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How to write a good CV: how many pages should a CV be and how to write a cover letter?


A good CV can make the difference between getting your dream job and missing out on it (Picture: Getty)

While it’s always a good idea to keep your CV updated and the best it can be, perfecting your CV, cover letter and interview skills could be more important now than ever before.

With the furlough scheme ending at the end of next month, it’s being reported that nearly nine million Brits have been warned of spikes in redundancies.

ONS data has revealed that in August 2020 the number of employees in the UK on payrolls was down around 695,000 compared with March 2020.

If you are determined to give yourself the best chance of finding a new job – whether you’ve lost it due to coronavirus or just ready for a change – what should you do to write a good CV and cover letter?

How many pages should a CV be?

It’s likely you have heard the old belief that a CV should never be more than two pages.

While this is an oft-shared legend, recruitment expert Holly Harkin told Metro.co.uk that’s not always the case.

Harkin, who works for Training Qualifications UK Ltd, said: ‘Sometimes you just can’t fit everything in two pages, and that’s ok.’

Make sure you don’t make some easy mistakes that could put you out of the running for your dream job (Picture: Getty)

But she did add there is a limit, with one of the longest CVs she ever received being ‘over 16 pages.’

It’s important to focus on your skills and keeping it relevant. So, focus more on the content and quality of what you are including, and worry less about reaching a certain page limit.

Other tips for CV writing

When it comes to what to include and how to format it, Harkin elaborated on best practices to consider.

She said an important thing is to make sure ‘date of jobs add up’ and ‘any gaps are explained.’

Whether you’re looking for a new job or returning to the workforce after an absence, make sure your CV makes sense (Picture: Getty)

Contrary to what many believe, Harkin states that ‘having gaps in employment is fine’ – children, travelling, bereavements and more are understandable reasons for a gap in the CV, but make it easy for someone to understand why there might be gaps.

A clean format is also important – there’s a time and place to be creative, and often a busy recruitment team won’t have time to decipher an abstract or bold format.

Harkin said: ‘an infographic on skillset is good as long as it’s relevant’ but equally ‘plain old text is just as good as long as it isn’t in comic sans.’

 However, some personality is appreciated.

She said after her nearly 10 years of working within recruitment and HR, she ‘like[s] a little personal interest section because it’s a nice conversation starter’ and it can help a candidate stand out.

It can take out some of the nerves for the candidate if there’s an easy icebreaker to start the interview with, but she warned this personal section ‘shouldn’t be huge.’

As for her overall advice?

‘Do not put that you have good attention to detail and then litter your CV and cover letter with spelling and grammar mistakes. If it’s not your strong point, get someone to check over it first.’

How to write a cover letter

Cover letters can trip people up. Some jobs require them, others don’t.

Follow these steps and you could be on your way to a new career (Picture: Getty)

If you are asked to provide one, Harkin emphasises the importance of not just making ‘a repeat of your CV.’

She says the clue is in the name: ‘A cover letter should cover why you are interested in the role.’

She also adds that it’s advisable to include some proof that you have looked into the company.

‘What attracts you to this company? What can you bring to them? It’s always worth looking at their website and adding in their values.’

She adds: ‘Try and write in the tone and style of the company. If they’re serious, be formal. If they like a laugh, add a little humour in there.’

If you are attaching a cover letter through a recruiter – so you might not always know the company – this is where you should ‘focus on the job description and answer how you meet the criteria’.

MORE: The words you should avoid on your CV when applying for a job

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