- There is no need to put Curriculum Vitae at the top – it is obvious that it’s a CV!
- Instead put your name in larger font at the top
- Generally 2 pages maximum, although academic CV tend to be longer.
- Layout is very important – make is easy for employers to find the information they need! They don’t want to have to look for it.
- List information in bullet points not paragraphs
- Use headings to highlight sections and relevant skills
- The area of a CV to get most attention from recruiters tends to be around upper middle of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information. You will see in our Sample CVs that this usually includes your degree and/or related skills.
- If you are posting your CV, don't fold it - put it in a full-size A4 envelope so that it doesn't arrive creased.
- If emailing your CV, send it as an attachment and not in the body of an email – it will loose its formatting.
- Spell check (UK) and proof read.
- Target each CV to the specific job or employer.
- If you are applying for more than one type of work, you should have a different CV tailored to each career area, highlighting different aspects of your skills and experience.
- This will normally include your name address, telephone number (home and mobile) and email. Make sure that your email address creates a positive and professional impression!
- If you have a webpage you can also list this in the personal details.
- We recommend using a smaller font in this section than for the rest of the content – your personal details don’t require a significant amount of valuable space on your CV.
- See our Sample CVs in Useful Resources for suggested layout.
Education and qualifications
- Generally content is listing in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent first!
- List your university and degree title including subjects and degree result or expected result if you haven’t graduated yet. Alternatively enter Results Pending if you don’t want to include an expected result.
- It is not recommended to include a long list of modules in your as modules titles will not necessarily give an employer a clear sense of your skills.
- You can list all your modules in an Appendix on an additional page and attach it to your CV. This can be particularly useful for technical degrees.
- Language skills (e.g. fluent French, conversational German) and
- Computer Skills (e.g. strong working knowledge of MS Word, Excel)
- Other skills specific to your area of study. See our subject specific Sample CVs in Useful Resources.
- Use action/power words (e.g. managed, organised, developed, planned)when describing your duties –
Power Words - Strengthen your application
Positive Action Words - Sell yourself
should help with this.
- All employment experience provides skills valued by employers so make sure you research and highlight yours!
- Relate your skills and duties to the job for which you are applying.
- Use headings to categorise your interests/achievements e.g. sport, community, culture
- Try to include some variety – gives the employer a better sense of “who you are”.
- Normally you will list two referees generally one academic (e.g. lecturer/ project supervisor) and one from an employer (e.g. from part-time or summer job). Include referees title, address, telephone number and email address.
- Make sure to ask referees permission before listing them on your CV.
Sample CVs (general and subject specific) are available in Useful Resources
The Sample CVs are in Word format so you can add your details to the prepared format and layout!
Advice on content and layout of Academic CVs can be found at Vitae - The Researcher's Portal
CareerSet is an online CV Optimisation Platform, which enables you to:
• Find out where your CV ranks amongst your peers;
• How to improve it via suggestions related to Language, Style and Presentation;
• Targeted your CV to specific job descriptions, based on keywords and skills.
To access the platform go to Careers Connect. After you have logged in, click Resources in the top right corner and scroll to CareerSet. You can register on CareerSet and login by entering your MU email address and requesting a link to be send to you, which logs you in for the duration of one session.
Upload your CV to get your score and get a full analysis of the areas where you can improve.
What is a Cover Letter?
- An introduction to your CV
- Targetted to a specific employers
- Highlights how you match to job description (skills/experience/knowledge etc)
- Not longer than one A4 page
- Proof read and spell-checked for any grammatical or spelling mistakes
- Typically a cover letter can include four paragraphs
- What job? - Indicate to which position you are applying
- Why that organisation? - Explain why are interested in that particular company, show that you have researched the company (mention their name!), what you like about them and the work they do. This part of the letter should be specifically tailored for each application.
- Why you? - Highlight what specific skills and experience you have that meets their needs. Tailor this to the job description and be clear about all you have to offer. Indicate what you will bring to the job, skills developed from your experience (including experience which may seem irrelevant, for example, experience gained in a different employment setting).
- Conclusion - Indicate your availability for interview (or any times when you won't be available for interview e.g. exams)
- Research the company, career area and the job for which you are applying - this can involve:
- See Discover your Career - Step 2
- Read the company recruitment literature and check their website.
- Find them on Facebook / Twitter / Linked-In.
- Network with anyone you know who may have knowledge about the company
- Make sure you are aware of any topical issues facing the company, the industry etc.
- Use other useful websites e.g. IDA Ireland and Labour Market Information
- Have you decided if the job is right for you? Does it interest and motivate you? Does the position fit in with your core values?
- Discover your Career Step 1 will help you identify your skills, values, interests and personality preferences and clarify what you have gained from all kinds of experience - study, work, volunteering, extra-curricular activities.
- List the skills sought by the employer so you can show how your skills and experience match these. What are your transferable skills?
- Can you offer the qualifications, experience, skills and personal qualities that the employer is seeking?
Paper Application Forms
- Make sure you are using the correct form - some employers have different forms for different job functions.
- Read carefully the instructions on the form.
- Photocopy the form first. Do your first (and second!) draft on a photocopy of the form, to make sure that you can fit everything you want to include into the space available.
- Find a quiet place to fill out the form - the library, your room - wherever suits you.
- Read through the form and follow all instructions.
- Use black ink as your form will probably be photocopied and this makes it easier to read.
- The form should be neat (no smudges!) and well-presented
- Pay attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Read over the form when finished, reading the form aloud can help check that all your sentences make sense. Have a friend read over it too – a fresh pair of eyes are very useful here!
- If applicable, don't forget to sign and date your final form.
- Devote the same research, time and attention to detail for completing online application forms as for paper-based forms.
- Check whether you can register and return later to the form.
- Keep a note of your log-in and password.
- Compose your answers in a word document and then copy and paste into the form.
- Ensure that your application is targeted and the tone is formal.
- Make sure your use of language and grammar is professional – use punctuation and capital letters where appropriate.
- Do not use text message abbreviations.
- Some employers utilise software packages that scan applications for key words and phrases - use the language in the job specification if appropriate
- Check the form for spelling and grammar – use Spell-Check and read over it!
- Don’t leave your application until the closing date – the company system could crash and your application may not be submitted.
- Try to fill all the space provided.
- If you haven’t enough space, it is usually ok (unless otherwise stated) to add an extra sheet, for example for your academic achievements/results.
- Don’t leave a section blank unless it is not appicable to you – in this case enter n/a (not applicable).
- Keep a copy of your completed form because if called for interview you can be asked questions based on the content of your form. You may also be able to use some answers again in other applications!
- If you have any particular health problem or a disability read the section "Disclosing a disability".
- Remember to give clear and concise answers.
- Click here to link to
Power Words - Strengthen your application
Positive Action Words - Sell yourself
to strengthen your application.
Most application forms have several sections
Education and qualifications
- Highlight the content of your course, particularly any relevant modules and/or subjects, your results (if you achieved a high standard) and skills gained.
- Think again about what the employer is looking for. Is your project/thesis relevant to the job application? If so, describe and summarise it clearly.
- Mention the skills acquired e.g. technical skills, or transferable skills such as time management, organisational skills, team-working skills.
Employment and work experience
- Consider the skills you have gained, i.e. customer service, communicating, taking responsibility, initiative, etc.
- Be specific about your achievements – mention outcomes and results such as increases in business, profits, customer satisfaction levels, reductions in time wasted, money spent etc.
- Focus on those skills most relevant to the job for which you are applying.
- Don't dismiss anything as irrelevant without careful thought. Students often assume that their holiday or part-time work as a waiter or shop assistant can be of no possible interest to a graduate employer. This is not so - employers can learn a great deal about your motivation and skills from jobs such as these - so include them.
- If a company has several offices you may be asked for a preference. Be as flexible as possible, but if you have a location preference state it.
Interests & Achievements
- Interests can often be a good indicator to the employer about your motivation and what you are enthusiastic about.
- How you answer a question on interests can give a more rounded picture of your passions and skills. Do your interests show you as motivated, confident, a self-starter, a good communicator, a good team worker?
- Include those interests most relevant to the position
- An achievement can be any activity or task that had a satisfactory conclusion, such as combining study and family responsibilities, organising an activity, coming up with or implementing a good idea, gaining a good result, winning at a sport or learning computer skills.
- Don't just make lists: "reading, cinema, sport" will not tell the employer anything useful about you - give details of your interests such as memberships of clubs, societies and any achievements or positions of responsibility related to them.
- list your own achievements and then the skills developed by each one.
- You could mention skills developed from unpaid or voluntary work here or any additional useful qualifications.
- Deal with 'gaps' in your educational or employment experience - present this in a positive way e.g. what you gained in the time out.
- Specific skills - State your relevant competencies for this job and provide evidence of how they were developed.
- Career choice - State the reason why you have applied for the job.
- Offer evidence of your suitability.
- Refer to the job description or company website and say why you would be an ideal candidate.
- Sell your achievements, personal qualities, and skills here.
- Ask potential referees in advance if you can nominate them as referees
- Include one academic and one employer reference.
Types of Questions
Most application forms contain challenging questions - generally relating to your motivation and skills/competency for the job. In answering these questions provide specific evidence of your skills and suitability for the job.
Examples of Motivational Questions
These all require you to demonstrate motivation and knowledge of the job or the organisation. In your answer focus on matching your abilities and experience to the employer’s requirements.
Why do you want this job?
What do you think you can offer our organisation?
Why do you think you are suited to this kind of work?
What attracts you to this job?
What qualities do you think you can offer?
Explain how your interests and experiences might make you a better...?
What criteria would make you decide to accept a job?
Skills/Competency based questions
These try to establish your personal skills for the job. They generally ask for a specific example of when you used a particular skills e.g. leadership, team-working, organisation etc.
Use STAR acronym to help you answer these and briefly describe the:
Situation - relevant context or environment
Task - to be undertaken/problem to solve
Action - you took/obstacle you helped overcome
Prospects (UK) has a useful section on Skills Employers Seek and how to develop these.
Some forms simply have an open page for you to complete. Try to structure the space allocated using key headings in accordance with what is requested. If guidelines are not provided, this section could include:
- Information about your career motivation and how you have reached your decision to choose this job
- Relevant skills and qualities, and examples of how you developed them
- The reason you would like to join the organisation and what you will bring to it
Top application tips – Prospects
Applying for jobs - Prospects
Psychometric Testing / Assessment Centres
Psychometric tests have two common functions. Some can help people explore their own strengths and interests and others are used by employers as part of the recruitment process.
Disclosing a Disability?
When applying for jobs people often wonder when or if they should disclose a disability. There is no correct answer to this question. Ultimately you make the decision regarding what stage of the application process you will disclose.
Some application forms ask direct questions about health and disability, example "Do you wish to note that you have a disability? If so please detail any special needs or requirements (access, assistance, software etc.)". In this case it is advised to answer the question honestly.
If you decide to disclose your disability in a written application, do so in a positive way. Highlight any additional skills you have acquired through managing your disability as well as successful previous employment or voluntary work. For example, you could demonstrate your ability to be flexible, to cope with change and, if you have a support worker, managing people.
Your disability can be seen as a strength - however, it is up to you to get that message across to potential employers.
Your Digital footprint – where does it lead employers?
As we navigate the internet and interact with websites, we leave a trail. Many websites require us to register and log in before we can access their full suite of services. In one way or another we leave our details on each website. On the surface this is not a problem. We have all become accustomed to using the internet for our own needs and we likely don’t give this a second thought. However, the tools and websites that we use to navigate the wealth of information availabl online are the same tools that can cause us problems during our job application process.
What would an employer find out about you if they searched for you on-line?
An experienced recruiter will invest time and effort into their recruitment practices.
They are looking for someone who will fit into their organisation and present a positive image to clients.
Lengthy application forms and assessment centre activities are common among graduate recruiters because they help organisations identify candidates with desirable skill sets and traits. However, a keen recruiter may seek further information about an applicant to help them decide on the best applicant for the job.
Applicants are usually able to identify exactly which skill sets and traits employers seek by ‘doing their homework’ on a company – using a search engine to research a company.
It is easy to forget that employers use search engines too when they want to find out about an applicant.
As an exercise, open a search engine webpage and search your name. What do you find?
Most of us will have different usernames for the different websites that we visit. If you enter your various usernames into a search engine, what do you find?
Remember that if your username resembles your real name, then it is safe to assume that an employer may be able to guess what it is and find information about you!
What websites do you have an account with?
Other social networking sites - Bebo.com, myspace.com etc
What other websites do/did you visit on a regular basis? It is likely that there is still information available there about you!
How a search works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs
“When you do a google search, you aren’t actually searching the web. You are searching google’s index of the web.”
The above video shows that finding information about a given topic (e.g. you) can be sourced from many different sources: university websites, school websites, your own social networking sites, your friend’s social networking sites, old recruitment agency websites where you uploaded a CV, basically any websites with which you are registered or have created an account.
Employers are aware that this information is available online, and can easily access it. If they find comments, blog posts, photographs or videos of a job applicant that seem unprofessional they may well take this into account in their recruitment decision. Remember, they can make a judgement about you based on what they find online and it could cost you the job you desire.
What you can do about it:
- Make all your profiles private. You can usually toggle different levels of privacy in the settings tabs.
- Untag / delete photographs or videos that don’t show your ‘professional qualities.’ (e.g. night out!)
- Be aware that 3rd parties can sometimes access your private profile through your un-private friend’s profile. Close any gaps.
- Clean up or delete any comments, posts or blogs that could be interpreted as inappropriate, unprofessional or something that would be difficult to explain at interview.
- Make sure your email address is appropriate
- If you have a voicemail on your mobile, make sure it is professional.
- Create a professional image of yourself on www.linkedin.com and use the site to link with others. The more you use this, the more prominent your page will become on search engines.
- Once you put something out there it is almost impossible to take it back
- Avoid poor spelling/grammar in posts
- Use privacy settings and block comment features as appropriate
- Consider using an alternative email address or alias online
- Ask webmaster of particular websites to remove anything by or about you that you (or others) may find offensive.