Writing a CV and cover letter

Fountain pen on nice paperWhen writing a CV there some things make certain you do and some things to avoid, which we will cover, writing a cover letter isn’t as commonly done, and it’s a great addition to any application, and if applying for a permanent job it can add weight to your CV and show you are serious, 1 in 5 applications for permanent positions came in to us without a cover letter this year, when we suggest adding one many people don’t know where to begin and we see a few template copies addressing the practice decision maker as ‘Dear Sir/Madame’, imagine how you would feel if you had a reply to an application with Dear Sir/Madame. Addressing the decision maker in the practice is a great place to start, and shows you have done some research, knowing their name is the least they would expect.

Old fashioned typewriterThe cover letter doesn’t need to list everything that is on your CV, aim to make it more specific about the role you are applying for, and the company you are contacting. If you can suggest a reason why you would be perfect for the job then write it down, don’t be shy. The CV tends to follow a structure and can be re-used for multiple job applications, but make sure you write a fresh cover letter for each position.

Your CV needs to be easy to navigate, there are a few key interests to the employer, in the veterinary industry they are looking for when and where you qualified, and registration details, so make sure this is one of the first sections. They’re then looking at where you’ve worked recently, when listing your previous experience you need to keep the most recent first to make it easier on the eye, listing the name of the company and location first, add the dates (it doesn’t have to be to the day!), they will be interested in what you did at your recent employers rather than just seeing a list of names and dates, you are best to keep this short, a small paragraph or bullet points are fine. You don’t need to list everything you have done, keep your skills in a separate section of the CV. Once you’ve added your qualifications and recent employment history, that’s when most employers have made their initial assessment of your suitability to do the job, and some will be happy to progress to an interview or informal chat from there, but it’s important to keep the quality of your CV from here as the rest can set you apart from similar or more experienced candidates.

Laptop with a CV on the screenIn a skilled profession it is useful for the employer to know your strengths and weaknesses, so while you may read on various websites that keeping a CV short, sharp and straight to the point is the best way to grab attention, that’s not always the case, make sure you get straight into facts to grab attention, with your most important qualification on the first page, then your most recent and relevant employment, the rest can fill up depending on how much experience you have and how many places you’ve worked, but avoid repeating after every job all the 1st opinion procedures you undertook at each place, add a skills section after your employment and either write in paragraphs or bullet point the procedures you have experience with, and how confident you are. Try to avoid underselling yourself, but don’t put down confidence in a procedure if you aren’t genuinely comfortable with it, in locum work you may find you get allocated jobs that you’ve stated confidence in, and sometime get booked solely for that very skill.

Any employer likes to know they are getting a professional who can blend in easily, most are keen to read about your hobbies and interests to see if you have anything personally that fits in with the existing team, be sure to list any leisure activities you enjoy, and any fun and interesting facts about yourself, I’ve seen people get to interviews because of personal achievements listed in  the CV, but keep it short!

Photo or no photo? That’s up to you, it’s not needed in the veterinary industry, it can make your CV stand out from other 15 page autobiographies of plain text though!

Stack of CVsReferences are important when you are in the process of applying for jobs, but if you are speculatively looking make sure to leave your current employer off any referee list in case they decide to check one of your references, ‘References available upon request’ is usually fine and we would ask for referee details after a successful interview, we would always ask first though. When giving a referee it’s good to have someone from your previous employer, and someone who you might think would go above and beyond to sing your praises. If you’ve had problems and are concerned about the reference then just let us or the employer know the situation, it always sounds better when you tell us the reason than if we get someone send back something unexpected.

If you would like any help with your CV or cover letter or have any questions then get in touch, my email address is nick.sullivan@vetsandnurses.com, good luck job hunting, check out our vacancies page for our latest jobs, and feel free to send a copy of your CV and a description of your ideal role here and we’ll do the searching for you!