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Online CV's | Writing your CV's | CV Tips | Covering Letters

Online CV's

Online CV's are different to traditional CV's and serve a different purpose; they are written in a different style and should be treated as a separate application method.

Over time, as the searches for employment have become more electronic, CV's have followed suit. It is not uncommon for some employers to only accept online CV's. However, some employers may want both an online and traditional copy of your CV.

Many recruitment agencies search for candidates using a 'search engine', which makes using keywords essential. To ensure that your CV is picked up, you will need to write your online CV based on how a computer works, rather than how a reader thinks. Recruiters will enter specific words into a search engine, which will then return CV's which feature their keywords. The keywords used in your CV could be the difference between it being found or missed.

When writing an online CV there are some things to take into account:

  • Store and email online CV's in plain text format. This is the simplest form of text, and all computers can read and understand it.
  • With online CV's there will be no need for bold, italics, underlining, etc... as you would with traditional CV's. The key is getting the main information included and using the appropriate keywords.
  • You need to tailor your online CV to all software and computers. It would be useless to save your CV in the newest version of word as anyone using an alternative or older version of a word processing package will not be able to open it.
  • The recommended maximum length for online CV's is around 1½ pages. If the recruiter is interested in obtaining more information, they will contact you.

Writing your Online CV

Name and Contact
This section should always be at the top of an online CV. It is very important to ensure that these details are correct and remember to re-submit your online CV if any contact details change. You should include your name, address, phone, fax and email address. If you have created your own personal website, then include the web address as well.

Use a sensible email address when distributing your CV e.g. joe.bloggs@youremail.com. Using a 'fun' email address won't give the right impression to those reading your CV.

A 2008 survey revealed that over 30% of employers/recruiters will check social networking sites - don't forget to change your privacy settings on any profiles you may have, if you do not want them to be viewed.

Career Objective
This section simply states what you are looking for and only needs to be one small sentence.

Summary
This should be the second or third element of your online CV and is the key paragraph, as it is where you will include the majority of your keywords. The summary should be used to highlight your skills.

Work Experience
In this section highlight your achievements, focusing primarily on your most recent employment. You may also be able to use some more keywords.

Education
You should list your qualifications with the most recent achievements first and then in order of grade. You should also include completed training courses that are relevant to the position you are seeking, as well as any professional qualifications that you may have.

And finally...

Submit and wait!

CV's

The most important attribute of a successful CV is that it clearly displays to the reader what you can do for them. Many recruiters will have a CV screening process - the first person to read your CV is very unlikely to be the one who will be doing the interviewing. If there is a screening process, your CV will have certain requirements to meet in order to pass. The purpose of your CV is not to get you the job primarily; it is to get you in for an interview. Your CV should be a well-presented selling tool and give the reader a clear indication of your suitability for the role.

So how can you make your CV one of the chosen few or pass a recruiters screening process? First impressions are crucial!!!

Your CV should be no longer than two pages in length, presented clearly, with an uncluttered layout and with easy to spot key information.

Your CV should be concisely worded, and be achievement and skill orientated. You need to ensure that you put your most important information and key skills near the beginning, where it will draw the readers' eye. The most effective way of laying out your CV is to summarise, in a profile section at the top, your key skills/qualifications, experience and strengths, followed by any significant career achievements. The average CV will be speed read or skimmed over, so you need to increase your chances of your CV being selected and read properly. Remember that your CV profile is the key!

As a guide, your CV should contain the following:

Profile
This is the key to capturing your reader's interest, enough that they will want to read on and consider your application. Your profile should be written with your desired role in mind and be two or three sentences in length.
First, start with your experience. You could start with something like:
e.g. "With 12 years experience in software development and testing..."

Next, highlight your key skills and abilities.
e.g. "Seeking to develop my career in the area of software integration..."

Now all you need to do is add a few adjectives and strengthen your profile.
e.g. "With 12 years experience in software development and testing, I have acquired strong planning and development skills. I am now seeking to explore new challenges, and using my current abilities and experience I would like to develop my career in the area of software integration."

Major Achievements
It is beneficial to place key information at the top of your CV so that this is easily spotted. This section allows you to lift your most relevant achievements from your career history for maximum impact.
You need to clearly indicate which particular company/role each achievement belongs to and ideally include 2-6 achievements in this section. If your level of experience is relatively high then you may feel that there are more achievements to include. These should be your own genuine personal achievements. However if you feel you have relevant or significant achievements from a small team involvement then include these too and state your involvement.

Include facts where possible and quantify these in financial terms, for example: "The software I developed resulted in an annual saving of £220K."

Other achievements could involve research, acquisition, sales growth/targets, ideas, etc... Don't forget to keep your achievements in line with the role you are applying for.

Career History/Experience
This section of your CV provides details of your career to date. You should list this information in reverse chronological order and include each company name, with a line describing briefly what they do. Be sure to include any key responsibilities and achievements within each role, with emphasis on relevant areas to the role you are applying for.

For example:
Company name and dates employed
Job title and reporting line
What the company does (1 sentence)
Summary of main responsibilities
Achievements

Your primary focus should be your most recent roles. For earlier roles (typically 10 years or more) you can simply list the company name, dates, and job title.

When you include your achievements in this section, detail this in a different way to your profile so that the information does not sound repetitive.

Education/Qualifications
This area summarises your education and qualifications. If you have recently left college/university or have very little work experience you may want to include this section before your experience/career history. You should list in reverse chronological order, together with names and dates of the educational establishments you attended and the qualifications that you have obtained. You should also include any ongoing studies and relevant professional memberships or qualifications.

If you have security clearance, or one that has recently lapsed, include this information too.

Other Skills
If you work in an area where skill sets are applicable then include these here. Ensure that you have also included these in your profile so that these are easily spotted. Include any additional skills that are relevant to a potential employer such as language abilities, short hand, etc...

Personal Details
Your name, address, and contact details should be included at the top of your CV. It is normally best to leave out date of birth, nationality and marital status. You could include for e.g. 'Full clean driving license' if it is relevant i.e. you are required to travel for the contract, such as field sales.

Final Thoughts...
The main thing you need to check and re-check is that your CV is grammatically correct and error free. Ensure that the language settings for your spell check is set to English (U.K.) because, if it's set to English (U.S.), it will give you spelling errors in your CV. If you can then get a friend or family member to read this over for you as an outsider's eye, they can sometimes spot things you've missed!

We wish you the best of luck!

CV Tips

  • Keep it short, clear and easy on the eye.
  • Careful use of bold can be effective - but use wisely!
  • CV Personality - your CV is your personal selling tool, with each section that you write, ask yourself - what does this say about me?
  • References to your achievements should be bullet pointed, and quantified where possible.
  • Use standard typefaces such as Arial, or Times New Roman.
  • Do not use a type size less than 10 or 11 pts.
  • Don't include a photo - this is for actors and models!
  • Make it look good, with clear presentation and plenty of white space around the borders and between each section.
  • Include facts! Talk about results - what impact did your input have? E.g. 'reduced overheads by £100K pa'
  • Don't include failures - keep your CV positive. Only include exam failures if it has a positive side to it. Failed business' and marriages are not positive.
  • Leave out your reasons for leaving each job - these could be negative.
  • Leave references out until requested - the line 'References available upon request' should be left out too.
  • Do not include borders, or graphics - keep it uncluttered!
  • If you are required to provide/send a paper version of your CV then use good quality paper - typically 90 or 100 gsm in weight and watermarked.
  • Your CV should normally be written in the first person ('I') but you never actually need to write 'I' in a CV.
  • There is no need to list all of the schools you have attended in your life - this is not relevant. Do however, include your most recent educational establishment.
  • Leave out salary information - if this is requested in the advert then include this in your cover letter.
  • One CV does not fit all! - ensure you either have multiple versions relevant to specific areas, or tailor your CV to each role you apply for. Generic CV's are not the most effective, so if you really want that contract - we strongly recommend that you tailor your CV each time you apply for a role!

Covering Letters

Covering letters are usually a vital part of any application. According to the experts of recruiters/executive search firms, covering letters are not always read in the initial screening process. Ignoring a covering letter is usually a time management issue as there are so many CV's to sort through. However, we still recommend that you send one with your CV as every company is different; some may ignore them, others could consider them vital. If your covering letter has been ignored initially, once your CV has passed the screening process most recruiters will then refer to it. Each recruiter has a different process and you are likely to apply to many different recruitment agencies in your search for a contract.

A covering letter should:

  • Be no longer than one page in length - ideally only ½ page!
  • Be addressed to the correct person.
  • Be written in a positive manner.
  • Clearly state how you fit the requirements for the role.
  • Be carefully checked for spelling, and grammatical errors.
  • Be typed and well presented - using the same stationary as your accompanying CV.

Covering letters give you the chance to introduce yourself and generate an interest in the skills and experience that you have to offer. Covering letters are sometimes included as part of the email body with the CV attached but it is your call as to whether your email acts as the cover letter or whether you include it as an attachment.

What to include?

  • Introduction - why you are writing...
  • Statement - what you can offer...
  • Conclusion - when is it going to happen...

The first section should clearly state why you are contacting the recruiter. If you are responding to an advertisement it is crucial to state the source, date and job/reference number if these are provided.

For example: 'In response to your advertisement on Monster.co.uk, I would like to express my interest in the position of 'Software Integration Supervisor' that was advertised on the 16th May 2008. Job reference: SIS/525/44'

Busy recruiters may handle a number of positions, with similar titles, at the same time. A correct first paragraph will ensure your CV is put in the right pile.

The second section should clarify what you have to offer and why you are the ideal candidate for this role.  When you are putting together this section, you need to read the advertisement carefully and identify the selection criteria.

For example: 'I believe I am ideally suited to this role because I have over 12 years experience in Software Development and Integration; I have strong management and supervisory skills and have acquired strong knowledge and experience in this area.'

Alternatively, you can go for the client-focused, accomplishment-driven wording, which is more suited to the more experienced candidates or simply personal preference.

For example: 'In addition to my strong record of software integration, my development background would be a fantastic benefit to your client. My experience means that I have had exposure to a wide variety of clients and projects. Your client would benefit from my combination of skills and expertise. and with my enthusiasm and conscientious approach, I feel that this will have a very successful outcome. '

If you prefer you can try reader friendly formats such as bullet points, so that the recruiter can immediately see your top selling points.

The subject line of your email should not say the commonly added 'CV attached. Your subject line should be relevant to the role you are applying for. The only exception is if you have specifically requested your CV to be added to the recruiters database and not in line with any particular role. If you are applying for a specific role it should say e.g. 'Software Integration Supervisor' [and if available]:  'Job reference: SIS/525/44'

You need to include recruiter-specific content. The main information that most recruiters want to see included is:

  1. All contact information
  2. Positions and industries of interest
  3. Locations of interest

It may also be beneficial to include when you are available - i.e. current notice period, interview availability etc...

Now all you need to do is write your covering letter according to your circumstances; just ensure that you have the key elements -  an eye-catching intro, a brief summary of your background and your keywords!

Tip: Use keywords! Some recruiters will upload your covering letter to their database and these are also searched by keyword. If a recruiter searches for the keywords 'strong sales experience' but the covering letter states that you want to move into medical research, then the candidate is not suitable for the search they are conducting.  The keywords that would find this particular candidate's CV for a suitable role would be 'medical research'. Keep this in mind when you are writing your CV and covering letters.

It is important to check the recruiter's website as some may have certain application requirements. Some recruiters may only accept online CV's, some will only accept CV's and covering letters attached. Others may only want these all in email format. Every company is different and there are many different processes which may change from time to time. For the best chance of securing the contract, a little research is required, so check the requirements before you apply.

Covering Letter Do's and Don'ts

Do's:

  • DO tell the employer how you can meet his or her needs.
  • DO avoid negativity.
  • DO use your keywords - without these you may not be found.
  • DO use action verbs click here for some useful examples.
  • DO use simple language and uncomplicated sentence structure.
  • DO address your letter to a named individual.
  • DO take into account the job requirements when responding to an ad.
  • DO keep it brief.
  • DO write covering letters that are specific and unique to you and the role you are applying for.
  • DO use plain text.

Don'ts:

  • DON'T use clichés e.g. as you can see my CV enclosed herewith' They will be able to see the attachment themselves.
  • DON'T use pleonasms. (Wordy phrases) This may be useful: http://pleonasms.net/
  • DON'T waste your opening paragraph on a boring introduction.
  • DON'T use sexist salutation  E.g. Dear Sir,
  • DON'T send a cover letter with any typos, grammatical errors, etc...
  • DON'T waste your subject line.
  • DON'T use the latest version of word - use plain text format which can be read and understood by every computer.