Welcome back everyone! I hope you all managed to get some level of rest and relaxation after the unfamiliar post-Christmas exam spell. It is quite the out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire situation for some UCC students who immediately upon finishing exams find themselves faced with the hectic summer internship applications period. Whether it’s a summer internship in the corporate world you’re gearing up for or if you’re planning on spending the summer months waiting tables in a local restaurant (Covid-permitting) There is no better time than the present to learn how to improve your CV-and-cover-letter-writing skills!
What you need to know
No matter what type of company you’re applying to, it’s essential to have an understanding of what they do, what their recruitment process looks like and what your role will be if you’re successful. Keeping these three elements in mind while you’re writing your application is sure to set you up on the right track.
The types of opportunities available to students these days seem endless, and different employers will have differing recruitment processes. One employer may look for CVs, another employer might require you to fill out an application form (this can be an online form or old-fashioned paper and pen style so messy hand writers beware!) One employer might use telephone interviews whereas many others are opting for Skype and Zoom video interviews. Recent years have also seen a steep uptake in the use of assessment centres as part of employers’ recruitment processes.
First, it’s important to take a look at the job description. This will generally outline the qualifications, experience and skills required for the job. While reading the job description, you may like to think about why these experiences and skills are required: What business objectives do they meet? What is your understanding of these business objectives and how do you fit in to them? Using the job requirements, you should tailor your CV and cover letter or application form to the role. Use real-life examples from your past work experience to illustrate the qualifications, skills and experience required for the role, echoing the language and buzz words used by the company when describing their ideal candidate.
Sending out an unprofessional, untargeted CV will not meet the job description and block you from getting any further in the selection process. So, it’s important that you understand the recruitment and selection process and are prepared for each of the steps involved.
For those just starting off in university, many companies host coffee mornings, insight days or weeks or dinners to scout for potential future employees. This is a fantastic way to get to know the company inside and out and they will also provide you with advice on how to tailor your CV specifically to them. Insight experiences, specifically, are a great option for first- or second-year students who are not yet considering internships or graduate programmes and these can form a path into these programmes later on.
Your CV should be easy to read; it should clearly present the most important facts about you, therefore, the layout of the CV is critical. Try the arm’s length test – hold your CV at arm’s length and see what kind of an impression it makes. Research tells us that an item of advertising material has about a second and a half in which to attract the reader’s attention. You should place the most relevant information first because CVs are often not read from beginning to end.
Make good use of spacing, margins, indentations, capitalisation and underlining and be consistent with your use of these tools. You should use bold type or italics to emphasise words and subject headings but do not over do it!
Make sure that the CV is letter-perfect. Errors, typing mistakes, stains, unexplained abbreviations, technical jargon or buzzwords are not acceptable. Have your final draft critiqued or proof-read by someone you trust or someone in a position of responsibility.
If submitting your CV electronically, always send it as a PDF, if a hard copy is required, make sure you use high quality white paper.
Your Cover Letter
A cover letter is a concise single-page letter addressed to a potential employer that accompanies your CV and should be part of any job application. The only time a cover letter should not be included is when the job ad clearly states so. A cover letter should complement, not duplicate your CV. A cover letter is a chance for you to express your personality to a potential employer and sell yourself as a perfect fit for their team. It is often your earliest written contact with the company, so you need to make the right impression.
It is crucial that your cover letter is completely clear of grammatical errors and well, the hint is in the name, it should be in letter format: your own address on the top right and the company’s address above the salutation on the left. Try your best to address your letter to the correct person. This is generally the hiring or graduate recruitment manager. Avoid “Dear Sir/Madam”, it shows right off the bat that you haven’t done your research. This letter reflects your ability to write and communicate which is still a hugely important skill in many fields. Again, just like with your CV, it is essential to customise your cover letter for each position you’re applying to.
Once you’ve carefully crafted your CV, you can head on over to UCC Career Services’ new CV Review tool at careerset.io/ucc and log in with your Student IT details to access AI-powered feedback on your CV’s impact, style, and brevity. That’s right, a robot will read and review your CV! UCC Career Services is currently working on making a similar tool available for reviewing your cover letters so watch this space!
Having completed your Career Set review feel free to book a consultation with UCC Career Services to discuss your feedback at this link: https://www.ucc.ie/en/careers/meet/