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CVs, Covering letters & Application Forms

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Isla Hosking

on 27 November 2013

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Transcript of CVs, Covering letters & Application Forms

Demystify the application process:
Explain how it works
Learn key principles and practical steps you can go through
Look at some examples

Look at the bigger picture:
Understand what employers want - and why - so you can market yourself well in applications
CVs, Covering letters & Application Forms
We won't look at your CV / application today
bring it to a School Drop-In or Quick Query for individual feedback

The focus is on applications for the UK
to discuss international job searching, come to see a Careers Adviser
What questions do you have about CVs, cover letters or applications?
...what DO employers want??
What do you think they are??
3 Ingredients make the ideal employee...
So, great... but
How do you provide evidence for each of these???
Some Ideas
Show how you match the criteria in the job spec.
Typically some combination of:

Qualifications / education
Technical knowledge
Personal qualities
Some Ideas
Show research / knowledge of organisation
Be specific and make it personal
Language - do you sound enthusiastic?
Time & effort spent on application
Accuracy (are there spelling & grammar mistakes?)
Some Ideas
Harder, but there can be clues:

Read their job description / website / social media - what do they talk about? (being the best, customer service, innovation, social responsibility?)
Talk to people at the organisation
X Factor!
So which of the 3 "ingredients" goes in which document??


Application Form

CV (Curriculum Vitae)

Covering letter

Personal statement

Recruitment process

Selection process
Relevant information about your life - 2 pages max
Your chance to assert Why this job and why you
From advert to induction
Shortlisting to Interview / Assessment
First, some definitions...

Letter sent with CV - 1 page max
All the written bits
Standardised form the employer provides - many pages
Section of application form - 1+ pages


Discuss where & how
Health warning
Applications are subjective - no "perfect" version
Employers vary in their opinions
much consensus
much disagreement!

What employers want
Application process
You're recruiting for a graduate role
You receive 167 CVs, and have to shortlist 6 candidates for interview in 3 hours.
Discuss in your pairs:
How might you manage this?
How long would you spend on each CV?
What sort of complaints might you have about the CVs?

What does that imply for your own CV??
in a nutshell
Application Forms
Becoming more common
especially for larger corporations and in the public sector

Allow employers to standardise applications and ask specific questions

Structured Job Description & Person Specification
Must meet all "essential" criteria to get interview

Scoring matrix typically used
helps with transparency, consistency, and equal opportunities
CVs & CLs
Still a very common requirement
especially for smaller companies and recruitment agencies

Recruiters might spend anything from a glance up to 5 minutes reading a CV
many scan the 1st page in 5-10 seconds

Mixed views on covering letters
some feel they're vital
others think they're pointless
UEA version
common mistakes employers complain about
all about what you want to get - not what you can give
= you don't understand what businesses want
Insufficient evidence of:
vague, sweeping statements but no examples given
about process (list of job duties) not results (how well you did the job)
poor communication skills
lack of effort
no research
addressed to wrong person / company
no attempt to tailor
Writing your application is the first piece of work you'll do for your new employer!
common assumptions employers make
Not tailored =
you couldn’t be bothered
Spelling and grammar mistakes =
lack of attention to detail
insufficient motivation
poor communication skills
Unexplained gaps or inaccurate information =
you’re hiding something
Past performance predicts future performance
so you want to "stand out"?
what next??
Quick Query appointment

short (15 mins) but can attend multiple
book on day
can be done remotely (by phone / email / skype)
bring/send application docs and job description
www.uea.ac.uk/careers website
Guidance appointments - 45 mins - for more complex needs (e.g. to discuss unsuccessful applications)
climbing Everest (though that might not hurt)
it's not about
funky layouts or colours (unless you want a job in design)
pretty pictures
it is
to target your application
Ask yourself "what does that say about me?" and "so what?" about everything you write!
Understand their needs
Analyse how you meet their criteria
TRANSLATE claims you make and any relevant skills / experience / knowledge into evidence
What you did
Use a skill / personal attribute
Carry out a particular activity
What was the result / benefit? (ideally measurable)

identify where you've "added value" in the past
ideally in work - but might be anywhere
catching their interest...
“Suggested improvements to filing system, which saved half an hour per day”
“Developed strong client relationships, which helped me achieve 130% of my annual target ”
Demonstrating strong written
communication skills
thoughtful structuring
Do the work for the employer
can you think of anything you've done?
3 steps to
tailoring your
1. get to know yourself well
career goals?
2. find out what employers want
what drives their organisation?
how does this role fit in?
what will they expect of you?
Pick the job description apart - it's often packed full of clues
How can you find this out?
Which do you prefer?
What else could you try?
to people in the sector
get work experience
all about it!
3. fit the two together
Identify the overlap between what they want and what you can offer
your key selling points
this is what's RELEVANT to them
Target your application by applying these techniques to your relevant selling points:
emphasise (amount of space & detail)
make them easy to read (signpost with layout and formatting)
and then...
how might you apply these techniques in an application?
easy to read
a quick look at some CV examples
First impressions?

What do you like/dislike?

What information stands out more, and why?

How easy are they to read?

What can you learn from these about your own CV?
and finally
CV Profiles
Top Tips for all applications
Follow all instructions!
Go through the targeting steps before writing
"Short but sweet" best - but add enough examples
Get it right
Proofread for mistakes (especially typos, spelling etc)
Detail - is anything missing, or unnecessary?
Did you answer all the questions?
Top Tips for Application Forms
Leave plenty of time; some are loooooooong and fiddly to complete!
Personal statement: plan carefully
is a narrative or report style best?
For online ones:
create a rough draft offline e.g. in Word
avoids losing data from "timing out"
easier to proofread
save or print a copy before submitting
you might not have access afterwards
implicit -> explicit
Get CARL to help!
Brainstorm ideas for times you've demonstrated a required competence

Use CARL to break down and flesh out each example

Adapt style, focus and order of elements as appropriate

Handout: Now trying doing 1 or 2...
Real "competency-based question" from an application form:
"Tell us about a time you have demonstrated creativity or delivered an innovation."

Using CARL helps with content and structure of your answers

Can also be used to address standard competency criteria in cover letters or the Personal Statement section of application forms
Employer Requirements
Employers usually request specific skills or 'competencies' in the Person Specification, which they believe are needed to do the job

Address these in written applications & at interview
This means changing it in response to the requirements of each job
Important because employers look for different things
Often requires different versions of your CV
Example: when you're applying for casual part-time work and degree-related internships
ALWAYS tailor a cover letter
We'll come back to this...
Empty assertion from a cover letter:

"I am the perfect person for this job, and will get on brilliantly with your team..."
"I play cricket" and
"I am a team player" ->
"Developed my teamworking abilities and demonstrated commitment whilst playing for my local cricket team for 3 years"
“I believe my part-time work as a Retail Assistant at Next has taught me how to provide excellent customer service. I greet customers, serve at the till and often provide advice in the fitting rooms, and once travelled to another town in my free time, to collect an item for a customer and take it to their local store. I am often complimented by my customers for my enthusiasm and helpfulness, and recent quality monitoring by my managers has rated my customer service to be the highest possible level.”
Not ALWAYS in that order...
Application Form
"My final MA group project involved working alongside five colleagues to create and present a pitch for a fictional product to a panel of marketing professionals. We then submitted individually written, self-analytical reviews of how we felt we had performed. Our team received the highest mark across the cohort and this experience really perfected both my teamworking skills and my report-writing abilities, as well as my presentational style."
Cover Letter
Finding examples: How to start

Link assertions with facts ->
Key points
Profile = Marketing copy
brand yourself carefully!
highlight your key selling points
Employer's first impression!
Be concise - maybe 3-4 sentences
15 minutes to discuss...
Person specification criteria:
Strong customer service focus
Person specification criteria:
Team player with the ability for self-direction when required
Tailor it!
What to avoid...
"Hard working, motivated, enthusiastic individual"
Are you another:
Join the queue!
If you want to stress these qualities, how can you demonstrate rather than state them?
What other qualities might the employer value?
Generalisations, or "fluff"
Be specific, rather than making unsubstantiated claims
Possible content
introduce / "brand" yourself
“articulate and friendly literature student with experience in customer service and sales”
most relevant skills / qualities
reinforces your motivation
can you say "what's in it for them"?
You 'in a nutshell'
Your next career objective
What you can offer
Full transcript