If you’re applying for graduate jobs, placements, other work experience or further study, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to produce a curriculum vitae, commonly known as a CV.

A CV is a summary of your academic, work and extra-curricular achievements. But most importantly, it should be a carefully crafted communication tool between you and a prospective employer. We've put together a step-by-step guide to perfecting your CV and cover letter.

Step 1: First impressions matter 

Employers sift through hundreds of CVs – many of which are rejected immediately because they don’t follow basic principles. For advice on building one that'll make a great impression, view the CV guidelines in our Resource Library.

A traditional CV is officially called a Reverse Chronological CV. It's the most commonly recognised as it presents readers with a clear timeline of your skills, competencies and experiences. You can view some examples in our Resource Library.

Step 2: Tailor and personalise

Different employers and occupations will require different combinations of skills and abilities. Take time to research the company and the role you’re interested in. You can then match your skills/competencies and experience to those required and adjust your CV content accordingly.  

Whether it's for part-time work, a graduate role or a placement, every CV should be tailored to the specific job. 

Step 3: Use the resources available

Our comprehensive Resource Library has lots of advice on creating a winning CV. Put aside some time to read through the information and plan properly. 

As an Aston University student or recent graduate, you also have access to Aston360 – this platform features an automated CV feedback tool called CV360 that'll help you spot issues with your CV with just the click of a button.

Step 4: Cover letter

A cover letter (or covering letter) accompanies your CV when applying for a job vacancy or further study opportunity – view some examples in our Resource Library. It’s a vital part of your sales pitch, as well as a key opportunity to introduce yourself and emphasise what you’ll bring to the organisation (researching the employer will help you here!). Employers will often read your cover letter before your CV, so making a strong first impression here is a great way to stand out.

Why Is A Cover Letter Important?

While your CV should be kept short and factual, a cover letter allows you to provide more information about your motivation and achievement. The reader will get a feel for your personality and why the role is important to you. Remember, cover letters tailored to each individual company take time, but are much more likely to lead to interviews and job offers!

What To Write In A Cover Letter

You can find a full breakdown of what to include in our Cover Letter Guidelines which can be found in the Resource Library. But as a start, make sure to introduce yourself, outline your motivation (why you’re applying for the role and what interests you about the type of job or organisation), and highlight your suitability (the relevant skills and experience you have that match the requirements in the job description).

Most importantly…

Every time you learn something new or gain some more experience, make a note. It may be significant for a future position! And always keep your CV up-to-date in case the perfect opportunity presents itself at short notice.

If you need more advice, book an appointment with a Placement Coordinator or Careers Consultant on Aston Futures.