The key for a successful job search lies in a good cover letter and a great CV.
If you aren’t sure how to start your CV or what to include in your cover letter, then our Ultimate Guide will answer all your questions.
How to write a cover letter
Always add a personalized cover letter to your application, even if the employer doesn’t explicitly require one. This is your opportunity to add further information that doesn’t belong or fit into your CV. It will also give an additional personal touch to your application.
Employers are usually looking for the following, when it comes to cover letters:
• Tailored skills from the job description
• More detailed information from your CV (but not a direct copy)
• The value you would bring to the company. In other words, an answer to the question: why should we hire you?
• A reflection of your personality
• Perfect spelling and grammar
• Well written and structured content
Tips for your Cover Letter
Find the right balance
When showcasing your skills and experience, try to be confident, but not arrogant. Nobody will be impressed if you say for example: “Even though I haven’t had a great experience as a leader, I have managed teams in absence of supervisors”. Rather say: “I have managed several teams for 5 years in different phases in my company and have gained [skill X] during each occasion.”
Limit yourself to the facts surrounding your achievements and your performance. Don’t try to show off in your cover letter, this can appear arrogant and discourage employers.
Point out your abilities
Pick 3-4 of the qualities that are mentioned in the job description and briefly refer to them in your cover letter. It’s always good to use concrete examples in terms of facts and figures. For example, “During my financial executive role in Frankfurt, I was involved in banking contracts ranging from €20 million to €100 million” sounds much better than “I was a financial executive in Germany.”
Discuss the company
Do your research about the company and talk about the aspects that impress you the most. If this is for example their innovation spirit, give an example of how it is leading the field in this department.
Keep it Short
There is no reason to go beyond a single A4 page unless the application is for a senior position, the recruiter will not read more than the first page anyway. Your cover letter should contain the highlights of your career and should be short and sweet. It shouldn’t have more than three to four paragraphs and each one should get straight to the point.
Send your Cover Letter as a PDF
Any computer can open a PDF file without the need for conversion. Don’t send your cover letter in a file that needs to be converted as the hiring manager might just move onto the next person instead.
Address the right person
Do the necessary homework to find out who you’re sending the application to. “Hello Mr. Tomson” sounds much better than “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” If you don’t know who will be reading the letter, it’s always better not to address anyone.
You would be shocked to discover the number of spelling and grammatical errors contained in the average cover letter. Just ask a family member or a friend to read over it once more after you have proofread it yourself.
Cover Letter Content
A classic cover letter should contain 3-4 paragraphs. Try to address a specific person and proceed as follows:
• Opening Paragraph: Highlight the value that you can bring to the role. You can also indicate the position you are applying for and the reasons why you applied. Some may consider this as a waste of time, but it may be the case that the company will be advertising more than one job.
• Middle Paragraphs: This paragraph should include details on how your skills, experience and education make you an ideal match for the specific requirements of the job. This is where your researches about the company can be quite useful, you can include information about the company itself to show that you have done some research.
• Final Paragraph: Conclude by thanking the reader for their attention and specify that you would welcome the invitation for an interview.
Beginning with your name
Is is not necessary to begin with your name since it is already on your CV and other parts of your application. A better way is to start with your qualification responding to the job description.
It sounds for example far better if you begin your cover letter with “I’m a sales professional with 10+ years of automotive industry experience” than with “My name is Joseph Schmit.”
This should actually be quite obvious and applies to your CV as well. You may think it would increase your chances, but it’s very likely that your lies will be uncovered. Nowadays, companies spare no effort and perform a lot of background checks. All it takes is one tiny lie to be uncovered and your chances of landing the job are gone.
The attempt to justify quitting or a redundancy
The reader of your cover letter is only interested in your latest information and not necessarily in the reasons why you were laid off or why you quit your last job. Such information, might be suspicious to the recruiter and they might believe that you still have unresolved issues and are unable to move forward. You can discuss such matters during the interview.
Repeating the content of your CV
Remember that your Cover letter is an attachment of your CV. Therefore, don’t repeat its content. Above all it an opportunity to express your interest in the field, your ambitions and to show your personality.
Always do your research about the hiring organization and try to add one or other historical facts related to the company’s past. You can talk for example about how exciting it is to be a part of the industrial change of the company and name a recent change of the company in this field.
How to write a CV
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae. It is important to keep in mind this is not a resume of your life. Consider your CV as a summary of your experience, skills and education written to convince employers that you are the ideal employee for their company.
Tips for the perfect CV
Limit yourself to one A4 Page
Again, there is no reason to go beyond one A4 page when writing a CV (unless the application is for a senior position). Recruiters tend to skim the content because they must read a lot of applications. If they are confronted by a several pages long CV, it will probably end up in the bin.
Your CV is above all an opportunity to show a company that you meet all the requirements. The goal is to being called for an interview. Be brief and express your personality trough your cover letter.
Make sure it is error free
An astonishingly high number of resumes contain at least one grammatical or spelling error, which can be the reason for immediate rejection. Careful proofreading is the key and will increase your chances of being invited for an interview!
Also, double check your contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) and the dates in your education and employment history.
Show that you understand the job description
Many people skim the job description only to create a completely unsuitable CV. To prevent this, always read the complete job description and highlight important keywords.
You can still have a chance of getting an interview for the job, even if you are not 100% perfect fit. If there are a few aspects where you’re not strong, compensate by adjusting existing skills. By carefully reading the job description, you save time and apply only for jobs where you have a real chance.
Show your value
The recruiter wants to know if you fulfil the job and whether you fit well into the company’s corporate culture. A good CV should answer both questions and include your skills and interests. Include key skills relevant to the role such as negotiation and persuasion, leadership or your ability to work under pressure.
Think about how you have gained and grown these skills. This might have happened during a volunteer program and not necessarily during your last job.
When describing your interests, do not add activities like ‘videogaming’. Such self-related hobbies are not considered to be particularly social. Rather mention where you worked as part of a team. You might have been a member of a band or trained a local soccer team.
Make the most of your experiences
Focus on your most recent 2-3 positions unless you have older jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for. When describing your employment history, be as specific as possible.
Keep your CV up to date
You need to update your CV regularly and always add new experience or skills as you achieve them. Always remember to add details of a new project you’ve just worked on. Recruiters are always looking for people who are constantly striving to improve their existing skills.
In the most cases, it’s enough to add ‘references available upon request’ but in some instances, recruiters will specifically ask for them.
This is the reason why you should always get your references from former employers and look to leave your current workplace on good terms.
You can use a teacher or a tutor as your reference, if you haven’t worked before.
Recruiters usually become wary, if there is a gap in your CV.
It’s best to positively justify your absence from the workface. You might took some time out to explore foreign countries and new cultures. In that case explain why you decided to travel and outline what you have accomplished and the skills you learned during your travel experience.
Don’t change the dates of past jobs to avoid gaps, as recruiters can just call past employers and uncover your lies.
Use professional fonts
Use for your cover letter as well as for your CV Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial and size 11 or 12. You should also use bold font when starting a new paragraph or section to separate it from the rest and make it much easier to comprehend.
A typical CV should have the following structure:
• Contact Information: Enter your full name, address, mobile phone number and email address.
• Education: Include details of university/college and secondary school information starting with the most recent. Remember to add any professional qualifications you have achieved.
• Work Experience: Begin with the most recent jobs and then you work your way backwards. You can also include volunteer work and internships if relevant.
• Skills: Choose at least 3-5 skills and demonstrate how they relate to the job.
If you are asked to provide references, include two from past employers.
You can include hobbies, but ensure they are in some way related to the job opening. While learning a foreign language in your free time may be seen as useful by an employer, spending hours playing the latest video game doesn’t really impress the recruiter.
You can also leave the following information out of your CV:
• A photo: CVs with photos are less common in Europe so there is no need to include one, unless it is required.
• Date of birth: You don’t need to include this, since legally employers can’t discriminate on age.
• Place of birth: This information is unnecessary.
Lying on your CV is definitely a bad idea. Even a minor lie will cancel your chances to get a job and probably destroy your opportunity to find a job in the sector if word gets out.
Since recruiters spend in average 8-10 seconds looking at every CV they get, you need to ensure yours is concise, easy to read and well-formatted. Don’t use too many fonts or font sizes, it will be a counterproductive approach.
Use lengthy sentences
Keep the paragraphs and sentences in your CV short and to the point. The CV is not the place to showcase your outstanding talent for poetry.
Not selling achievements
Remember that your CV is a great tool to talk about your relevant achievements or successes. Recruiters are interested in how you’ve got concrete results in previous experience. People tend to shy away from this process but in reality it’s your chance to shine.
Be careful not to leave out relevant information when trimming down your experience. For example, it’s not necessary to mention that you were the trainer of a soccer team during your college time. However, if the club achieved something under your leadership, it could be well worth mentioning. Working part time in a restaurant or a club in university can also show your ability to balance study and work.
Too much detail
Details of your previous jobs are useless and often boring. Don’t share details of your tasks in a restaurant during your summer holidays as they are easy to guess by recruiters. It’s best to concentrate on whether you were trusted to take payments and how many customers you had to serve a day.
Tailor your CV & Cover Letter for each application
Recruiters can receive up to 100 applications for a single job so they’re used to see generic cover letters and CVs. Don’t use these templates otherwise your chances to land the job will be zero.
Make sure the layout of your CV is correct but tailor the content according to the requirements of every single position you apply for even if the basics are the same.
Tailor made CVs
There are a few things to consider, when tailoring your CV for a specific job:
• Read the job description carefully: Try to get a clear vision of the job and make your CV fit.
• Skills: Use adjectives like those that are used in the job description, but try to be imaginative or else recruiters will see that you just copied them.
• Company Culture: Do your homework to learn more about its values and culture. It’s best to think about your interests and to show how you would fit into such a company.
Tailor made Cover Letter
Remember that it takes a lot of time and effort to write a good cover letter.
• Create an outstanding Cover Letter: Recruiters should be able to remember key things about you after reading your letter.
• Show your interest: Explain why you apply and your motivations for the job.
• Personalise: Get to know the name of the person that will read your letter and precise it.
• Provide evidence of your skills: Illustrate your competencies with right examples without repeating the CV’s content.
• End Strongly: Include your enthusiasm for the job and the firm you’ll provide any further information if needed.
Take enough time to create a tailored and outstanding Cover Letter and CV and you might get the chance of an interview.