CVs and cover letters

Find tips on this page to help you edit your CV and write a cover letter that stands out.

Updating your CV

A CV needs to be easy to read, scan and digest information in a couple of minutes. It also needs to be relevant, up to date and tailored to the job you’re applying for. Here are some key tips to help you update yours.

Keep it clear and concise

  • Short, concise bullet points rather than paragraphs are quicker and easier to read. Be careful of using too much formatting
  • It’s not usually necessary to take up space with headings i.e. ‘Qualifications’, ‘Work Experience’ as it’s likely to be self-explanatory
  • A CV should ideally be 1-2 pages

Your personal details

  • Include contact details (email & telephone)
  • Details of your full address are not normally necessary to include on a CV but instead include the town where you live
  • Make sure your email address is professional rather than humorous

Your personal statement

Tailor your personal statement to highlight key skills, experience and/or personal qualities relevant to the job you’re applying for and if appropriate, the type of work you’re looking for. You can briefly expand on this in your cover letter.

Your experience

  • When talking about your achievements and experience, add value and context where you can. For example, ‘increased sales by 40% over 6 months’ rather than ‘increased sales’
  • Write your work history in chronological order i.e. your most recent job first
  • Don't leave gaps. If your CV raises too many unanswered questions, you’re less likely to be shortlisted

Final checks

  • Use keywords. If you’ve registered your CV on a job site CV database, make your CV keyword friendly by including job titles and job 'buzz words', which will help a search engine pick out your CV
  • Check your spelling. Ask someone to double-check your CV and always use a spellchecker
  • Save your CV as a PDF. It’s usually better to send your CV as a PDF to avoid formatting going askew

Cover letters

Some employers won’t consider your application unless you include a covering letter.  Another employer may skim read your cover letter, so it’s best not to introduce anything new which isn’t in your CV, but to use the cover letter to highlight content from your CV which is particularly relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Tailor your covering letter to the job you’re applying for.  Jot down a list of the experience, knowledge, skills and personal qualities an employer is looking for using the job advert and/or job description/specification.

Take some time to consider how you meet these requirements.

Use this information to summarise your interest in the job, how you match the requirements and anything else you may wish to highlight i.e. you’re available for work immediately or from a particular date.

A couple of short paragraphs is usually sufficient.

Additional Support

If you would like some help with your CV or cover letter, please contact the Council's Journey to Work team.

This guide covers why cover letters are needed, how a letter should be structured, and what should be included within each section.