CVs, cover letters and applications

Your CV and cover letter are most likely the first contact you will have with a prospective employer. It’s vital you make a strong first impression by tailoring them to the individual requirements of the job and the company. With MyCDES+ you can upload your CV and get instant feedback, plus build a cover letter using the wide variety of templates available! Keep reading for our top tips and don't forget, our Career Development and Employability Consultants are also here to help! 

How to write a good CV

Employers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of job applications, so they are looking for people who stand out from the crowd. Find out what the employer is looking for. This could include qualifications, experience and skills.

You want to match their requirements as closely as possible. Look at the job ad, job description, company website, google them for news mentions and other activities, etc.

Listing your skills

  • Identify your skills 
  • Give practical examples of your skills.
  • Choose action words carefully to provide clear information to the employer.
  • Emphasise your achievements.


  • Keep it concise: 2-3 pages is optimal.
  • Use a standard font such as 10-12 point Arial.
  • Use plain white paper (this is easy to photocopy).
  • Staple/paper clip on top left corner (this makes photocopying easier).
  • Use a consistent layout throughout the document.
  • Ensure your spelling and grammar are accurate (this shows attention to detail).
  • Avoid using abbreviations and jargon (these can be misinterpreted)
  • Ensure the most important information is in a prominent position.
  • Include points of difference to make you stand out (awards and scholarships, previous positions of responsibility, etc).

How to write a good cover letter

Your cover letter and your CV are two parts of the same application, and should complement each other. Both should closely target the employer’s requirements, and show you as a well-researched and professional prospective employee.

Tailor your cover letter

  • Read the job description. If it isn’t part of the ad, call the employer and ask for a copy.
  • Research the employer by looking at their website, brochures, business directories, annual reports, and mentions in the news media.
  • Think about the particular aspects of your study and work that are relevant to the employer, rather than trying to emphasise the breadth of what you have done.
  • Communicate your enthusiasm and suitability for the role.
  • Build a connection with the employer in whatever way you can. Do you have contacts in the company? Mention what you found out about them through your research.

Cover letter formatting

  • Use the same style of font and quality of paper as you use for your CV.
  • Keep your cover letter to one page.
  • Use a business letter format.
  • Remember to sign the cover letter if you are sending a hard copy.
  • Check for mistakes in spelling or grammar.
  • Get someone to proof-read it for you.
  • Write a confident ending.

Examples of CVs and cover letters

There are many ways to prepare CVs and cover letters. Login to MyCDES+ for some examples.

Application forms

Some employers will ask you to complete an application form. This may also happen if you are applying through a job agency. 

  • Tailor your application information to the company and the job.
  • Include examples of your achievements.
  • Include numbers and statistics that demonstrate your achievements or responsibilities.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Some applications can be saved so you can review it before submitting it. If this is not possible, download the form and handwrite a draft.
  • Large employers may use software to shortlist candidates. This scans the CV or form for keywords and ranks applications by number of hits. The job ad and job description will give you clues about keywords to use in your CV and application.

CDES workshops and checking service

We hold regular CV and cover letter workshops in Room 151, Level 1, Kate Edger Information Commons, for all students, as well as in faculties with specific industry information and examples. Find out more about workshops.

We highly recommend using our online CV checker, CV360, or attending a workshop before you come along to CV drop-in or make a one-on-one appointment with a Career Development Consultant. You can access CV360 in MyCDES+. Upload your CV now, where you will get instant feedback on the file type, presentation, structure, content, skills and language and then head over to the cover letter builder.