Use those who you do not know well as referees.

    If you need further inspiration, there is a useful UK career site called Prospects which gives various examples of different style CVs depending on the job you are applying for.