CV's and Cover Letters


Your CV has one purpose. It is to get you a job! This document should contain information that will allow employers to understand why you're the best fit for the job. However, this is easier said than done. Before you start drafting your CV, here are a few things you should consider.

Applicant Tracking System - ATS

Employers are using modern technologies to filter through job applications and narrow-down the number of candidates they will take into the next round of the recruitment process. This is called an "ATS" (Applicant Tracking System). To ensure that your job application actually gets to the front of the line, you need to understand how the ATS works.

The ATS scans your CV and cover letters for keywords that are set up specifically for the position that needs to be filled. Often, screening questions are included as part of the application process. Once your CV is screened, your application is then rated and algorithm sorts your application depending on how strong the rating is. Algorithm can change from one ATS to the other.

Though the ATS do most of the work, your application will still be screened by a person involved within the recruitment process such as recruiters or hiring managers. Needless to say, if your CV returns with a low rating then the chances of a person reading your CV would also be low.

To pass through the initial algorithm screening, it is important to use the right keywords relevant to the jobs you apply for on your CV.

Average CV viewing time

Did you know that on an average, recruiters would read your CV for 30 seconds before moving on to the next application? You need to catch your readers (recruiter) attention within 30 seconds or less. This would be even faster for your most experienced recruiters. Ensuring you get the right details and present information without over cluttering your CV should be your priority.

So with these challenges present, how do you overcome these? Keep reading...

Top 5 tips to ensure your CV is effective and ATS friendly

1. Understand the Business Language

Start by addressing keywords in your CV that would reflect your knowledge of the role you are applying for. For most migrants it may just be because they are using a different term that what New Zealand businesses here use. (e.g. Compensation vs Remuneration).
Do you research by reading through job adverts carefully and take note of the terminology they use vs what you use in your CV.

2. Appropriately label your sections

Applying proper formats to each sections on your will help avoid confusing the ATS. Use common headers like Experience or Skills rather than "What I'm good at" or "What I do". This applies also apply to images. ATS would read through all text while images are ignored.

3. Use the correct file format

Older ATS will have troubles of using PDF formats. Avoid using 3rd party "Windows Office" like softwares as the ATS might not be able to read through the file format. Carefully read the job adverts CV and submit your CV in the required format.

4. Highlight key information

Making sure that key information like skills, experience and capabilities are easily noticed in your CV. This may mean using proper formatting and re-arranging sections to ensure that recruiters would easily see the information they need.

5. Customise for the right job

Your CV isn't here to tell your readers about your whole life story. This document should contain what your recruiters need in order for them to make a decision if you are the right fit. You may need to have a good long look at your CV and take sections that aren't needed for the role. Go back to the job advert and carefully study the requirements.

Cover Letters

A cover letter is a single-page A4 letter addressed to the person who advertised the position. It will be your personalised first point of contact with employers to get them interested in your CV and interviewing you.

Your cover letter can be a powerful tool sent with your CV to clearly state what you can offer to your potential employer. Its content should show:

  • Your skills and experience relevant to the ones required by the job offer
  • Why you are interested in the role
  • Examples of how you can transfer and apply your skillset from previous roles

On the other-hand, when used incorrectly, this can get your application ignored and might hurt your chances of applying with the employer in the future. Never send out a generic letter as this is one way to tell your employers that you are not genuinely excited for the opportunity and your just sending your resume out on every job listing in the job market.

When writing your cover letter, keep in mind these 5 steps

1. Address the letter to the right person

  • Begin by addressing the person (first name) that will read your application, avoid addressing your cover letter with a generic "Dear Sir or Madam”.
  • If you don't know their name, you can always contact the organisation and find out who the person is.

2. Impress your readers by writing a strong opening line

  • Think about what specifically excites you for this role/company.
  • It is important to know about the organisation that you want to work for and how do they fit in with your intent of working for them.

3. Do not re-write your CV

  • The cover letter is meant to be a supplement to your CV. It would defeat the purpose of writing your entire resume in the cover letter.
  • Instead, think about examples and achievements you can showcase that will highlight your suitability for the role.

4. Think about your value proposition

  • Remember that you'd be competing with 40 to 100 candidates on every job application. Highlighting your suitability shouldn't just be your priority when drafting your cover letter. It is important to let the hiring manager know, that if they will choose you, what will they get in return? Don't be generic. Every one can be "hardworking" and "show strong values". Think about what you can offer them? (You may have to think outside of the role)

5. Aim to get a personal interview

  • While you write your cover letter, keep in mind that you are always trying to get a personal meeting with your potential employer, briefly state about an opportunity to discuss your application further.

Overall, your CV and Cover letter are an important part of your job application and it should never to be taken lightly. Having a generic approach to your job search will only get your time wasted and painful rejections. Have a professional take a look at your CV and get advice.

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