How to Write a Winning CV

					Graduate Applications
How to market yourself successfully
  Carol Macdonald
  Careers Adviser
What employers look for

 Good match to requirements
 Relevant skills/competencies,
  attributes and experience
 Evidence of achievement/success
 What you can bring to their
 What employers look for
               Grad Software Engineer
 Strong academic record - BSc /MSc / PhD a plus
 Experience:
 UNIX/Linux or Windows and/or Mac environments,
  distributed systems, machine learning, information
  retrieval and TCP/IP
 programming in C, C++, Java and/or Python
 network programming and/or
  developing/designing software systems
            Software Engineer
            What else is wanted?
   Problem solving ability
   Team players
   Analytical thinkers
   Trouble shooting ability
   Technology whizzes
   Creativity
   Flexibility
   Aptitude to ‘zoom in’ on detail
   Agility to ‘zoom out’ & see bigger picture
   Personal drive
Competency Frameworks
IBM Foundational competences

   Adaptability          Drive to achieve
   Client focus          Passion for business
   Communication         Taking ownership
   Creative problem      Teamwork and
    solving                collaboration
    Before you start any application!
Research the job!                    Analyse how you measure up!
                                      Relevant aspects of degree?
 What’s involved?                    Relevant skills/interests/personal
 What’s required?                    Appropriate experience?
   qualifications                             - paid/unpaid work?
   personal attributes                        - societies/clubs/life roles?
   experience                        Evidence to demonstrate
   skills/competencies
  essential/ desirable/ preferred?

 Scope to develop?                  Explore organisation & sector
 Written Applications
 What do you need to stand out?
 Easy to read        - good presentation
                      - clear layout
                      - well written (inc.spelling/grammar)
 Clear motivation
 Relevance
 Evidence that you have the skills/experience
  required for the job/course
 Sufficient detail
     “the best predictor of future success is past performance”
What should a CV contain?
 Personal details
 Education
 Other qualifications
      - technical skills /personal skills
 Work experience
 Interests/positions of responsibility
 Referees
 Choose a layout to fit your information
  NOT information to fit a set layout

 Different types of CV
      chronological (conventional)
      skills based
      thematic (e.g.relevant experience, research experience)
      technical (incl. academic)
      creative
      international (see,
       or ‘working abroad’ section of careers centre)
Skills Profiles
Communication/ Interpersonal Skills
- Dealt confidently with staff, colleagues & customers in retail management.
- Built effective working relationships with colleagues of all levels and backgrounds.
- Report writing experience gained in business and academic environments, including ….
- Presentations made throughout degree course to staff, students and visiting industrialists.

Team Working/ Leadership
- Group work projects undertaken during 2nd and 3rd year at university
- Collaborated closely with others routinely in both my admin job and committee roles.
- Team building and staff development was an essential aspect of my supervisory role with
ABC Foodstores, and one which I greatly enjoyed.

Planning & Organising
- Effective time management, self discipline, and the ability to work under pressure has
enabled good academic achievements while juggling part-time work, committee roles & study
- Thorough forward planning, good data management and ensuring access to labs and
equipment, has been critical to the success of my third year project.
- Checking and tracking data in my part-time administrative role requires accuracy and close
attention to detail.
 Covering Letters – what to include?
 What you are applying for and where advertised
 Why you are applying for this job/course at this
  particular firm/institution?
 Emphasize your suitability/strengths (inc relevant
  courses, skills, experience)
 Other relevant information omitted from CV
 Confident conclusion
    Email letters – are they different?

   Begin simply with ‘Dear……..’
   Keep the tone formal - don’t use slang/text speak
   Keep your sentences short
   Try not to exceed one screen length
   Make sure you attach your CV (& covering letter?)
   Use a ‘signature’ at the foot
Application forms – Some tips!
    Allow sufficient time
    Answer all the questions
    Try & make the form work for you
    Crucial part is usually ‘essay’ questions
    Need to adhere to space/word restrictions
    Draft answers in ‘word’ first
    May need to use ‘key’ words (screening)
      Example of key words
“As well as planning the routes for our expedition, I had
  responsibility for arranging publicity and securing
  business sponsorship to the tune of £5K. I achieved this
  by contacting local companies, employer associations
  and the regional press; by phone and email to
  negotiate sponsorship and publicity.”

What skills was this job requiring?
                   Communications - written & verbal
Example Competency Questions
Frame answers using ‘STAR’ -
       Situation, Task, Action, Result

 Describe a situation where you have used your influencing skills
  to achieve a goal. Include issues you were faced with and how
  you overcame them.

 Describe a challenging project, activity or event which you have
  planned and taken through to a conclusion. Include your
  objective, what you did, any changes you made to your plan and
  state how you measured your success.

 Describe a difficult problem you have solved. What was the
  problem, what alternatives did you consider and how did you
  determine the solution?
Answering those difficult questions!

   Prepare – Plan your best example for every
    question - using different situations for each!
   Answer questions fully – may be several parts
   Focus on what YOU did/learnt/achieved NOT the
    team/other people (‘I’ not ‘we’)
   Be specific, quantify answers & don’t waffle
   Present answers clearly
   Make it RELEVANT to job/ firm/ course
   Don’t repeat yourself
Strong/good answers…….
   Use short sentences
   Use active words/verbs
   Be concise and succinct
   Answer ALL parts of the question
   Concentrate on ‘how’ not just ‘what’
Good and not so good answers!

What do you think?
Example 1 – Managing Relationships

“I am open, friendly, and polite and keen to see
  that everyone in the team is working well. I
  am always sensitive when dealing with
  someone in the team who is upset or under
  pressure and always try to help them.”
“ I noticed that one of my team seemed to be under pressure,
although he hadn’t said anything specifically, and his work was

I arranged a chat with him and tentatively asked him how things
were. It transpired that he had personal problems at home and
that made it difficult for him to focus on work issues. Over the
next few weeks I made time to listen regularly to how things
were developing and to discuss options with him.

Although the problems were not resolved for some time, the fact
that I knew what was happening helped him cope with the
pressure he was under and deal with his work competently.”
 Example 2 - Problem solving
“Staff shortages at my language school in Spain meant I had to
teach larger classes than usual. Students had widely different
levels of proficiency. They also had high expectations of the
school having already paid their tuition fees.

I divided each class into 3 groups according to their language
skills and prepared appropriate lessons and teaching materials. A
lesson lasted 60 minutes so I rotated 20 minutes of teaching, 20
minutes of set written work and 20 minutes of paired
conversation with each group. I considered teaching lessons to
the whole class but judged that this would lead to frustration
rather than progress.”
   Example 3 - Achieving a goal by influencing
   the action or opinion of others
“Whilst serving on the Social Committee of the
  Students Union I recognised that reception and bar
  duties were allocated randomly. Some tasks were
  more popular than others and this often led to
  disgruntled committee members and helpers.

I proposed setting up a monthly duty rota and
   suggested a system of back-up support for
   exceptionally busy evenings. This brought about a
   fairer distribution of work and a more harmonious
   team, evidenced by people willing to remain on the
Why are you applying to us?
because (IBM) is a large, international company with
  great opportunities and training

“To answer this reasonably requires some
  research into what we do, how we work,
  our culture, and shows whether someone
  has a passion for IT”
                           (IBM Graduate Recruitment Manager)
Common Mistakes - Employers’ views
CVs & Application Forms
     CVs & letters too long
     Poor copy & paste
     Poor spelling & grammar
     Generic applications - not targeted
     CV & letter not covering same information
     Lack of honesty - exaggerating achievements
     Not maximising value of non-work experience
     Not enough information
     Not answering questions asked
     Use of jargon
     Poor formatting
Spot the errors!!
 “I am a rabid typist”
 “In my spare time I enjoy hiding my horse’”
 "Proven ability to track down and correct erors."
 “Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave”
 “Finished tenth in my class of eight”
…and on a covering letter:
 "Thank you for your consideration. Hope to hear
  from you shorty”!
Golden Rules!
   NEVER lie or exaggerate
   Don’t leave gaps in your life history
   Follow instructions eg 150 words, give an example of
   Good visual presentation - think impact!
   Good quality (coloured?) paper
   Accurate spelling & grammar
   Keep copies of everything you send
Quality counts
     Further resources
 > Quick links>CVs, applications
  and interviews… & also practice aptitude tests & in-tray exercises

 Careers Service seminars & workshops
 Careers Service appointments (CV / form
  checks / mock interviews)

 Booklets/reference books eg Effective
  Applications, The Perfect CV or Readymade CVs, Great Answers
  to Tough Interview Questions/DVDs eg Selection Success in
 SAGE - Interview feedback
 Informatics interview session - Tues 25 Oct 2pm,
                                                            AT LT5
    Quality of Applications
    AGR Summer Survey 2010 (215 companies)

Scale: 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree

   Meet minimum entry requirements                      4.39 (73%)
   Tend to be well presented                            3.82 (64%)
   Indicate sufficient knowledge of our sector          3.62 (60%)
   Indicate sufficient knowledge of our company         3.55 (59%)
   Sufficiently tailored to specificities of the post   3.49 (58%)

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