The world of work has been radically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in many people losing their jobs, businesses freezing their hiring plans, and essential services coming out as the winner for urgent, in-demand roles.
Even before these changes, it wasn’t uncommon for recruiters and hiring managers to receive hundreds of job applications for an open position. So in the current climate, it’s meant the competition for landing a job interview, let alone the job itself, is more colossal than ever.
But that should not discourage you from pursuing the job you want. It just means you need to invest more time into editing your CV and cover letter – specifically, ensuring you are selling your skills that match with what the business needs for that role to succeed in a challenging market.
Skills are now more important than ever, as companies become more selective in who they hire.
Here are the key components of a strong CV and cover letter, with a focus on your skills.
Where do I put my skills on my CV?
The format of your CV or resume will differ depending on a number of factors, such as how much experience you have, the industry you work in, and the job you’re applying for. However, as a general guide, most resumes are broken down into two main sections:
- The top section is where you should outline your key achievements and abilities. The aim here is to succinctly summarise your professional profile to capture the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager.
- The second section should outline your job history and responsibilities, which act as evidence to support the skills and achievements outlined in the first section.
Even if you’re just starting out in your career, your aim should be to concisely communicate that you are a qualified candidate for the job because you have relevant experience and/or education, skills, and achievements – which may have come from on-the-job experience or university, interning or volunteering.
How to list skills in your CV
Employers will be looking for candidates who tick all the right boxes, so be sure to read the job description carefully and refer to the same skills in your top key achievements section (keeping in mind that you should need to be honest.)
The experience section is also valuable for highlighting your skills in a more straightforward manner. For example, it could be worth outlining your experience using specific programs or systems.
The skills on your resume should highlight the following:
- Specialist skills – skills related to the specific job or industry, such as experience using a specific computer system or program
- Soft skills – qualities and attitudes that employers value, such as the ability to communicate effectively
- Transferable skills – skills that can be applied in any workplace or role, such as effective time management
What makes a strong cover letter?
Your cover letter should be an engaging summary of your CV or resume and not simply say the same information in a different format. Aim to succinctly tell a story about why you’d be a great fit for the role, while weaving in your skills and experience. Think of your cover letter as a sales pitch where you must persuade the reader that you deserve an interview.
How to highlight skills in your cover letter
As mentioned, your cover letter is more than just a list of your experience so it’s important to showcase your skills in a way that flows naturally as part of your pitch.
For example, if you’re applying for a customer service job you might include a statement like, “As a member of XX club at university, I was responsible for organising and promoting an annual event that was attended by 500 students.”
In this example, the candidate has showcased their great organisational skills plus included the outcome to prove their abilities.
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