Writing an application letter is one thing, deciding where you would like to work, and knowing what your qualities are is quite another.

What do you have to offer?

To get a clearer picture of this, you can sit down and write ten achievements that you are proud of — for example, editing the school paper, organizing, an extracurricular event. Analyze each of these achievements and you will begin to see a pattern of skills that may be valuable to potential employers.

After this, you look at your education, work experience and hobbies. What knowledge or experience did you gather during volunteer work, holiday jobs, class projects or internships? Make a list and again decide which of them could be interesting for a prospective employer.

Now, think about your personal characteristics. Are you a leader or do you prefer to follow? Are you good with people, or do you prefer working alone? Make a list of what you believe are three or four best qualities. Ask your friends to rate your qualities as well. They may have a different perception of you than you have of yourself.

The contents of your CV and application are linked closely. Research has shown that a typical application set (letter and CV) has approximately 30 seconds to make an impression. Consequently, first impressions are very important.

The good news is, you can make a favorable impression by devoting a lot of attention to lay-out and organization. The CV should look attractive and it should be easy to pick out the bits of information that the reader may be interested in.

The most common way to organise a CV is reverse chronological order. After your personal information (name, address, place and date of birth, phone and e-mail), start with a section on your most recent activities. In other words: as a student looking for a trainee position or a permanent job you would start with your most recent education.

The section on work experience (summer jobs, traineeships etc.) is organized in the same way. In this section, try to show, using active verbs, what your task was, or what you achieved. If the company you worked for is not very well-known, add some information about it. But keep it short.

Other sections are: skills (such as computer and language skills), extra-curricular activities and hobbies or interests.

Some points to bear in mind:

  • Make sure there is enough white space. Do not be afraid to use two pages for your CV: one of the results of a survey among personnel managers was that quite a few of them would only take a serious look at a CV of at least two pages.
  • Gear the information to the sort of company you are applying to.
  • Select and highlight those hobbies and activities that might be relevant to your prospective employer. It might spark an interest in you.
  • Be brief and to the point. Use ways of making it clear at first sight: indents, underlining/bold print.
  • Make sure the print is of high quality.
  • Do not try to be too original: if your CV departs too much from the usual, it may become less effective.
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