Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and cover letter

Here are some things to consider if a job advert asks you to send your CV (or Resume) and a cover letter, or if you are sending in a speculative application.

A good CV and covering letter can get you an interview and help you get the job, a bad one may get your application thrown out

There are a few simple rules to follow, but if you are applying for a creative role, then it may be appropriate to disregard some of these rules if appropriate in order to show off your creativity. Take care to follow the instructions you are given – if they ask for samples of your work, a film of you talking about your achievements, or other proof of your skill, then make sure you provide them!

What should be included in your CV?

Remember that a prospective employer will look at your social media accounts if you have them, so make sure that that they don’t contain anything that might put them off!

  • Contact details: Name, phone numbers, email, whether you have a driving licence if relevant. You can include details of your Linkedin profile or other social media accounts if you have one.
  • Professional Profile: 4-6 lines summarising the most important parts of your experience, the industries you’ve worked in and the tools you’ve used
  • Core Skills and/or achievements: 6-8 bullet points to highlight the best of what you can do
  • Roles: List each job in order from latest to earliest with the most information on the most recent and progressively less as you go further back in time. Include:
    • Company, Role Title, Dates as a heading
    • 2-3-line summary of your role
    • Key responsibilities
    • Key achievement and the impact

    If you have lots of jobs, and are running out of space, you may want to overlook short term work, or historic work, particularly if it has little relevance to the type of work you are looking for now.

    If you are lacking in formal work experience, consider how you might highlight life experiences in a way that is relevant to your future employer. Ideas include:

    • Situations where you have taken responsibility
    • Situations where you have assumed a leadership position
    • Times when you have contributed successfully to a team
    • Circumstances where you have had to use your creativity or experience

    These may be from school projects or clubs. They may be from sporting, social or community activities.

  • Education, training and Qualifications: List with dates and governing bodies. Only include relevant qualifications, including any professional ones you have
  • Interests: This is optional but can be included, especially if your interest is relevant to the role

A number of CV templates for people at different stages of their career and in different situations can be found by searching the internet. Pick the one that suits your situation best then tailor it as appropriate to suit the job and company you are applying to.

Tips for your cover letter

A cover letter may be an email to go with your application and if requested, your CV. It should probably be about 200-250 words, in short paragraphs (one idea per paragraph) and could include the following:

  • The job you are applying for, or if sending a speculative application, the type of work you would like to do
  • The documents you enclose (CV, application form, portfolio and completed test, if any)
  • Why you want to do this job and work for this organisation
  • Why they should hire you (what special skills and experience others might not have)
  • Any achievements you are proud of that show you have relevant and desirable skills
  • When you can start

Although most CVs and covering letters are now emailed or uploaded online, sometimes you may need or choose to submit one by post.

Our download contains more suggested rules for your CV and cover letter.