CV advice

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Putting together a successful CV or Cover letter is easy once you know how. It’s a case of taking all your skills and experience and tailoring them to the job you’re applying for.

But what if you don’t meet the right criteria? Well, we put together the following tips to help you get started. By using these tips, your CV or Cover letter will create the right impression and help yours get to the top of the pile with the result that you are much more likely to be called for an interview.


Research. Find out exactly what the employer you want to impress is looking for, then write a CV that exactly matches their requirements.

Review. If you aren’t applying for a specific role, review similar job descriptions online and tailor your CV to these. This is always a good way to see what further skills/experience you may need.

Two pages. Aim for a two-page CV. Any more than this and you are likely to be waffling, but any less and you have not provided enough information.

Professional Email Address. Use an email account that has a more professional tone to it. E.g. Paula@gmail.com as opposed to partyp@gmail.com

Keep it simple. Your choice of font and layout are key to making sure a would-be employer carries on reading your CV. Simple formats work best.

Check and check again. Avoid errors at all costs. This means spelling mistakes, dates which conflict with one another and incorrect email address and phone number. Then ask someone to double-check it for you.

Update. Firing off an old CV will look unprofessional, so make sure that yours is regularly updated to meet the requirements of any jobs you see advertised.

Making the most of skills. Under the skills section of your CV don’t forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. These could include: communication skills; computer skills; team working; problem solving or even speaking a foreign language.

Listing. List all things with the most recent qualification/job/experience first and work your way back in time.

Evidence. Prove what a great candidate you are by including examples of achievements, improvements you made at work or problems you solved.

Be truthful and honest. If you lie you will be very quickly found out.

Covering letter. Always provide a covering letter or email to go with your CV, as it’s another chance to convince the employer of your suitability.

Keep a copy. It’s a good idea to email your CV to your email account so that you can access it from wherever you are.

Always send one. The covering letter’s job is actually two fold. At its basic level, the standard one-page covering letter performs a simple courtesy function. It is a socially acceptable way of introducing you and explaining which vacancy you’re applying for or which area you are enquiring about. It also provides the recruiter with a handy list of your contact details.

Don’t rewrite your CV. It should provide edited, juicy highlights from your CV. But it should not merely repeat what the CV includes but rather distils the key themes into one place.

Parrot the keywords. Just like with your resume, your cover letters should be customized for each job you apply to. Start by reviewing the job description. In it, you will find important keywords that let you know what kind of employee the company is hoping to find. Use these same keywords throughout your cover letter.

First Paragraph and last line. Don’t waffle in your first paragraph, make the reason you’re writing clear and sell yourself; writing what makes you better than others straight off. Finish with a call to action, request they contact you for a meeting or interview and let them know you will be in touch to discuss.

Talk about the company. Do some research into the company/ organisation and include information about them. Specifically tell them what you are impressed with and what attracts you to them.

Think Not What the Company Can Do for You. A common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company. On that note:

Showcase Your Skills. When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t totally sell you as the perfect one for the position—try focusing on your skills, instead.

Don’t Apologize for Skills You Don’t Have. When you don’t meet all of the job requirements, it’s common for job seekers to use lines like, “Despite my limited experience with marketing…” or “While I only have work experience doing administrative tasks…” But why apologize? Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, try to focus on the skills you do have, says career expert Lily Zhang. “Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position.”

Highlight the Right Experiences. Not sure what skills and experiences you should be featuring? Drop the text of the job description into a word cloud tool like Wordle, and see what stands out. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for most.

Consider Testimonials. If you have great feedback from old co-workers, bosses, or clients, don’t be afraid to use it! A seamless way to integrate a positive quote from a previous manager or client is to use it as evidence of your passion for your area of expertise. For example, “I have developed a keen interest in data science during my years working various political campaigns (as my past supervisor once said, I love Excel more than anyone she knows).”

Cut the Formality. “Don’t be overly formal (‘I wish to convey my interest in filling the open position at your fine establishment’),” writes career expert Mark Slack. “It makes you seem insincere and even robotic, not anything like the friendly, approachable, and awesome-to-work-with person you are.

Be Real. “Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to every dumb rule you’ve ever read in stale, outdated career guides and college textbooks,” explains Foss.

Keep it Short and Sweet. There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. “According to the Orange County Resume Survey, almost 70% of employers either want a half page cover letter (250 words) or ‘the shorter the better,’ approach,” writes Slack.

Edit. We shouldn’t have to tell you to run your cover letter through spell-check, but here’s an even better step: Check out how the wording sounds to others using Hemingway. Drop your text onto the page, and the color-coded app will give your writing a once-over. Is a sentence too wordy, overly complex, or totally unreadable? It’ll be highlighted in red until you revise it. Tend to overuse the passive voice? Every instance of it will show up in green. The site will even recommend when you can use shorter or simpler words (Why take up precious resume space with “utilize” when you can say “use?”).

Proofread. Don’t assume spell check will catch every mistake (it won’t). Slowly review your cover letter to make sure everything reads properly. Have someone else read your cover letter for backup.




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