Your CV or application form is often the only thing an employer takes into account when deciding whether to interview you, so it is important to get it right.

CVs and covering letters

A CV is a marketing tool to attract future employers and secure an interview. It is therefore essential to have a well-presented CV that highlights your skills and achievements.

Your language should be professional and skills focussed. Where possible, avoid simply writing a list of duties. Rather, highlight the skills you have developed that are specific to the role, as well as any transferrable skills, as this will have greater impact.

CVs should be clear, easy to read and have a consistent style throughout. Use of headings and a clear font will enable you to highlight key pieces of information to an employer. A CV should be two pages of A4, however there are occasionally exceptions: a longer CV for Academic roles, a one page Resume if requested by the employer.

MMyou Careers Centre provide a guide to writing your CV. Log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password:

Writing your CV

All CVs must contain:

MMyou Careers Centre provides a tutorial on how to structure your CV. Log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password:

How to structure your CV

The CV Builder tool in MMyou Careers Centre will guide you in creating the basis of a great CV. Log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password.

CV builder

Types of CV

Selecting the right type of CV to highlight your skills and experience is important. The type of CV you use may differ depending on the job you apply for and your work experience so far.

The Propects website provides examples of different types of CV.

Covering letters

A covering letter should be no more than one side of A4. As this is often the first document the employer reads (prior to reading your CV), this is your opportunity to link your personal skills and attributes to the key attributes the employer is seeking.  Focus on why you want to work for the company, why the job appeals to you and why you are the right candidate for the role.

See the module on how to write a cover letter to supplement your CV or application on MMyou Careers Centre. Log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password:

How to write a covering letter

CV and covering letter workshops

Attend a CV and Covering Letter workshop on campus to learn the difference between OK and winning CVs. Look out for the next workshop in the list of events advertised on My Career Hub.

When you have something on paper, bring it to the Jobs Hub Drop-in between 1pm and 4pm, Monday to Friday in the Employability Hub (Business School) for some feedback and advice from experienced members of the Careers and Employability Service.

 

Application forms

 

Employers use application forms to collect evidence that you are able to do the job, you want the job, and that you fit with the organisation’s ethos and values. Many application forms are available to download from the company’s website. You will be asked to submit some applications via email and others via an online portal.

Although there is no standard application form structure, they will usually begin by requiring you to complete your personal details, education and work history, followed by questions which demonstrate your suitability for the role, a blank-page person specification format, or both.

An application will usually finish by asking you to supply one to three referees to vouch for key qualities that are associated with the role.

Before you apply

Application form structure

There is no definite structure to an application form. Some may differ depending on the employer and the role.  An application will usually begin by requiring you to complete your personal details, education and work history. Followed by questions which demonstrate your suitability for the role, a blank page person specification format, or both. An application will usually finish by asking you to supply one to three referees to vouch for your key qualities that are associated with the role.

Personal details

Information such as your name, home address and contact details.

Academic qualifications and work history

Your educational achievements and qualifications to see if you meet the basic educational requirements of the job. You may also have to state your employment history as well as providing a brief overview of your duties/responsibilities in each job.

Your suitability for the role

Employers will want to see how you have gained the key skills they would like the ideal candidate to have. This is often the most complex aspect of an application form as it requires careful thinking and consideration. You will want to make sure you are showcasing your most valuable experiences to the employer as well as giving evidence and answering the question effectively.

  • Competency based questions – competency questions are designed for you to demonstrate and evidence how you meet a specific skill or attribute that the employer is looking for. They usually ask you to describe or give an example of a specific time that you carried out a task or used a skill. The most common and effective way of structuring your answers is through the STAR format. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. See the MMyou Careers Centre guide to answering questions using the STAR technique (log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password).
  • Example Question – you will be asked to answer a question based on an example situation, such as ‘describe a situation when you delivered excellent customer service following a complaint.’

Person specification

A person specification is a breakdown of qualities and skills that a candidate must possess and an employer deems essential to carry out the job effectively. Most person specifications are advertised alongside the main job description of the role. 

Person specifications often include desirable criteria. It is not essential that you have to meet desirable criteria for a role but if you do feel you have the desirable skills required then you should include this, as employers will often shortlist on desirable criteria if the standard of applications is high.

Top Tips:

  • Double check spelling and grammar. Errors can be enough to solely reject an application.
  • Save a copy. If you are invited to interview, you will probably be asked questions based on your application so you need to remember what you said.

Other information usually required

  • Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form – this is intended to ensure that recruitment procedures do not discriminate. These forms go to the human resource/personnel departments and do not play a part in the selection procedure.
  • Disclosure of Disability – this may be asked on an application form with space for you to enter details. If you decide to complete this question it may be a good idea to include a more detailed explanation of any requirements and/or ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the covering letter. If you would like to discuss disclosing a disability with a specialist careers consultant, please book an appointment with Marina Matosic by calling us on 0161 247 3483 or visiting the Employability Hub in the Business School.
  • Disclosure of a Criminal Record – this is a standard question on many application forms. If you are unsure how to disclose any cautions, reprimands or unspent convictions, you could try attaching a covering letter to explain the circumstances. For further advice before completing this section, visit Nacro  and The Information Hub.

See the Application Planning module on MMyou Careers Centre to understand the purpose of an application form, what employers are looking for and how to tailor your application. Log in through My Career Hub using your Student ID and password:

Application Planning

Applying for jobs safely

We review each opportunity we advertise to ensure that, as far as is reasonably possible, jobs are genuine and lawful.

We act in good faith that statements supplied by the employing organisations are accurate and truthful. However, you must take responsibility for your own decisions when applying for or accepting any job opportunity, wherever it is advertised.

Visit the SAFERjobs website for information on common scams and to get free, expert advice for a safer job search.

When making applications:

Things to consider when applying

Research the organisation

Is it easy to get information about the company? Be wary of those that appear to operate purely from a web site, mobile or premium rate number (e.g. those beginning with 0845), PO Box number or a personal account.

Opportunities that require further investigation are those that:

  • Are based on pyramid selling or multi-level marketing.
  • Might compromise your health and safety - for example, lone working, clinical drugs trials, and responsibility for large amounts of cash.
  • Conflict with the University’s working practices – for example, businesses that encourage plagiarism by selling essays, dissertations and specimen examination answers.
  • Charge for services provided free by the University.
  • Might be a ‘scam’ or are ‘phishing’ for personal financial data for fraudulent purposes such as money laundering.

Check out the opportunity

Are the opportunities on offer presented professionally with correct use of English, spelling and grammar?

Are the following details offered: A full job description, including the skills and qualifications required, together with the proposed wage, working hours and dates of employment.

Does the job comply with Equality Legislation and the National Minimum Wage?

Scams and phishing

Watch out for:

  • Being asked to disclose details such as a personal bank account, national insurance number and/or passport number prior to interview.
  • Requests to use your bank account to process the organisation’s purchases, sales or deposits or to make money transfers abroad.
  • Having to make an upfront financial investment or significant deposit to cover administrative/registration fees.
  • Being referred on to different numbers, web sites or a different company name than the one you saw in the original advert.
  • Most simply, sounding too good to be true – promises of a good salary or high commissions in a short space of time without you having to have related skills or experience.
  • Finally, be alert for unsolicited invitations to apply for jobs or join a firm. They can be a screen for getting you to disclose bank account details on the pretext that they are needed for you to be paid.

Further advice can be found at:

Applying online

Online information is open to everyone, so ensure you put personal security settings in place.

On your CV, only provide your mobile phone number and professional e-mail and/or web site URL.

Never include your date of birth or any financial or national insurance details.

For further guidance on CVs visit the Jobs Hub Drop-in, between 1pm and 4pm, Monday to Friday in the Employability Hub (Business School), for advice on your CV.

Undertaking internships and work experience

Many students and graduates take up internships as they are a great way to gain work experience, as well as a major route into employment with a company.

Some internships are advertised as unpaid, even though you may be required to work.

Unless there are specific legal exemptions, the National Minimum Wage should be paid.

Please access My Career Hub to search for internships, work experience, placements and work shadowing opportunities.

Taking up freelance options

You may be keen to pick up freelance work before graduating to develop your portfolio.

It is important that you establish a contract for each assignment that will guarantee you get paid for the work you do and that any intellectual property you create remains yours.

If you post samples of your work online, take steps to ensure that unscrupulous visitors to your web site are not given an easy opportunity to copy your work and pass it off as theirs!

For further information see:

Taking up placements overseas

Although these can provide valuable experience, any work placement abroad needs extra attention as employment law and local customs will be very different to the UK and access to support and advice abroad may be very difficult.

For further information refer to:

Resolving issues

In the first instance, try to resolve issues with your employer.

If this fails, Careers staff will refer you to further sources of advice.

Or you can use the Citizens Advice Bureau who also offer initial advice online.

Need more help?

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