CV Writing

Tips on Drafting Speculative Letters

Taking a speculative approach when job seeking, if done well, can lead to a successful outcome. It may mean you are considered for a job not yet advertised or offered an interview for a future vacancy.

There are a number of factors at play that need to considered if you wish to use this approach. The below points will help you create an effective speculative cover letter.

Shortlist Employers

  • Shortlist organisations that are of interest to you.
  • Investigate the type of jobs they offer.
  • Do research on these companies – look at their company website, their social media channels, LinkedIn etc.
  • Find news articles about them and related industry material.
  • Understand how they operate and their work ethos.

Contact the Decision Maker

  • Find the best person to contact - ideally a decision maker.
  • Contact the company to get the persons details.
  • Address your letter to this person.
  • End off with an invite to meet at their convenience and / or a follow up phone call.

Good Formatting

  • Use a formal letter layout.
  • Choose a professional font style like Arial and stick to one A4 page.
  • Use 'Dear...' and end with 'Yours faithfully,'
  • Use two or three paragraphs of text.
  • Focus on their needs, not yours.
  • Sign the letter with your name typed below your signature. Include your mobile telephone number and email address.

Tailor your Application

  • Each speculative letter should be tailored to the company or particular role that interests you.
  • Aim to demonstrate how your experience and achievements are relevant and of benefit to the company.
  • Match the tone of the letter to the organisation.

Follow up

  • Follow up with a phone call.
  • If offered a chance to meet, approach this as you would a job interview.
  • Be professional and thank them for their time.

Always proofread thoroughly before sending out your speculative letter and CV. Keep a copy of the letter should you be fortunate to be called for an interview.




Keep your CV on Two Pages

Tips for Keeping your CV on Two Pages

Generally a two page CV is more than sufficient to show your experience, expertise and skill set to date. The adage ‘less is more’ is absolutely key to creating a two page CV. Knowing what to include and exclude can prove difficult, particularly if you have a lot of experience you want to show a prospective employer. These useful tips can help you get your CV comfortably on two pages.


  • Stick to short succinct statements.
  • Keep to the point. Don’t waffle.
  • Make every word count – perhaps there is a more succinct way to put it to get the same message across.
  • Be ruthless – consider what the employer really wants to read about.

Reduce Details on Older Jobs

  • Shorten your CV by taking out or reducing details on older or less relevant jobs.
  • Listing older jobs with minimal information is usually more than adequate.
  • Most employers are only interested in your employment history over the last 5-10 years.
  • Usually your current or most recent roles will be the information that interests the employer most.

Filter out irrelevant details

  • Think in terms of what the employer is looking for – there is no need to cram in everything you did.
  • Filter out information that is not relevant to the role.
  • Try to match your skill set to the job requirements.
  • Make choices over details to include and / or exclude based on how well they will assist your application.

Avoid clichés

  • Best not to waste precious space on overused phrases.
  • It is better to show and tell the employer how you gained these skills.
  • Seek to prove you have the required skills to do the job.

Don’t waste space with personal details

  • Present your personal details on 1 or 2 lines at the top of your CV.
  • Make it easy for the employer to contact you.
  • Your date of birth, marital status, etc. can be excluded from your CV.

A final tip to consider if you are still struggling to get your CV on two pages, is to rework the line spacing and margin width. Sometimes a little readjusting is all that is needed.



Different Types of CVs

Choosing the right CV style

There is a wide variety of different CV styles to choose from and while most people choose a chronological CV layout, there may be occasions when an alternative type of CV is called for. Alternative CV styles such as functional, summary or non-traditional CVs are outlined below showing the benefits and key points for using these CV styles.

Chronological CV

  • This is the most commonly used CV style and it will usually cover two pages.
  • Information is listed job to job and laid out in chronological order from present to past.
  • It is best used if you have a steady career progression in one chosen field and are applying for a job in a similar industry.
  • The emphasis is put on your employment history, education and skills.
  • This CV is generally well received by employers as they can easily compare candidates.

Functional CV

  • This CV style places emphasis on your overall transferable skills gained rather than work history.
  • Use two or three key headings with transferable skills/achievements listed underneath.
  • Best used if you have gaps in your employment history or you are changing career direction.
  • Useful for those with little experience or starting out to show your match to a job spec.
  • Focuses on your whole working career and can also incorporate personal achievements.
  • Employers are often wary of this style of CV and may consider the candidate to be hiding something.

Summary CV

  • One page CV giving a brief overview of skills and abilities.
  • This CV style can be used as part of speculative approach to entice the reader.
  • Often contains a simple list of things you can do for the employer.
  • More detailed American styled versions will include a brief synopsis of your education, skills and work experience.

Non-traditional CV

  • Many options and formats can be used – combinations of the above styles, digital CVs, video CVs, infographic CVs, animated CVs etc.
  • These CVs are mostly used for creative or digital jobs.
  • Not always well received by employers outside of creative industries – seen as unprofessional.


Common CV Mistakes

Common mistakes to avoid in your CV

Making a good first impression with a well drafted CV is critical when applying for jobs. Most common mistakes in your CV can be avoided by paying more attention to the finer detail. You can check your CV is error free by using the below list of the most common CV mistakes to watch out for.


  • Using an over embellished page style or coloured background.
  • Poor balance across the page between the text and white space.
  • CV is too long – 2 pages are more sufficient.
  • Too many styles of text used.
  • Margins too wide or too narrow.
  • CV too short.


  • Incorrect contact details.
  • Typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Using abbreviations, over claim words, clichés and jargon.
  • Unclear employment history - not running in chronological order from present to past.
  • Using paragraphs of text.
  • Discussing yourself using ‘I’ and ‘my’.
  • Long winded sentences with complicated language.

Additional information

  • Including personal information.
  • Using non-standard software making it difficult to view your CV.
  • Unprofessional email address and file name.
  • Not tailoring the CV to the job.
  • Unprofessional language or overly casual tone.


  • Sent to the wrong person or company.
  • Adding in unnecessary information.
  • Being vague or having a lack of focus.
  • Lack of credibility.



Application Forms

Completing Job Application Forms

Online job application forms are being used more and more by employers. Many employers choose to use these type of forms, both online and paper versions, as it requires candidates to answer questions they want answered, not just the information you decide to give. It also means the employer can compare candidates more easily as opposed to comparing CVs.

To help you get to grips with completing job application forms, we have put together these useful tips.

Getting started

  • Always read the instructions carefully and review what information is needed.
  • Have a copy of your CV to hand to refer to.
  • If possible print off a copy of the job application form to create a draft copy.
  • Place information in the correct boxes.
  • Best not to leave boxes blank – use N/A (not applicable) instead.

Answering questions

  • Be honest in your answers.
  • Aim to include details of your match to the job requirements.
  • Use action verbs and key words related to the job.
  • Some questions may require a more detailed response while others may be simply listing facts.
  • Keep your answers concise and edit out unnecessary words.
  • Stick to the point – don’t waffle.

Additional information

  • Always try to complete the additional information section if there is one - this could win you an interview.
  • Mention your strengths, experience and achievements.
  • Be clear on why this job interests you or why you want to work for this organisation.
  • If you are asked for referees, make sure you ask them before providing their name.

Final check

  • Complete a fresh application form rather than cross out or use correction fluid.
  • If in paper format - keep your handwriting consistent and legible.
  • Be careful when using the ‘copy and paste’ tool on online forms that you only include the relevant information.
  • Proofread it, and get someone else to proofread it for you.
  • If posting the job application form use an A4 sized envelope.
  • Retain a copy of your completed form in case you get called for interview.


Cover Letters

Tips on creating cover letters

Having a good cover letter is just as important as having an effective CV. It is often an employer’s first impression of you. It helps set the tone and introduces your CV. These useful tips can help you create a good cover letter that works in conjunction with your CV.


  • A cover letter should be no more than one page long.
  • It should match the style, font etc. of your CV.
  • Best to address the letter to a specific person.
  • Aim for the letter to complement and expand on relevant details in your CV.
  • Use paragraphs of text to improve readability.
  • Always include your contact details and email address.

Main Content of Letter

  • Keep sentences under two lines long, succinct and to the point.
  • Be professional in the language used but not over formal.
  • Avoid clichés and the overuse of complicated language.
  • Tailor your letter to the key words of the job advertisement and / or employers terminology.
  • The first paragraph will cover why you are writing and identify the position you are applying for.
  • In the middle paragraph(s) you will aim to show your match to the job and how your experience, skills and achievements relate to the vacancy.
  • Highlight the most relevant reasons as to why you should be called for interview and how you can be of benefit to the organisation.
  • The middle section can be divided into smaller paragraphs.

Ending off

  • End the letter by thanking them for taking the time to read your letter and CV.
  • State that you are available for interview and how best to contact you.
  • Sign off the letter ‘yours sincerely’ followed by your full name.

Final check

  • Does your letter sound confident and provide a clear message about your suitability for the job?
  • Have you customised the letter?
  • Did you carefully proofread and check for typos, grammar mistakes etc.?
  • You can use the cover letter as the email message or as an attachment.
  • Give the cover letter a professional file name ‘J. Murphy cover letter’ if sending as an attachment.
  • Always keep a copy of your cover letter so you are prepared when called for interview.


An effective CV

Make your CV stand out

An effective CV grabs the reader’s attention and prompts them to interview you. A well-produced CV does this by representing simply what you have done to date and by focusing on information that the reader is interested in.


  • Two pages maximum.
  • Adequate sized font and margins.
  • Page 1 needs to impress while Page 2 should reassure.
  • Chronological with all information latest first – unless another format works better.
  • Avoid splitting up blocks of information over two pages.


  • Neutral person – with no ‘I’ or ‘my’.
  • Everything presented in easy to understand and consistent way.
  • Make sure there are no unexplained gaps in dates.
  • Keep bullet points short and start them with action verbs.
  • Provide as much information as possible about achievements and associated benefits.

Additional information

  • Profiles / Summary statements should be drafted to engage / interest the reader.
  • Include brief notes of earlier and non-legal work experience.
  • Include brief information about personal interests.
  • Provide as much information as possible that is relevant to job applied for.
  • Do not include any mention of referees.

In summary

  • Check that everything is simple and easy to understand.
  • Take out all unnecessary detail.
  • Avoid jargon, clichés and abbreviations.
  • Change unnecessary capitals to lower case.
  • Have document carefully proof read by people skilled at this and eliminate all errors.


LinkedIn Basic Tips

Why join LinkedIn?

You can use LinkedIn to find out about job opportunities, research, network and to develop your personal brand. The level of benefit you derive from the site is dependent on how well you maintain your LinkedIn profile.

Absolute Basics

  • Your profile needs a good photograph.
  • A head and shoulders picture with a plain background is best.
  • Use the name that you are most commonly known by.
  • List all previous jobs and educational details.
  • Keep information up to date.

 Headline and Summary

  • The headline is critical. It goes right under your name.
  • Identify your profession or speciality in your headline – not your current job.
  • Use the summary section to prompt people to look through your whole profile.
  • Be concise in the summary and don’t say things that are elsewhere.
  • Highlight specialities you have in the summary section.

Key Words

  • Keywords reflect what a person does and her/his expertise. They are used by recruiters and employers when they do LinkedIn searches. 
  • Decide on the 4 to 5 keywords that reflect you.
  • Ensure your keywords all feature in each of the five key areas of your profile. These are your headline, your summary, your specialities, your current job and your previous one.


  • Connect with people you know and knew in the past.
  • Get and stay involved in chats with connections.
  • Seek recommendations and offer to provide recommendations.
  • Provide skills and endorsements. In return, you’ll receive ones.
  • Join groups and get involved in discussions.


LinkedIn – How good is your profile?

Maintain your profile

You can use LinkedIn to find out about job opportunities, research, network and to develop your personal brand. The level of benefit you derive from the site is dependent on how well you maintain your LinkedIn profile.

Top Section

  • Have you included a good photograph?
  • Are you using the best name possible?
  • Are job seeking efforts well served by the headline in your profile?
  • Does the ‘Education’ summary capture what is most important?
  • Have you a personalised URL?  

Summary Section

  • Does your summary section tell an interesting outline story?
  • This section is best written in the first person. Is yours?
  • Is your text segmented – in paragraphs and with headings?
  • This section should have a call for action. Does yours?
  • Does your summary provide contact details – such as your email address? 

Experience Section

  • Is information about each job distilled to the minimum possible?
  • Are recommendations in place for all recent employments?
  • Have best names been used for all previous employers?
  • Do previous job titles reflect appropriate career progression?
  • If you’ve had many short term jobs, have you merged these?


  • Are you using the most appropriate key words?
  • Were key words inserted without compromising the text they were incorporated into?
  • Is your profile largely free of typos?
  • Are your settings appropriate – such as visibility of your contacts?
  • Have you connected with enough people and joined enough groups?


LinkedIn Advanced Tips

Optimising your LinkedIn presence

Basic use of LinkedIn revolves around setting up your profile, making connections and joining groups. If you want to optimise benefits that you can derive from the site you should familiarise yourself with the facilities and options that LinkedIn provides.

Improve your profile

  • Organise a personalised URL.
  • Review your profile and improve by editing and adding to it.
  • Post a copy of your CV to your profile.
  • Put your email address on your profile - in an easy-to-see place.
  • Consider using the ‘Add Sections’ facility.


  • Watch job adverts featuring on LinkedIn.
  • Follow employers that you would like to work with.
  • Find out about alternative jobs by looking at what others have done.
  • You can approach people who you would like to work with.
  • If you become available for work, you can announce to your connections.


  • Use personalised messages when connecting with people. 
  • Use your connections to connect with people you want to target.
  • Use the ‘Answers’ facility to find out about many things.
  • Publish posts regularly and respond to posts by other people.
  • Join more groups and get involved in discussions going on.

Doing Research

  • Use the LinkedIn search facility to find out about companies and people.
  • Find out about people you are going to be interviewed by.
  • Adjust settings if you want to look at profiles anonymously.
  • Understand the ‘like for like’ rule that LinkedIn operates by.
  • Consider taking out a paid subscription if you’re researching regularly.