Writing Your CV and Cover Letter

Getting Started


Our guide to CV and Cover Letters
Why is it important?
What is a CV?
Creating a Chronological CV
Creating a Skills Based CV
Top tips for nailing your CV
Cover Letters
Structuring a Cover Letter
Researching the company
CV and Cover Letter Templates

You’ve found a job listing that looks right up your street. But part of the application process is to attach a current CV and cover letter.

And you either don’t have them yet, or you’re not sure if your current versions are up to scratch.If this sounds like you, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we’ll run through how you can approach your CV and cover letter to give you the best chance of securing an interview for your dream job.

Animation of someone who is hiring for a job

If an employer is advertising for a job role, it’s important to understand that you’re unlikely to be the only applicant for the position.

Don’t be lured into a false sense of security by only seeing 7 applications for the role on your favourite job board.

Services like Post My Job allow employers and recruitment agencies to post the same listing on multiple different job boards for an affordable fixed fee. So you’re probably in the running alongside dozens (maybe hundreds!) of other candidates.

Having a strong, relevant CV and cover letter are important for getting past automated screening software (more about Applicant Tracking Systems later!) and making a great first impression with potential employers should they review your application manually.

It’s estimated that recruiters spend between 6-8 seconds looking at a CV before deciding if you’re suitable for taking forward in the recruitment process.  

With this in mind, you need to make sure that your CV is clear, concise, easy to read and highlights your relevant skills and experience for the role.

A CV, which stands for curriculum vitae, is a document used when applying for jobs. It allows you to summarise your education, skills and experience enabling you to successfully sell your abilities to potential employers. Alongside your CV employers also usually ask for a cover letter.

In the USA and Canada CVs are known as résumés. These documents tend to be more concise and follow no particular formatting rules.

A chronological CV is likely to be most appropriate for you if:

  • You’ve been in work for a little while
  • You have a clear, consistent work history
  • You don’t have any gaps in your employment history
  • Your previous roles have relevance to the new role you’re applying for
Animation of someone in the office environment

A chronological CV allows the recruiter to easily see your career progression over a period of time.

By listing your previous roles and the key achievements and skills you learned in each, it can be a really effective way to demonstrate your experience and expertise in a specific field or industry.

Research and tailoring

Animation of someone looking at documents with a magnifying glass

The first step in putting together a chronological CV is to carefully review the job description, and look at the language and key phrases used. You’re going to want to make sure you thread these through your CV document.

As an example, think of an industry that has interchangeable terms. Maybe in the digital industry, where the terms ‘online marketing’, ‘digital marketing’, and ‘performance marketing’ can all be used for similar activities.  

If you’ve always referred to yourself as someone who works in ‘online marketing’ but the job description is looking for someone with experience in ‘digital marketing’ – make a note of that. You might want to change the way you refer to your experience.

You will also benefit from pulling out the key skills that are in the job description, jotting them down, and making sure that they are included (if truthful and accurate!) in your CV.

Contact details

The first thing you should consider including in your chronological CV are your contact details.

You should keep this brief and include:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Location (Town or city)
  • LinkedIn profile (if relevant)
  • Web address (if relevant)

A quick note on email addresses. Gmail and Outlook email addresses are fine.

But make sure they look professional and don’t leave the wrong impression. It’s fine to have a quirky or jokey personal email address, but if you’re applying for a job role it might not leave the right impression.  

Personal summary

The next section you should include is a personal summary.

What you include in here is dependent on your experience, the requirements of the role, and your skills and achievements.

This is going to be the first thing that potential employers read. It is typically the most important section of your CV and you should consider tailoring it based on the unique requirements of each role.

You might even consider using the company name in your personal summary.

We’ve included a quick example below:

“Ambitious and experienced copywriter with a BA in English Language from the University of London. 8 years writing copy for some of the UK’s leading e-commerce businesses. Excited to join [organisation] as Lead Copywriter to help drive more traffic, sales and revenue for your online store”

Employment History

This is the main part of your chronological CV. The part that shows you have all the experience needed to really excel in the role.

This section should list your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job and working backwards.

If you have quite a distinguished career, it’s generally recommended that you focus on the roles that you’ve held in the last 10 years.

For each role, you should include:

  • Job title
  • The name of your employer
  • The location of the employer
  • The dates of your employment
  • Your key responsibilities and achievements

Education and Qualifications

After the work experience section, it’s best to include a section that details your education, training and qualifications.  

This section can be structured similarly to your employment history, listing your qualifications and certifications in reverse chronological order.

  • Name of institution
  • Location
  • The dates you studied
  • The awards (and grades) you achieved.
Animation of people graduating

Skills and abilities

This is your opportunity to shine and list the skills and abilities you have that make you an ideal fit for the role.

Similar to the ‘Personal Summary’, this is a section that you should ideally tailor to the requirements of the role you’re applying for.

It’s important that you try and strike a balance between listing technical skills and interpersonal skills in this section.

A skills-based CV is likely to be most appropriate for you if you want to highlight your unique skills and experiences, rather than focusing on your chronological work history.

This might be a better fit for you if:

  • You’re a recent graduate, and don’t have an extensive employment history
  • You’re looking to change careers and want to focus on your transferable skills.
  • You have gaps in your employment history.

The content that you include in a skills-based CV is actually very similar to a chronological CV – it’s just the structure and focus that shifts a little.

Contact details

This section can remain exactly the same as a chronological CV, staying brief and including:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Location (Town or city)
  • LinkedIn profile (if relevant)
  • Web address (if relevant)

Personal Statement

The next section you should include is a personal statement. This is likely to be a little bit different to the way you would approach a Personal Summary in a chronological CV.

Instead of focusing on experience, you’ll instead want to focus on the skills you have that can make a difference to the organisation. You should consider tailoring this section based on the unique requirements of each role and think about including the company name.

We’ve included a quick example below:

“With a strong foundation in communication and problem-solving, as well as a proven track record of success in customer service, I am well-equipped to take on new challenges and excel in [role at organisation]. I have consistently demonstrated my ability to learn quickly and work effectively as part of a team, and I am excited to bring this skill set to [organisation] where I can continue to grow and develop professionally.”


Animation of someone thinking

This is the most important part of a skills-based CV. In this section, you want to list the 5 or 6 skills that make you ideal for the role you’re applying for.

Try and illustrate circumstances and situations where you have used those skills. This could be in work, or it could equally be in education or volunteering roles. For the best chance of success, this section should be adjusted based on the requirements of each role you’re applying for.

Be careful of terminology here, and where possible try to mirror the way that certain skills are referenced in the job description. If they ask for a ‘team player’ say you’re a ‘team player’ rather than having ‘group working skills’.

Employment History

This is still important to include on a skills-based CV, but you can also include any voluntary roles or internships that you may have completed.  

This section should list your work experience in reverse chronological order, but emphasise the skills you put into practice in each of the roles.

Education and Qualifications

It’s also important to list your qualifications and certifications.

This section shouldn’t differ too much from a chronological CV, and should include:

  • Name of institution
  • Location
  • The dates you studied
  • The awards (and grades) you achieved.

Whether you choose to write a chronological CV or a skills-based CV, there are a few tips that can really help you stand out and give you the best chance of securing an interview.

Be aware of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

You might have noticed we’ve mentioned the importance of ‘mirroring’ the language and terminology used in the job description a couple of times.

One of the main reasons for this is that an increasing number of organisations are using ATS systems to try and improve the efficiencies of their recruitment process, and make sure that only the most relevant of CVs make it to the hiring managers. We won’t go into lots of detail about ATS here, but there’s a good article on Reed.co.uk if you want to find out more

The important thing to note is that recruiters can instruct their ATS to only send hiring managers the most relevant CVs based on things like qualifications, skills or experience.

For example, they might have criteria that look for the phrase “Google Search Ads”. If you’ve described your experience as being proficient in “Paid Search” – the system doesn’t see it as a match.

So, the most important thing to remember is to mirror the terminology in the job description as closely as you can!

Keep it clear and concise

Keep your CV concise and to the point.

Most employers only spend 6-8 seconds skimming a CV, so it’s important to make sure that the most important information is easy to find and quick to read. Use clear headings and section titles to organise your information and make it easy for the recruiter to find what they are looking for.

Include the company name in your Personal Summary / Personal Statement

Even if the recruiter is using ATS, they are still likely to have several dozen CVs to sort through and shortlist interview candidates from.

By including the company name in your introductory section, it gives you a chance to stand out when recruiters are skimming your CV. It makes it clear you’ve taken the time to tailor your application and haven’t sent a generic CV.

Proofread your CV carefully

A CV with errors can make you appear careless and unprofessional. This isn’t the first impression you want to make! So make sure you carefully proofread your CV before sending it.

If possible, ask someone else to review your CV and give you feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot mistakes or areas for improvement that you may have missed.

Be honest and accurate in your CV.

We’ve talked a lot about making sure your CV highlights the skills and experiences you have, in a way that mirrors what the job description is looking for.

Animation of someone looking at something with a magnifying glass

But don’t exaggerate your skills or experiences, and certainly don’t add anything that is untrue or inaccurate. Lying or exaggerating on your CV can have serious consequences, both during the hiring process and in the long term. If an employer discovers that you have lied on your CV, it could lead to your immediate dismissal, even if you have already been hired.

Be honest and accurate in your CV, and focus on highlighting your strengths and achievements in a way that is authentic and genuine.

A cover letter is a brief, one-page document that you can send to accompany your CV and job application.
It is a chance for you to introduce yourself and explain why you’re a good fit for the position.
But most importantly, it’s a real opportunity for you to stand out from other candidates!
77% of recruiters give preference to applications that include a cover letter. Yet it’s estimated that only 4 out of 10 candidates actually take the time to write one, even if it is specifically asked for.
So, by crafting a cover letter to support your application, you are stacking the odds in your favour!

A cover letter is an opportunity to introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for the position.

Make sure to focus on your unique qualifications and experiences and show that you’ve done your research.

To craft a compelling cover letter, it’s important to keep it concise and to the point, and try to avoid repeating information that is already included in your CV.

There are lots of ways to approach a cover letter, but a typical structure might include:

Animation of someone looking at a document

Date and Contact Information

At the top of the cover letter, include the date and your contact information, including your name, address, phone number, and email address.

Introductory Paragraph

Your opening paragraph is the most important. It’s your opportunity to capture the attention of the recruiter. You might start by introducing yourself, the role you’re applying for, and why you’re excited about the opportunity to work for the company.

Why you’re interested in the role, and why you’re a good fit

In the next paragraph, you might talk about why you’re interested in the position and why you feel you’re a good fit for the role.   

One suggestion is to mention how the role really aligns with your career and personal development goals.

Your relevant skills and experiences

In the next section, it’s your opportunity to mention your relevant skills and experiences and explain how they make you a strong candidate for the position.

Take a good look through the job description and try to relate the experiences you’ve had to the qualities the company is looking for in the role.

Closing Statement

Thank the recruiter for considering your application and express your interest in the opportunity to discuss the position further, before signing off your letter professionally.

Tailoring your CV and Cover Letter are really important to give you the best chance of securing that interview. To properly research the company, you’re most likely going to need to go beyond the information contained in the job description, and do some independent research of your own.

We’ve put together some tips to help you effectively research the company you’re sending your application to:

Animation of a company home page
  1. First of all, visit the company’s website. Review the way they talk about themselves and the areas they highlight on their homepage. This should give an insight into the areas of the business that are most important to them. Also take a look through their About Us or Company Information page. This will give you an overview of the company’s history, mission, and values.
  2. It’s also a good idea to check out the company’s social media accounts, such as their LinkedIn page or Twitter feed. This will give you an idea of their recent activities and any news or updates they have shared.
  3. Another good idea is to search for news articles or press releases about the company. This will help you learn about any recent developments or accomplishments, as well as any challenges or issues the company may be facing.
  4. Finally, try and look for reviews or ratings of the company by employees on sites such as Glassdoor or Indeed. This will give you an idea of what it’s like to work for the company and may help prompt you with some questions if you make it through it interview stage.

Hopefully this guide has been useful in helping you understand the importance of a well-structured CV and cover letter and provided some guidance to help you craft an interview-winning application!

But we don’t want you to leave just yet. We’ve got more!

We know that putting together a CV can be time consuming, so we’ve got some links below for templates that can help speed up the process:

Prospects: Traditional Chronological CV Template

Prospects: Traditional Skills-Based CV Template

Zety: Modern CV Templates (Both styles)

We’ve also got some links to templates for crafting a great cover letter:

Prospects: Cover Letter Template

Zety: Cover Letter Templates

Good luck with your application!