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How to write an effective CV and cover letter

In order to improve your chances of getting a job, you need to maximise the impact of your CV. You can do this by tailoring your CV to the role.

It’s tempting to use the same CV for every role you apply for, especially if you have spent a lot of time writing it, but you will increase your chances of getting an interview if you tailor it for each application.

Employers usually receive many CVs, so you want to make it easy for them to spot your best skills and most relevant experience.

The first thing you should do is look through the person specification - it's usually included with the job details. It will show you what specific skills the employer is looking for. Think carefully about how your skills and experience fit the jobs you're applying for and make sure they're on your CV and easy to find.

If you write a skills based CV, you can easily highlight the skills that you have and make sure that they reflect the personal specification for the job you are applying for. You could highlight key words on your CV by using bold text to make them stand out or you could use bullet-points to draw attention to them.

See our example CVs for ideas

Chronological CV (DOC 38 KB)

Skills based CV (DOC 32 KB)

How to write the cover letter

You will often need to write a cover letter to go with your CV. This is a short letter to introduce yourself and refer to which role or post you are applying for. You can also use it to highlight your key ‘selling points’. Ideally your cover letter should only be one to two sides of A4.

You should include the following:

  • reference to which role you are applying for
  • sentence or two about why you are interested in working for them, showing that you have done some background research into the organisation
  • examples of how you fulfil a few (no more than three) of the key skills or attributes that they are looking for (remember, the cover letter is not an additional CV, so it should only highlight it, not repeat or replace it)
  • explain if there are any large gaps in your employment history.

Remember to double check your letter for spelling or grammatical errors before you send it.

See our example of a cover letter

Sample cover letter (DOC 29 KB)

Do you need help with your CV or cover letter?

If you feel you need more help with your CV or cover letter, or want some support, there are places you can go to get that help.

You can get further advice and information on writing CVs and cover letters by visiting The National Careers Service. They have a CV builder tool on their website, which you can use to start writing your CV.

If you need some help with typing, you could visit your local Age UK to see if they run computer training courses or offer help with using the internet. Your local library may also have computers available.

Some community organisations now run employment workshops and advice sessions where you can get help with writing CVs and cover letters. These are often referred to as job or work clubs. Call your local council to find out about services like these or ask your local Jobcentre Plus.

If you receive Jobseeker's Allowance, your Personal Adviser at Jobcentre Plus will be able to help you with writing a CV and contacting employers.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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