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Giving yourself the best chance - CV and Cover Letter basics

Updated: May 19, 2023

CVs are a way of showcasing your education, skills and knowledge in an easy-to-read format. They don’t need to be busy with clipart and artistic layout designs. Remember your audience. Most recruiters – whatever the sector you’re applying to – will have key elements they are looking for from their ideal candidate. They can spend just a few seconds scanning your CV for those key words or information so you need to ensure they are easy to find.

Section 1

Begin with your name, address, phone number and an (appropriate) email address. Now, might be the time to ditch your ‘’ or ‘’ in favour of something more professional.

Section 2

This needs to be entitled Personal Statement. It’s a 2- 3 sentence summary of how employable you are based on your experience and skills and how you want to use these in your new role as a [insert job role]. Just a note on this: make sure you have amended your CV to the sector and role you’re applying for. You may well have aspirations to be a barista or a brand manager but if you’re applying for an education-based role, that’s what the employer wants to see you’re looking for otherwise the time you’ve taken on the rest of your CV is wasted as it’ll end up in the reject pile after 2-3 seconds.

Section 3

This is a brief list of your key skills – list 4-5 skills you possess that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Even better if they’re the ones listed in the job description or person specification but don’t fabricate them if you don’t possess them – if you list attention-to-detail as a skill for example and your CV has spelling or grammatical errors then you’re going to do yourself no favours in the eyes of the employer.

Section 4

Employment History is your next section. This should be laid out in chronological order with your latest employment first. You need to ensure you include the month and year for the start date and end date, the name of your employer (the company or school not the person) and the job title(s) you had. If you had a number of job titles at the same employer, it is helpful to list the dates from/to for each job title. Under each employer, give a brief summary of the job undertaken in bullet points, ensuring you quantify this with evidence of any particular achievements or successes e.g. Managed the preparation and undertaking of booster groups for Year 6 SATs, resulting in a combined RWM pass rate of 70% overall and a 15% pass rate for the higher standard. Try to use the same tense for each point and begin each with an imperative/bossy verb e.g. Introduced/Initiated/Managed etc

Keeping Children Safe in Education states that schools require ‘Full employment history, (since leaving school, including education, employment and voluntary work) including reasons for any gaps in employment’ so if you have been working for over 10 years, then it is perfectly acceptable to list the dates of employment, employer name and job title without the job summary for older/less relevant employment history. Remember to add dates of gaps in employment and a reason e.g. travelling, unemployed, studying etc

If you’ve done any volunteering work, add it in the same way as your employment history but under the subtitle ‘Volunteering/Volunteer Work.’

Section 5

Education is the title of your next section and again your studies should be listed chronologically. You should add your start and end dates of courses, who the training provider/university/school was, the course title and the mark achieved. If you’ve not long left school, you can list each A-Level/NVQ/GCSE you took but if you’ve undertaken other education since then a summary is fine e.g. 9 GCSEs Grades A-C including Maths and English

Section 6

The final title is References. If you have referees established already then you can list their names, which company/school they were from, their job title and contact details. If not, then use the phrase ‘References are available upon request’. Bear in mind that to comply with employment regulations and the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, you will be asked to supply references to cover the last 2 full years as a minimum and this must include your most recent employer and your most recent performance-based employer i.e., school/children-based work if you have ever worked with children and are applying for a role working with them. The emails and phone numbers you provide should be the referees professional details rather than personal phone/email addresses. If you have a gap in your employment of more than 3 months in the last 2 years, then having the details of a suitable character referee available would be useful, remembering this can’t be someone you’re related to.

Covering Letter

Whilst you won’t need a covering letter for a supply role, you may need or want one to add to an application in the ‘supporting evidence’ section or if you are approaching a school/company speculatively. Here’s the ideal layout for your letter:

[Your address Line 1]

[Address Line 2]

[Address Line 3]

[Phone Number]

[Company address line 1]

[Company address line 2]


Dear [Name],

1st Paragraph

Your opening paragraph should be succinct. You only need to include why you’re writing the letter, the position you’re applying for and how you found out about the position e.g. “I am writing to apply for the position of [job title] that was advertised on [insert name of job site]”. If there is a job reference, include it here. Mention that you are attaching your CV for their consideration.

2nd/3rd Paragraph

The next one to two paragraphs should be about your key achievements in your most relevant roles. It should mention the skills you possess and any specific education/courses that are pertinent to the role you’re applying for. Say how these achievements, skills and education could be beneficial to your potential employer. The job description and person specification for the advertised role will mention key skills required so ensure you mention these, using the same phrases as in the advert. Applications are often filtered using the key skills so make it easy for the employer to notice you possess the skills they want.

3rd Paragraph

This is your opportunity to show you’ve researched a bit about the school. Show that you’ve noticed they have a particular ethos, core values, use of a particular curriculum scheme or wider opportunities such as Forest Schools etc. Use these elements to detail why you want to work at that school and importantly, how you will fit in and why you can add to their ongoing success.

4th Paragraph

Again, this is a short sign off to your letter. Thank them for reading your letter and let them know you’re keen to hear back from them regarding an interview and give them the opportunity to contact you for any questions. Close with “I look forward to hearing from you”.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]

Good luck in your job hunting – it can be a daunting process but if you have the basics of your CV and Cover Letter mastered then this is going to reduce the time it takes to apply for suitable jobs and give you the best chance of success!

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