A CV showing Transport for London’s recruiters that you have the competencies, behaviours and motivation they are looking for is the key that opens the door to the rest of the selection process (which consists of a couple of rounds of online tests, a video interview and an assessment centre).
Transport for London’s application guidelines ask for a CV and don’t mention a covering letter. However, once you are logged in to the application process, you have the option of attaching multiple documents. You could write a short covering letter to attach here that goes into detail about why you want to work for Transport for London and, importantly, what makes you an ideal TfL graduate. We recommend doing so; it’s never wise to miss an opportunity to tell recruiters why you want to work for their company and why you would be a good recruit. However, if you choose not to write a covering letter, include a short personal statement at the top of your CV, stating your reasons for applying. While a personal statement will probably suffice, a covering letter gives you more space in which to impress.
NB: Covering letter advice is at the end of this article.
TfL graduate CV tip #1: display your relevant modules and projects
Most of Transport for London’s graduate schemes require a degree in a specific field, so how do you distinguish yourselves from other applicants to the same scheme who will also graduate with a mechanical engineering MEng or real estate BSc? On your CV, under your degree title and expected grade, include a short list of the modules, projects and dissertations that are most relevant to your chosen scheme – include a short description if it is not clear from the module or project title why it is relevant. If applying to Transport for London’s commercial property surveying scheme, make it clear that, for example, your planning module was specifically related to commercial developments.
TfL graduate CV tip #2: give your personal statement a point
It is common to include a few lines at the top of your CV summarising who you are and your career aim. It is also common for graduates to write personal statements that don’t tell the recruiter anything that makes them stand out (anyone can write that they are ‘hardworking’, ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘passionate about engineering’, for example). Include one if you aren’t attaching a covering letter, but if you are submitting a covering letter, consider carefully whether the space on your CV could be better used.
A stand-out personal statement for Transport for London highlights your skills, achievements and ambitions that make you suited to the particular graduate scheme you are applying to.
As an initial sentence…
DON’T SAY: ‘A hardworking real estate finalist passionate about property seeks a surveying job.’
DO SAY (something like): ‘A real estate finalist with a year-long placement in a commercial agency seeks a graduate trainee surveying role within TfL.’
TfL graduate CV tip #3: choose the structure that suits you best
There are various ways to structure a graduate CV. These structures are helpful but don’t get too hung up on following the structure. It's more important that your skills and experiences are displayed in the way that will impress Transport for London’s recruiters the most.
Start by reading the job advert for your scheme in detail and then brainstorm all the relevant skills and experience you have (not just from your degree, but work experience, jobs, extracurricular activities and responsibilities you’ve had). If most of your relevant skills come from work experience, choose a structure that includes a prominent section on work experience/your work history. If most of your relevant experience comes from elsewhere, you might want to use a skills-based format that includes sections for different types of skills. For example, if you are applying to the software development scheme you could include a ‘programming languages’ section if you have experience of several.
TfL graduate CV tip #4: go into detail
You have already given information on the relevant modules you have studied. Tick. But going into detail to show what makes you unique and desirable as a Transport for London graduate doesn’t stop there.
When you mention work experience or jobs, detail what your responsibilities were, using keywords from the graduate scheme job advert to draw attention to how your experience is relevant. If you leave recruiters guessing what your summer internship at a civil engineering contractor (for example) involved, you are making their job harder. Instead, tell them that you marked, levelled out and surveyed sites under supervision, that you completed health and safety checks, that you liaised with the client over X and Y, that you reported on progress and materials to assist with monitoring costs, that you prepared completion documents and so on. Where you can, give details about the packages you worked on and quantify the work you did to give recruiters an idea of the scale of your achievements.
If you include sections on skills, tell recruiters how you gained the skills. If you have learned the programming language SQL, was this part of your degree or did you teach yourself through online tutorials? If you have presentation skills, did you gain these through a module with a presentation assessment or because you organised an event for the mechanical engineering society and had to introduce the speakers? There is no right or wrong place to pick up skills, but recruiters may be particularly impressed if you show that you went out of your way (outside of your course) to gain them.
What to put in your TfL graduate covering letter
If you choose to write one, don’t worry: you won’t have to write lots – no more than three or four paragraphs – to elaborate on the points on your CV that best argue why are you are suitable for the job.
Tell them why you. What about you would make you a good Transport for London software developer, surveyor or fire engineer? Give examples of how you have demonstrated the core skills and behaviours it seeks in all its graduates. These are on the Transport for London careers website.
Tell them why them. What appeals to you about Transport for London as an employer? Why did you choose to apply for one of its graduate schemes out of all the other schemes available? Be genuine and think back to what caught your attention about the scheme, but also do your research: go online to find out how TfL is governed, look in the press to find out the latest news stories concerning TfL and, if you know anyone who works for them, ask them about what they do, their career progression and what they enjoy.