Brushing up on your CV and Cover Letter writing skills

Following the successful personal brand clinics hosted by Eden Recruitment in their capacity as title sponsors of ATI’s 2021 Annual Conference, Eden has provided top tips for maximising your chance of reaching interview-stage by submitting a superior CV and Cover Letter.

Often these two documents can be left to the last minute ahead of a job application deadline, but remember, they’re your first opportunity to make a good impression and if neglected, they’ll be your only opportunity with that particular employer.

Use your CV as your calling card

Your most valuable tool to get to interview is your CV. The more effort you put into tailoring your CV to the job you’re applying for, the more likely you’ll receive an invitation to interview. Many people update their CV every couple of years and then think 'job well done', but a CV needs to be regularly adapted. Your CV is an essential piece of personal marketing so keep it relevant, job specific and to-the-point.

Key areas to keep in mind:

  • Tailor your CV to each job specification and organisation
  • Highlight skills of benefit to the particular role
  • Provide tangible and quantitative examples of your past successes
  • Avoid a list of job responsibilities (you’re not writing a job spec!)
  • Include a short personal statement / career summary at the start
  • Pack in the keywords throughout so your CV is picked up by computer scanning
  • Make your contact details clear and include in the header if you need more space
  • Leave out personal details such as your marital status
  • Don’t include a photo of yourself as unlike in other countries, this is not standard practice in Ireland
  • Keep interests appropriate and professional

Your CV layout:

  • Send your CV in the file type specified by the employer, but otherwise stick to .doc or .pdf
  • Avoid fancy layouts and colours, and use standard and consistent type faces and fonts
  • Unless you’re a recent grad with minimal career experience to include, list your past roles on the first page under your personal / career summary
  • Always list your career history in reverse chronological order (most recent first)
  • Choose bullet points over long-winded sentences
  • Match all details with your LinkedIn profile
Show them you mean business with a Cover Letter 

While they take a bit of time to compose, a well-written cover letter makes it clear you’re serious about the job and also gives you a chance to elaborate on how your skill-set matches that of the role and what you can bring to the organisation.

When is a Cover Letter important?

  • When you wish to include extra information not listed in your CV such as rationale for a relocation or explaining an employment gap 
  • When the employer might expect one even though it’s not always stipulated. Employers often won’t consider CVs that aren’t accompanied by a cover letter as the candidate is presumed to be less motivated

When not to include a Cover Letter?

  • When the job application instructs you not to include one
  • When you don’t have time – no letter is better than a poorly written one. Often Cover Letters serve as a sample of your writing ability and if you risk submitting a letter with grammatical and spelling errors, then best leave it altogether
  • When there’s no way to upload one on the online platform

Key areas to keep in mind:

  • Like your CV, write a targeted Cover Letter focussing on how your experience and skillset matches those referenced in the job description
  • Keep it concise and to one-page
  • Proof-read it and ask a family member or friend to do the same – any errors in your letter can be damaging to your chance of being called for interview
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the company; Do your research and reference any recent / ongoing projects the company is working on
  • Judge the tone of your letter according to the company’s culture. If you’re applying for an accountancy role in a traditional practice, then best to keep your letter very formal. If you’re applying for a similar role but in a tech start-up, there may be more scope for inclusion of personality. If in doubt, keep it formal

This article was written in partnership with Eden Recruitment.

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