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First Impressions | Your Covering Letter | Your CV/Resume
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Internet

!!!Function not fashion.

CVs/Resumes for the 21st Century

In the past it was usual to produce your CV/resume and covering letter on paper and submit them by post (snailmail) or fax. Today, it is increasingly usual for companies to ask you to send your CV by email or for candidates to place their CV on a webpage. These are two excellent ways of distributing your CV, but there are several important points that you should not overlook.

Email

When you send your CV by email, you can send it either as inline text (that is, written in the body of the email) or as a file attached to the email (or as a combination of these).

In all cases, please make sure that the subject line is clear, and relevant. Your prospective employer may receive hundreds of CVs by email and many will have subject headings like:

  • CV
  • Job Application
  • John Brown
  • JB
  • Your Vacancy

You can imagine how frustrating it is to sort emails with meaningless subject lines like these (or, worse still, no subject line at all, as sometimes happens). If your name is "John Brown", a good subject line would be:

  • Resume: John Brown
  • CV & Covering Letter: John Brown
  • Job Application: John Brown
  • Application for Post of Sales Manager: John Brown

Inline text

It is best to use "plain text". Yes, you can write your email in "HTML" or "Rich Text", but will your prospective employer be able to read it? Will it arrive correctly formatted? Will colours, typefaces, tabs and spacing, and any special characters like fancy accents be correctly presented? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. Unless you are certain that what you write will be seen as you intended, you cannot take the chance with such an important document. Plain text, on the other hand, can be read by virtually all email programs world-wide and you can be confident that what you send is what arrives at the other end. However, even with plain text it is advisable to:

  1. Keep the line-length short.
    Use hard carriage returns (the "Enter" key) every 65 characters maximum.
  2. Avoid fancy spacing and tabulation.
    A CV/resume that is beautifully formatted in MS Word or some other word-processing program cannot be reproduced with the same layout in plain text. You should not even attempt it. Instead, you will need a different, simpler approach, similar to the one below.

Formatted document:

2005-Sales ManagerUnited Technologies Universal LtdLondon, UK
2000-2005Sales RepresentativeWonder Techniques Inc.New York, USA

Plain text email:

2005 to date
Sales Manager
United Technologies Ltd (London, UK)
2000-2005
Sales Representative
Wonder Techniques Inc. (New York, USA)

Attachments

You should be very careful about sending your CV as an attachment. Many people are very cautious about opening attachments, largely because they can contain viruses, and your email with an uninvited CV attachment may well be deleted before it ever sees the light of day. If you are sure that your prospective employer will accept attachments, then this can be a good way to submit your CV and covering letter.

Be careful too that your documents are properly laid out with a file format that can be read by your prospective employer. An MS Word document (.doc) is almost certain to be readable by anyone, on PC or Mac. Better still, convert it to the universal Rich Text Format (.rtf). If you send your CV produced on some obscure word processing program, and do not convert it to RTF, then do not be surprised if you never hear from your prospective employer again.

Another word of caution: like the subject line for your email, be sure to give your attached files meaningful names. Do not simply attach a file called "CV.doc" or "coveringletter.doc". Once it has been saved to your prospective employer's hard disk, the name will be meaningless, unless they have taken the trouble to change it. But you should not give them this trouble. Instead, call your attachments something like:

  • Resume_John-Brown.doc
  • CV-and-Covering-Letter_John-Brown.doc
  • job-application_john-brown.rtf
  • JohnBrown_Application-for-Post-of-Sales Manager.rtf

Webpage

It can be a very good idea to place your CV on the Web. This makes access to your CV easy and rapid world-wide. If you wish to retain confidentiality, you can always password protect it. Unfortunately, many people suddenly become artistic as soon as they add pages to the Web. They believe that they can somehow enhance their CV by adding colour, or unusual typefaces, or fancy backgrounds. They pay for their artistry in illegibility. If there is one, immutable law of the Universe, it is that contrast between text and background increases legibility (readability). In general, black text on a plain white background is the easiest text to read. (That is why books, newspapers and magazines the world over are printed in black text on white paper, except for some very special effect.) Remember, too, that a prospective employer may wish to print out your CV, and will almost certainly prefer to have a result that looks more like a conventional CV. Which of the following is easiest to read, and print?

2000-Sales ManagerUnited Technologies Universal LtdLondon, UK
1995-2000Sales RepresentativeUnited Technologies Universal LtdNew York, USA
 
2000-Sales ManagerUnited Technologies Universal LtdLondon, UK
1995-2000Sales RepresentativeUnited Technologies Universal LtdNew York, USA
 
2000-Sales ManagerUnited Technologies Universal LtdLondon, UK
1995-2000Sales RepresentativeUnited Technologies Universal LtdNew York, USA

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