The Three C’s – CVs, Cover Letters and Coffee!
The three C’s – CVs , Cover Letters and Coffee – arguably the three most used words at CBS.
If you were to take a look at my recent browser history, you would find page long accounts of Google searches on “How to write a good cover letter”, “formatting CV to be the best candidate”, “importance of cover letters”and in the times of desperation - “jobs without a CV or cover letter”! After returning from my exchange semester, I have been on the hunt for a new job. Over the past few months I have sent out several job applications, and have made many changes over and over again to the content and formatting of my CV and Cover Letter, in hopes of making me stand out as a viable candidate for the jobs I applied to. So although I’m not an expert in the field, I feel my research and experiences over the past few weeks regarding CV and Cover Letter writing, gives me some credibility to share some of my findings.
The Cover Letter
The Cover Letter is one of the most effective ways of making your application stand out. Even though it is becoming more common for employers to demand a cover letter as part of their application process, often there are still candidates who choose to ignore this. I get it, writing a cover letter isn’t exactly fun and can feel like you’re just writing out the content of your CV in full sentences. But trust me on this one – send a cover letter, every time. It’s a quick way of showing your potential employer that you are interested in that job and not a job, and often that makes all the difference.
Sell Yourself – Quick!
Here’s a absolutely terrifying fact: in many of the large companies, recruiters spend on average 6 seconds scanning through your cover letter. That’s not a lot of time. And that’s why you need to make sure you structure your cover letter in a way that gets all your relevant skills and competences across, whilst avoiding any errors may prompt a straight toss into the “no” pile.
Target your cover letter towards the position that you are applying for and make sure that you:
- Present why you are applying for the position
- Demonstrate your relevant skill set
- Clarify why you believe that you (and not some other candidate) is best-suited for the job.
- Explain why you fit into their organisation
- USE SPELL CHECK ( I cannot stress the importance of this enough!)
Relevant is the key word
Considering that we only have a short time to get our point across, relevance is key. Make a compelling case for yourself as a candidate, aside from what’s in your CV. Tailor it to the specific job that you are applying to, and pick out from your CV which of your skills and experiences make you the best suited candidate for the position. Then using examples, list these in your cover letter.
Think of the CV as your personal marketing tool that you use when applying for a job. Put very simply, the role of a CV is not to get you a job, but rather a gateway to a meeting or an interview with your potential employer. So it’s importance is not to be underestimated.
Structuring your CV
The way you structure your CV makes a huge difference as to the way it is received by the employer. You want your CV to be structured in a easy-to-approach and efficient way.I found an article on CA A-Kasse ‘s website that mentions two different ways to structure your CV – chronologically or according to your competencies.
The Chronological CV:
The chronological CV is the format that employers are most used to reading. The chronological format always begins with your most recent information, and work backwards accordingly, because often it is your most recent information that is the most relevant to the employer. The sections of a chronological CV can include:
- A short introduction with your personal contact information
- Training and qualifying courses you have participated in. Here, highlight the relevant skills gained through these courses.
- Work experience. Elaborate on the relevant learnings.
- Language skills
- Experience abroad
- Extra curricular activities.
- Any references the company may have asked for in the job ad.
The order in which these sections are displayed in the CV may differ from person to person. For example, if you are someone with a lot of relevant work experience, you may choose to highlight these prior to your education.
The Competence CV:
The competence CV focuses on the areas of competence rather than a general overview of for example work or education.
Pick 3-5 of your areas of competence that you think are best suited for the type of job you are applying to, and then go on to describe your experience and skills in these areas.
The downside of a competence CV is that it often does not have a sequential overview which employers like, as it is easy to read and identify the relevant information. One thing you could do is to supplement your competencies by including a short chronological re-telling of your work and educational experiences in your competence CV as well.
As a final point, I want to highlight one of my most crucial findings regarding both CVs and Cover Letters – the importance of getting feedback. When you’re looking at either of the two documents over and over again, you can easily become blind to small errors, that are otherwise crucial in ensuring that your CV and Cover Letter are perfect. Get someone else to proofread them before sending them off. You can even send them to online forums such as Sweet Careers Consulting and have a professional employer read through and give you feedback on your CV and Cover Letter. Often these forums are free for students who are currently studying at university or have just recently graduated.
I hope my findings have been of some help to you, and if not anything else, have given you the slightest bit of motivation to grab a cup of coffee and look over your CV/Cover Letter again.