Top Tips for CV/Cover Letters

The basic ratio for the number of applications you send in versus the number of interviews you get is about for every 10 applications you do, you’ll get approximately 3-4 interviews and maybe 1 job offer. However, this is different for everyone, people from under represented groups such as people with disabilities, women in technology, migrants etc. it could be double that number to be successful. Try not to take it personally. Companies could have as much as 50-60 applicants for 1 position. How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd if you don’t know people in the company already? Here are some tips I found useful for the creation of Cover Letters and CV’s:

Cover letters

  1. Be Formal

If you have the name of the person when you send the email, always be formal. “Dear Mr Walsh…”, if you’re sending it to me, not “Hi Barry…” even if you know the person.

  1. Have a strong opening and closing line

Start out by impressing them. “I have 6 years experience in the Diversity and Inclusion sector working for the likes of Bank of Ireland, Dell Technologies and as an Employment Support Officer for people on the autistic spectrum”. Or if you haven’t much experience yet “in my education I excelled in (whatever your degree is) getting a XX result in my degree and a XX result in my masters.. and I am looking to gain experience in this field”.

  1. Don’t have a one size fits all policy with Cover Letters

Create a new Cover Letter per position that you apply to. Make sure you get someone to check the spelling and grammar in it, you may not spot something yourself. 

  1. Say exactly what the job description says

Copy in the bullet points from the job description, then form the paragraphs around exactly what they say. There’s Artificial Intelligence that recruiters use with certain keywords, which means if you include these in your job description, your Cover Letter and CV is more likely to go up the ranking. 

  1. Length

A Cover Letter should be about 20-22 lines long. It’s a brief overview of your:

  • Year of experience 
  • Companies you’ve worked in
  • Positions you’ve held 
  • Your education. 

Anything over that is too much – the recruiter will get bored.

  1. Check it for formatting

Send the Cover Letter to your own email. It’s amazing seeing it in a different format, or view it on different devices. You are more likely to spot mistakes that you otherwise would have missed. Better yet print it out and go through it line by line with someone.

  1. Check for spelling and grammar

CHECK FOR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR!!! Check it, double check it, triple check it, ask at least one other person to check it just in case. This is your introduction to the company. If you make mistakes here the recruiter will assume that you will show that lack of detail in the job. It’s the easiest way to rule yourself out of a job. 

  1. Create a folder and save them all together

It’s a good way of organising your application by saving them all together, in the cloud in case something happens to your device. Save them as the company’s name, position and date you applied. It means if you follow my highlighting bullet point advice you can save that underneath the cover letter after you sent it in.

  1. Don’t be afraid to link to information

This is a great way to save space. Instead of describing what you did, link to it and they can see it for themselves.

  1. Stats always help

If you have any statistics it always help to show how good you are. “I exceeded sales targets on XX occasions”. “I worked with job coaching services to recruit people with disabilities. This more than doubled expectations”. It proves what you did and how you did it. 


A CV should be 2 pages – anything longer and the recruiter will get bored, anything shorter will not give an accurate description of your experience.

There’s no hard and fast rule about the design. It’s very subjective. What you might like, someone else might hate. What they might hate, you’ll like. At the end of the day it’s your CV. If you have design skills you can use them. If you don’t then just pick a template from microsoft word. 

Make it easy to read – What recruiters won’t tell you is they don’t read every word of your CV. They scan read the CV looking out for important words or phrases from the job description. The important thing it to keep it simple, easy to read and don’t use overly complicated language.

Don’t be afraid to add links to information. It means the recruiter can see the work you have done for themselves and it saves you space.

Develop a master CV – Put in everything you did in every job you’ve ever done. Get someone to look over it for spelling and grammar. It means that when you apply to different jobs, you can copy and paste the most relevant information into your 2 page CV.

Try to include a Photo – This is optional, but a photo is now very commonplace on a CV. However, some people may not wish to do this as it objectifies them. It does squeeze the space of the personal profile, but it also gogs people’s memory if they have met you before.

Move contact info to the header – a very handy way to save space. Simply put your name, email and phone number into the header. Ensure they’re all up to date, and your email is professional. This will givs you more space for information on the body of the CV. I’d advise against putting in your street address, it sometimes takes up 3-4 lines. 

Include interests. Often people don’t include their interest in a CV, but, in my experience, it builds a rapport with the recruiter. If you have something in common with the recruiter then they’re more likely to remember you when they review the applicants. If you are involved in any interesting projects, volunteering or are interested in things like sports, fitness, reading etc. definitely include them.

Develop a Video CV – Particularly if you’re trying to get into a creative field. A video CV is a video description of the work you’ve done. You can include your own images, videos or just give visual descriptions of some of the work you’ve done. I found Canva to be the best option for this and then upload it to YouTube. Add the YouTube link to your personal profile on your CV. Here’s mine if you’ve never seen one.

It’s important to save your CV to a PDF. Different Microsoft Word versions download information differently. Similarly some email servers may distort the information. Saving it as a PDF stops any distortion. Save the CV your first name and surname CV (mine would be Barry Walsh CV), the name of the company is optional, don’t include date, year etc.

One thought on “Top Tips for CV/Cover Letters

  1. Pingback: Top tips for job hunting |

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