The very first engagement with one’s potential employer is usually made through the submission of their CV and cover letter, so it therefore goes without saying that the candidate should do their best to make sure they prepare their CV with the right content and present it in a neat and well-structured manner. In addition to this, preparing a well-written cover letter further contributes to a great first impression and offers one the opportunity to differentiate themselves from other candidates. Below, we take a look at a few simple ways on how to structure a CV and cover letter which can allow a candidate to stand out from the crowd.
The Right Material
What content should be included in a CV? The first area covered is usually that of education - diplomas, degrees and other certifications which illustrate one’s educational background in preparation for their industry. Second comes the area related to previous work experience which is said to be the most analysed section for employers, the reason being that if a candidate possesses relevant experience in relation the vacant role, employers will feel confident that the candidate will be able to hit the ground running as soon as they are employed. Further to this, employers seek candidates who display traits of loyalty and commitment - a candidate who has spent several years working at another company within the same industry will be preferred when compared to a candidate who has spent multiple stints at various companies. Employers want to recruit individuals who are committed as much as they are talented.
With regards to hard skills, certain roles such as careers in software development will demand particular expertise in certain programming languages like Python, skills in Java and C# which would be fundamental to the role in question. One should always make sure about what type of skills the role requires, and highlight them in a clear way in their CV. Vacancies in Banking and Finance might also require basic skills in I.T. of which the employer would use as a way of differentiating candidates. With companies moving to digital strategies, employers want to make sure that their workforce is well-prepared and up-to-date with the movements of the industry.
Besides the regular fields of education, work experience and hard skills, one should also add an area dedicated to skills which are transferrable across any sector of any industry, as well as professional affiliations. In addition, displaying attributes and participation of social, sport, business and network-related activities will certainly enhance one’s position during the early stages of the recruitment process. In short, one should include a list of skills and insight gained through activities they participated in. International experience through work or study is also very favourable, adding a more diverse factor to your application.
One should think of a few questions to be used as guidelines when listing these types of skills and experiences. What insight and knowledge gained over the previous years do you wish your employer to know about? What skills do you possess which you feel will make you stand out from the other applicants for the same role? How do you think such skills will help you provide greater value to the organisation? Such questions can help one create a flowing structure to represent their skillset.
Putting it all together
Once the content has been decided, it’s time to look at how to put it all together in a neat and orderly fashion. One’s CV should be formed in a simple and straightforward manner - the design should be clean and minimal, displaying all relevant details of education, work experience and skills in an organised and easily legible manner. One must remember that many a time, the employer will be scanning through plenty CVs at a time, and therefore must be able to absorb the necessary information through an effortless glance. Customising the design of one’s CV is also said to be favourable, as many employers typically get bored of the same standard layouts - by taking some time to design the layout of your CV through the use of a two-tone colour palette, flowing structure and professional typeface, one will most likely come across as unique by being able to add their own personal touch to such a profile, displaying initiative to be different. A creative way of communicating one’s skills in their CV could also be through a simple infographic which conveys what skills they possess and at what level of expertise. Although this is not an obligatory way of laying out your CV, it is but another way of enriching your presentation to enhance your first impression!
Composing your Cover Letter
Moving onto the cover letter, this slip of personalised information goes a long way. The candidate who takes time and consideration to writing a well-composed cover letter fairs a greater chance of standing out compared to one who simply submits their CV on its own. The content of a cover letter should consist of meaningful communication towards your potential employer. One could include a few reasons as to why they wish to join the company in question, and what interests them about the company’s mission statement, morals and methods of operation. This can also be taken as an opportunity to show the employer that one understands the company, its issues and challenges, and is enthusiastic to form part of the team to help the organisation grow. Perhaps by analysing the company’s annual report, one may be able to form an opinion and use that as an intelligent resource for asking interesting questions or coming up with viable solutions to optimise the company’s operations. By showing interest and the ability to understand what a company stands for, what their goals are and what they wish to achieve in both the short and long term, the candidate can form a more relevant cover letter for their role. In addition, one could also mention how they feel they can provide additional value to the company through their expertise and services, and why the company should recruit them.
No matter one’s level of experience or seniority, one should take pride in preparing their CV and cover letter when applying for a job, since such a stage in the recruitment process provides the candidate with the opportunity to stand out from the crowd at the very first stage by presenting themselves in a unique and interesting manner.