The question of how to write a CV and a cover letter is more common than you think. People really do not know where to start. Most often, they do not know what to write, how, where, and why. This is all expected because, unfortunately, our education system on a global level does not equip the young with the tools nor skills needed in real life. CV and cover letter writing are most definitely among those skills.
Sure, there are some courses or parts of a curriculum that kind of cover CV writing. However, those are mostly useless because they are based on online templates and outdated ideas. Also, very rarely does anyone talk about cover letter writing.
In this article, we will look into how to write a CV and a cover letter. You can, for sure, use this article as a guide the next time you find yourself in need of these documents. So, let’s deep dive into it and see what it takes to write a winning CV and a cover letter.
CV writing is a skill
To write a good CV that will grab the reader’s attention, you need to go through several steps. Some of them might not be pleasant, but you need to do it nevertheless. If you want to stop wasting your time on writing unsuccessful CVs and if you do not want to pay a professional CV writer, what is outlined below is essential. Learning how to write a CV and a cover letter is not that hard, it just takes time and effort. If you’ve never done it before, it might take up a lot of your time, but trust me, it’s going to be worth it! So…are you ready?
The very first step
Let us start at the very beginning. When we talk about the start of the process, what you need to know about how to write a CV and a cover letter, is that you need to set things straight.
You simply can not move forward unless you are 100% sure you have a clear vision of what you want to do next. How can you identify that? Well, here are the two basic steps you need to do:
- Find a position or at least a field of interest that suits your needs, desires, and aspirations.
- Make sure you have a foundation for your job application (relevant experience, skills, and/or educational background).
Whilst Linking Lines completely encourages people to be free and think outside of the box, we also encourage you to be real. Be honest with yourself. Your desires might not match your skills or experience. You need to align the two because you need to have a leg to stand on, so to say.
This means that, if you worked as a construction worker for 10 years, you can not just wake up one day and decide you are going to work as a designer. It does not work that way. You need to attend a course, develop a specific set of skills, and deep dive into your new area of interest. Only then will you have something to offer to future employers.
Alternatively, you might have a hobby you would like to turn into a career. That is really great, but be prepared to prove you have actual skills and experience to do it as a daytime job.
Don’t get discouraged
A career switch is natural, and people do it all the time. But, they do it in an orderly fashion – they ask around, get educated, get some volunteering or internship experience, and then they look for a job.
We want to be perfectly clear here: you can not expect recruiters to choose you if you have little or if you have nothing relevant to offer. There are people with experience, skills, and education applying for the same role as you are, and they are way ahead of you.
So, to prevent disappointment, we encourage you to think it through. Take your time and see what you want to do and how you can start doing it.
Enroll a course, offer to work for free if needed, ask around for internships. Whatever you do, do not jump into a career switch without giving it some thought. That will most probably end badly, and you will get back to your monotonous routine.
The next steps in CV writing
Have you identified what you want to do? Great! And are you sure you have what it takes to be competitive in the job market? If your answer is “yes,” – congratulations! You can now roll up your sleeves and get to CV writing.
To write a good and, what’s more important, focused CV, you will have to learn how to do certain things.
Mainly, to write a winning CV, you need to know how to:
- Carry out detailed research so you can focus and optimize your CV.
- This is important because this is the step that basically guarantees your CV will not go unnoticed. If you know what you are writing about and if you know your audience, the chances of you getting a reply are very high.
- Distinguish between what is important and relevant and what is not.
- Essentially, this means you will not list every single job you had nor every single certificate you own. This is crucial because you do not want to bore the reader. Instead, you want to spoon-feed them information that clearly shows them why you are the perfect candidate for that job!
- Summarize your experiences, skills, and educational background
- Remember, your CV is not the only one a recruiter will open that day. So, to make sure someone actually reads your CV, you simply can not send them a 3- or 4-page long document. Avoid full sentences and stick to bullet points – this should help you immensely with the summarizing part.
- Write objectively and clearly, so everyone understands you.
- Humans are subjective; that’s a fact. But CV is a professional document, and you need to be as objective as you can. Your text needs to be clear, simple to follow, and to the point. You might think something is clear, but try looking at it from the perspective of someone who is not as knowledgeable about the subject as you are. Think about your audience! You will probably realize pretty fast you need to rephrase certain things, so it makes sense to everyone.
Whatever you find during this phase, you can definitely use to write a cover letter as well. Those are two separate documents but they have the same goal. The goal is, of course, to land you a job interview.
Now when you understand the needed preparatory activities and style, let’s move on to the next phase.
Writing your CV from scratch
First of all, you have to know the following: you should be writing your CV from scratch! To truly understand CV writing, you can not use online templates. You also can not copy-paste examples that you can easily find on the internet.
Why? Well, because you need to own your content. So, open your word processor (Word, Pages) and get started. When you formulate a bullet point, you are in control of what you are presenting to the reader. And you fully understand it. Do not think for a second that this is not important.
How to write an eye-catching CV?
We will probably disappoint you with this one! The answer is not flashy colors, tables, photographs, icons, nor charts. It’s actually having relevant information right at the beginning of your CV presented in a very clear way!
What do we mean by that? Well, if you want to grab someone’s attention, you have to give them what they like or want to see. In this context, since we are talking about a CV, what recruiters want to see is relevant information.
You can find the most relevant information about a candidate’s profile in a job ad.
What this actually means is this: in order to grab a recruiter’s attention, make sure to incorporate the job requirements and duties in your CV.
Here’s the tricky part: do not do it automatically (without thinking)! Take a look at the job ad(s) and then see if you actually have the needed skills and/or experience.
It makes no sense for you to simply copy the text from the job ad and paste it in your CV if it does not truly reflect who you are. It will take a recruiter only a few seconds to realize what you have done and you will be rejected.
How should you organize your CV?
One thing is for sure – make it easy for the reader to follow. When you write a CV, it has to be organised in a logical way.
Do not introduce any confusing elements and make sure your sections are clearly separated.
Once again, your CV should reflect who you are. Therefore, steer clear from CV templates. Templates plant an idea in your mind that you can’t get rid of easily, and sometimes, they can do more harm than good.
The structure of a CV is not set in stone, and there are multiple ways of organizing it. However, from years of experience, we can advise the following: think of your CV as an inverted pyramid.
The opening section
Start with the most relevant information. For some, this will be education, while for others, it will be skills and experience. This is individual. However, what is in common to everyone is that you need to ensure a person actually reads your CV.
In order to ensure that, we at Linking Lines always recommend to start your CV with an overview of your professional life. This opening section is the foundation of your application. Consider it to be your “best of.”
Ask yourself the following question: what is the best I got to offer to the company for this position?
Your answers should make up your first (opening) section.
And please remember, recruiters spend only a few seconds looking at your CV. In reality, this means that they will open it, and based on what they see, decide whether to scroll down or not. So, make sure you arouse interest. Make them want to see the rest of your CV. That is why your opening section needs to be relevant, clear, and intriguing.
The second section
If you indeed are thinking of your CV as an inverted pyramid, you know the second part needs to build on your foundation. So, the section right after the opening section needs to show your second-best.
What else do you have to offer? Think…what is the next thing a recruiter needs to know about you?
You have two choices here – you can either present your work experience or your education. Which one it will be depends on relevancy.
This means that you will describe your work experience if you have worked in the same field in which you are now looking for a job. Remember, you need to offer relevant information.
If you have a certificate or if you hold a degree in the field – excellent! Make sure to emphasize it. However, keep in mind nothing trumps hands-on experience. So, if you happen to have both relevant work experience and relevant educational background – start with the work experience.
You should only go with education in special circumstances, for example, if you are a recent graduate. Another situation in which you could go with education is if you do not have relevant work experience.
The remaining sections
Your third and fourth sections should be ranked based on relevancy. The more important something is, the sooner you need to mention it. That’s our approach at Linking Lines and we advise it to everyone because it works.
Usually, CVs are longer than a single page. It is acceptable that your CV is spilling over to the second page. However, make sure that the page does not have any super important, essential information you want people to know about you. Why? Because the reader might not get to it. So, remember – organize your CV in order of importance of the information.
Now that you understand the principles of CV writing let’s dedicate some time and space to explain how to write a cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is something that can be considered a type of motivational letter. In it, you need to provide a short introduction to your professional self and explain why you are applying for the role. It’s also good to say why you think you’re the perfect fit for it!
Do you really need a cover letter?
In short: yes. Cover letters are still very important because it’s most likely what the reader will read first. You can deliver your cover letter in several ways, depending on the platform you’re applying through. Your cover letter can be read as:
- A separate document. This is most common on websites or recruiter platforms that require the upload of documents.
- An email. This is used when the job ad instructs you to send your job application via email. In that case, you will copy-paste your cover letter in the email body and attach your CV to the email.
- A part of an online form. In this case, you will be asked to provide why you are applying for the role in a box on a website.
What is the importance of cover letters?
We at Linking Lines love to say that a cover letter is like a trailer. If the trailer is interesting, you want to watch the movie, right? The same principle applies here: if your cover letter is interesting, the recruiter will want to read your CV! It means that it aroused interest so there’s a very good chance the reader will read your entire CV!
The art of CV and cover letter writing revealed
And there you have it – the gist of the art of CV and cover letter writing! We understand this is a lot of information. But, surely you know that if you want results, you need to put in the work. This is true for any field in life: your relationships, fitness, career. And this is most definitely true when it comes to CV and cover letter writing. Remember, that is your golden ticket to an interview and a better job.
If you tackle this task properly, you can change your life forever! We have written a detailed guide for CV writing which is available right here.