Prepare a professional resume

Whether you decide to launch straight into further study or jet off on an around-the-world adventure, a current and professional-looking resume or CV is a must.  

Making sure your CV/resume is up-to-date and up to scratch could give you the edge when securing that first step on the ladder or snaring that bar job in Barcelona – you never know when it will come in handy! 

A CV (curriculum vitae – old Latin term = course of my life) is really a marketing document with the one main job  - helping you get an interview with an employer. What you want it to do is to show you as being one of the best candidates for the job, so it’s important to put a bit of extra effort into your CV to help it to stand out from the rest. 

There are a range of templates (see below) to help you write your CV, but if you can, try to tailor this to make it stand out from other CVs using a similar template.  

If an employer has received a big number of applications for a job, their first look through the pile is likely to be quick. Your CV might only get looked at for 10-30 seconds before heading into the "definitely interview", "maybe interview", and "no" piles. Your CV should be easy to scan quickly for key information, as well as standing up to a deeper look if you make it into the "maybe” or “definitely” piles.  

A good CV will help you make it to the interview stage where you have the opportunity to sell your skills and abilities to an employer in person. 

Here are some pointers to preparing your great CV 

Gather your information for your CV 

  • Make a list of your skills, and write down examples of how and when you used these skills. Teamwork is a skill, so is leadership. Think laterally about what you can do and like to do, and note what skills these things involve.   
  • Check out what skills you may actually have and skills that employers are looking for with Careers New Zealand and look at their useful Skill Matcher tool. 
  • Significant achievements are an important way to help paint a more complete picture of you as a potential employee. Think about your achievements from all areas of your life – school, sporting, within the community etc. 
  • Make sure you have copies of any awards and certificates you have received.  
  • Decide who will be your referees. A referee could be an employer, teacher or coach. They need to be able to give a verbal reference about your skills and character. 

Writing your CV 

  • A CV should be short - two to three pages at most. 
  • Write about your school and if you have done part-time or summer jobs, your work experience. Your secondary schooling helps to paint a picture of your abilities, especially if you have limited work experience. Include any outstanding achievements and also involvement in activities that reflect specific skills such as leadership. Limit details to years 11, 12 and 13. this is often more valued than qualifications. 
  • CVs can be skill based or work based. Chances are yours will be more skill based if you do not have a work history. Careers New Zealand have some useful information on the differences between these, and some templates and examples to help you understand what type may be best for you. 
  • Many CV templates include a Personal Statement. This tells a potential employer a little about you, but if you are including one, keep it tight and don’t waffle on. State where you are at in your studies and what attracted you to the position. You can include a Personal Statement or not.  
  •  Components of a CV – what you should include 
  • Careers New Zealand CV templates and examples 
  • When you're done, have someone check over your CV. 

Writing cover letters 

A cover letter is usually no more than a one-page letter or short email that accompanies your resume when you apply for a job. It tells the reader a bit about you and why you want to apply for the particular position. It is the first point of contact with a prospective employer, and if it is awful, chances are that’s all that is going to be read.  

A well-written cover letter can really boost your chances of landing an interview. You should always include a cover letter or an e-mail that mentions the advertisement (or how you learned about the job, eg their website) and the stated requirements of the job. 

A cover letter or e-mail is a formal document and is your opportunity to demonstrate your written skills. Where possible address it to a person, but if one is not listed, use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, not ‘Hi there’. You could phone the company and find out who is the correct person to address it to. 

There should be no spelling or grammatical mistakes and it should not be longer than one page. Some employers won't read any further than your covering letter if it is too generic. 

Here’s more on how to write a covering letter  

  • CVs or resumes are formatted with headers and bullet points, but write your cover letter in the first person (e.g. “I have 3 years of leadership experience in sports teams”).  
  • Start with a brief introduction about yourself and state the purpose for writing. Mention the job you’re applying for and your interest in it. 
  • Give a snapshot of relevant skills, qualifications and experience that relate to the job description – basically, a few lines summarising the content of your resume. 
  • If you’ve claimed you have a particular skill, give brief examples of these. 
  • Do some research on the companies you apply to so that you understand what business they are in and what role they play. This way you can be confident and articulate about them in your application. 
  • State that your resume is attached, and then finish with a call-to-action, such as requesting an interview or asking to meet, before signing off cordially. 
  • Use clear direct language, avoiding overly long sentences or fancy words. 
  • Tailor the letter to the job and company, and make it clear that it hasn’t been recycled. 
  • Keep it under 250 words and make sure it fits onto one page. 

View this presentation on how to write the best covering letter

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