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CVs and covering letters for work experience

CVs and covering letters for work experience

Check out our essential guide to CVs and covering letters for work experience and internships to help you make the best possible application.
You don’t have to stick to a rigid format or set headings.

There is no ‘right’ way to write a CV, although there are standard formats that you can adapt. It’s down to you to decide how best to highlight your achievements and the knowledge and skills you gained through your education, work history (including part-time jobs) and extracurricular activities. Your CV will be shaped both by your strengths and achievements and by the needs of the employer you are applying to, and it’s important to revise and fine-tune it for different opportunities.

The traditional CV format has personal details followed by education and work experience (usually in reverse chronological order) followed by achievements, interests, and referees, but you don’t have to stick to a rigid format or set headings. If you’ve had a lot of responsibility, you might want a section titled ‘Positions of responsibility’. If you’ve volunteered a lot, you could opt for ‘Voluntary work and fundraising’. Check out our CV template for internship applications for ideas to help you get started.

CV conventions for students

In the UK, CVs shouldn’t exceed two pages (either one or two full pages) and you shouldn’t include your photograph, date of birth, gender, marital status, ethnic background or religious beliefs. Some students include a career aim at the top. Don’t do this unless you have something unique to say. Most students write similar-sounding, unsubstantiated statements such as: ‘A creative student who can work well in a team seeking a placement’. This is unlikely to strengthen your application; it’s better to use the space to expand on your part-time jobs or extracurricular achievements.

In your CV you’re looking to strike a fine balance between depth of information and a concise format.

You’re looking to strike a fine balance between depth of information and a concise format. If a part-time job or a course module is critical to your application, give it twice as much space as other, less important facts. Choose a neat font style and a point size that’s not too small, and pay attention to punctuation and grammar. Use your careers service for feedback.

Concentrate on your personal contribution to whatever it is you’re writing about and stress achievements, results and outcomes, quantifying them wherever possible.

Covering letters that convince

Write a covering letter to accompany your CV if you apply for an opportunity via email. If you are filling in an online form, it will specify whether a covering letter is required.

A covering letter introduces your CV. It highlights your most relevant skills and your enthusiasm for the opportunity. It must be specific to that opportunity and employer; every employer wants to feel wanted. A covering letter has four parts:

  • An introduction. Try to apply to a named person rather than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. State the opportunity you are applying for and where you saw it advertised.
  • Why you’d be a good hire. Provide examples that show you have the skills, attributes and/or knowledge the recruiter wants – use the job description as a guide. You could use this formula to help you highlight your suitability: ‘I will be able to do [something on the job description] because I have experience of [doing something similar or using the required skills]. For example, I…’
  • Why you want the internship. Say what appeals to you in particular about this opportunity and employer. Research the employer to back up your reasons.
  • A gracious sign off. Thank them for considering your application or say you look forward to hearing from them. If you’ve applied to a named individual, sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you have applied to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, use ‘Yours faithfully’.

As with your CV, if you have time it’s worth booking an appointment with an adviser to get feedback on your covering letter from your careers service.

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