The team at Health24's brother brand, Careers24, say they are inundated with requests for tips on how to prepare an effective CV. Here are their best tips.
The covering letter
This is what creates the first impression. Use it to knock their socks off!
- Avoid using a gender-specific salutation such as ‘Dear Sir’ if you know the identity of the interviewer. If you don't, it's safer to go with "Dear Sir/Madam".
- Avoid using time-specific salutations such as "Good morning"
- Your first paragraph should identify the position for which you are applying.
Dear Mr Jones
I would like to apply for the position of Financial Manager as advertised on your website.
- Give the recruiter a reason to continue reading by creating a ‘quick win’ (remember that he or she has probably been inundated with applications, and will be quick to dismiss those that don't seem to be short-list candidates!) A quick win is best achieved by matching the inherent job requirements (IJRs) of the job description to your CV. IJR’s are critical or key skill requirements: carefully study the job description and identify the main IJR’s emphasised in the advertisement.
- Start the body of your covering letter by writing an introductory sentence.
- From here, list paragraphs which depict how your skills, competencies, qualifications and/or experience match the IJR’s of the position.
- Keep the information on your cover letter succinct and relevant.
- Don't use photos on your covering page unless the job you are applying for, depends on your looks - for example, modelling.
- Don't splash your covering letter with colour, pictures or patterns – keep it formal and focused on content.
My Curriculum Vitae has been attached for your perusal and goes into greater detail, but I would like to focus your attention on my skills and qualifications. I believe that I am suited to this position as:
- I completed B Com - Financial Management (Hons) at the University of South Africa in 1997
- I have 8 years' experience in the financial services industry, two of those in the capacity of Financial Manager
- I am proficient in MS Excel and Pastel Accounting
- my focus and dedication to my work has resulted in my receiving five consecutive nominations for our inter-company award for Employee of the Year
- my management skills have ensured that I run the most successful department with the highest staff retention rating
- End the covering letter with an affirmation of your confidence about being suited to the position.
I am confident that my skills match those required and would be very interested in working for a blue chip company such as ABC (Pty) Ltd.
I trust that this application will meet with your favourable response.
Some more thoughts
- State the name of the company, duration of employment, designation and job description of each work history
- Keep work histories separate and list these so that the most recent work history appears first.
- Add an explanatory note of all ‘gaps’ in your employment history and be honest; most interviewers perform background checks and will find out if you have ‘taken time off’ on a deserted island to avoid being arrested for tax evasion anyway!
- Customise each CV you prepare by moulding your corresponding skills to the IJR’s advertised. Place emphasis on these skills by listing them first in your job description.
- Remember that all information should be geared towards increasing your chances of being a match to the requirements for the position. The recruiter is not interested in knowing that you have been voted ‘Embroider of the Year’ if this is not applicable to the position!
- Check your spelling and grammar and use a professional tone
- Ensure that your CV correctly represents you and refrain from using acronyms which may be familiar to you, but not necessarily to others. When complete, send your CV to a friend or family member who can give you an honest opinion.
- Remember to include referees that may be contacted and clearly state whether a referee may be contacted or not – you would not like your present employer to be called for a reference if unaware that you are looking for another position!
- Remember to include your contact details so that the recruiter can call you to set up that interview!
- Use emotion, personalisation or subjectivity in statements. Although we salute your self-confidence, using a comment such as “I think I was the best manager ever!” will not work. Rather stick to fact by listing work-related accomplishments and rewards.
- Write essays. The recruiter does not have the time to ‘find’ information – make it easy by using bullet points and using clear breaks in different sections
- Stretch the truth. Not even a little. There is no value in overselling yourself in a CV – you do not want to get a job where you will be unable to perform or gain a reputation of being dishonest.
Use the Careers24 template for CV creation and apply the guidelines above. By using the Career Manager, you will be able to mail this CV to yourself, print your CV and create customised cover letters for each position.
Wishing you all the best in your endeavors. Keep us posted on your career seeking successes!
(Jenni van der Merwe, Careers24.com, June 2006)