How to write a successful Job Application and CV
On this page, you will find concrete tips on how to write your CV and Job Application/Cover Letter.
A good CV (Curriculum Vitae) can vary greatly; there is no perfect CV format. Every CV should be written according to the specific job application and situation. There are, however, some general principles worth following. Clarity is a must, and only in exceptional cases does your CV need to be more than two pages long.
You should include the following in your CV:
- Contact details, phone number, e-mail address and postal address.
- Personal details, i.e. name, date of birth and family situation.
- Education. Describe your degree: subjects, major, thesis, etc.
- Work experience and internships. Mention your employers, your positions or tasks and the duration of your internships (year and month). Include a short chronological presentation of your work tasks, beginning with the most recent.
- Language skills. List every language separately and indicate the level of your written and verbal skills.
- References, e.g. former employers or instructors. Always ask permission to use somebody as a reference!
A short description of the different parts of the CV is listed below.
Your personal details
To give a general idea of you are you should in your CV state your personal details such as name, date of birth, contact information etc.
List your education from your high school diploma onward. Mention the name of the school and the dates for and duration of your studies. It’s not customary to mention your grades. You can give the name of and subject for your thesis, if you think this information is relevant to the employer. Also list courses, MBA degrees, scholarships and internship that could be seen as relevant for the particular position you’re applying for.
Your work experience is an essential part of your CV. Chronologically list your employers, your positions, main tasks and the duration of your employments. When applying for your first job this section will of course be brief – it might make sense to write more extensively about your hobbies.
Commissions of trust
It's a good idea to mention possible commissions of trust in your CV. They are generally regarded as a bonus.
Your language skills should be clearly stated in your CV. Separately state your written and verbal skills and your language comprehension. List your language courses, both at home and abroad.
List your experience with different computer programmes and with programming languages, if required. Don't forget your knowledge of operating systems and the Microsoft Office package (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint). Always indicate the versions of programmes or operative systems (Photoshop 7, Internet Explorer 7, WindowsXP/Vista, etc.) and the level of your skills. Only list programmes that are of relevance to the position you are applying for.
Mention your hobbies in your CV. You can list travels, sports or experience of voluntary work, so as to give the employer a more personal picture of you. And should your studies have taken longer than usual, you can show that you have gained valuable experience through your hobbies. And if you do not have much work experience yet, this is the perfect place to tell the employer a bit more about yourself.
Employers often appreciate learning about your future plans. You can supplement your CV by writing down a few lines about your plans and goals for the future. This section in your CV is of course optional; you can also mention your career plans in your letter of application.
In order for the employer to get as complete a picture of you as possible you can add some references to your CV. You should, of course, always ask for permission before adding any referees to your CV. The referees should be able to tell the employer something about you as a person, about your capabilities and personal qualities. In other countries, references are commonly used.
Remember to date and sign your CV. Attach copies of your transcripts to your CV only when specifically mentioned in the advertisement.
The European CV
Among the numerous versions of CV:s available on the Internet the Europass CV is the standardized model used in every EU/EEA country.
Europass consists of five documents, which aim to help learners and employees show their competence in other parts of Europe. On the official Europass website you can fill in a CV-questionnaire and indicate your qualifications, your skills and adp-knowledge clearly and comprehensively. You can complete your CV in any of the official EU languages.
The Europass webpage can be found here.
Career Services CV support
If you already have a CV and want to check it with a professional you are welcome to join our CV Check-In.
You market yourself with your letter of application, so you need to stand out from the crowd and create enough interest for the employer to go on to read your resume’. Career Services regularly organize career seminars that help you formulate a successful job application.
Employers expect graduates from a university to possess certain core skills regardless of their study areas. These are often called transferable skills. Typical transferable skills are things like analytical thinking, social skills, skills in project work and the like. It’s important to emphasize that you have these skills in addition to your own particular expertise in your chosen field of study. Your letter of application should describe how your skills and your experience match the requirements of the employer. Your letter of application should answer the question: why should we hire you?
- Be personal and enthusiastic, yet objective and tangible. Adjust the tone of your letter to the style of the ad and be brief and concise – don’t exceed an A-4 page. Applications must be neat and easy to read - short sentences and short paragraphs. And of course, your application should be written in the language of the placement ad.
- Address the questions and the requirements in the placement ad. Your application is specially written for this particular job. Never send a duplicate application! Make it clear that you have read about the company and its activities.
- Describe your competence (= knowledge, skills, motivation) and why you are suited to this job and for this company. Why are you interested in this particular job? Why are you the best choice? Why are you interested in the company? Use specific examples to describe yourself and your capabilities! Use an active language - use verbs!
- Consider the information you give in your resume’ and avoid repeating yourself.
- Proofread your application carefully!
- Don’t forget to date and sign your application and respect the deadline!
- Make sure you have all the required attachments (and list them in your application).
- Keep a copy of your application.
It’s increasingly more common to write your application using a form on the company's website or e-mail. Many employers appreciate receiving applications electronically. They can enter data into the company's recruitment register and send it to various department heads – and it is the fastest means of communication. It’s certainly easier to send your application electronically: just remember to treat an electronic application with the same respect due a standard one!
Some advice concerning online applications:
- Prepare long answers in advance. Run them through the spellchecker and copy them onto the form.
- If possible, register on the website. Save your application and take a break. When you return to the form it’s easier to spot mistakes, something you can’t do if you have to fill in everything at once and hope the computer doesn’t crash before you finish.
- Fill out the form with care and focus. Supplement the form with an application of your own, a brief description or a personal profile. Fill in as many fields as you can - use keywords as much as possible, so that employers can find you easily.
- Print a copy of the completed form. Read it through and if it meets with your approval, save it for future use.
- Press the “send” button and hope for the best!
- Contact the employer to check that your application has been received; ask if there is anything more he would like to know about you.
An open job application
When you are looking for a summer job or are otherwise interested in a particular company's operations although the company is not recruiting actively, you can write a so-called open application presenting yourself. An open application should raise interest at first sight; it should be clear and concise.
- Send the application to your potential boss – preferably to those higher than lower in the organization (managers may have plans that others don’t yet know about).
- Begin by introducing yourself. Then go straight to the point, to your reason for writing. Clearly indicate what the type of job and work relationship that interests you. State when you can start work and for how long you wish to work.
- Promote yourself in a positive way; describe your skills and other capabilities. Stick to things that are interesting for the company and the job in question.
- State what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you! Show that you are motivated, have ambitions and are ready to work hard!
- Use references if you have any relevant ones (remember to ask permission of the referee!).
- Mention that you will contact the employer in the next few days regarding your application.
- Do not send any attachments other than your CV.
- Send applications to those employers that interest you, but remember that you must tailor each letter to correspond to the focus and needs of each specific company. The employer should feel singled out and be left with the impression that you know the company!
- Follow up on the application; call the employer within four to five days.