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Applying for work

CV development
Identifying skills
Cover letters
More information

When submitting a CV and cover letter or an application form your aim is to be shortlisted for the next stage of the employer’s selection process. This is usually an interview but may be psychometric tests or an assessment centre. To get to this stage, your application will have to showcase your relevant skills, achievements and experiences.

Make it easy for selectors by providing relevant, concise, well-structured and easy to read information. Sub-headings and bullet points are often a good idea and it’s crucial that you match what you’ve got to what they’re looking for. Research the skills required in the job, using the job advertisement, job description, person specification, employer’s website and social media presence and sources such as the ‘jobs database’ section of the Careers NZ website for this.

  • Reflect on what you can bring to the job
  • Which of your strengths, skills and experiences are particularly relevant?
  • What evidence will you use to show that you have those skills (or have the potential to develop them)?
  • What connections can you make between what you have done (at university, in a club/society or in work) and the employer’s description of their ideal applicant?

CV development

There are many different styles of CV but you must tailor your CV to the role for which you are applying. Aim to match the transferable skills that you have developed during your studies, work experience (paid and voluntary) and interests to the skills required. These are likely to be a mix of ‘hard/technical’ skills such as the computer programmes that you can use, and ‘soft’ skills such as team work, planning and organising, communication, interpersonal and research skills.  By doing so, you'll be going some way to creating a good first impression with potential employers. Find out more by watching this brief video:

With thanks to CareerPlayer, Graduate Jobs and Career Advice on video

Styles of CV include

Skill-based: Often used by those who have relevant skills but experience in areas that may not be directly related to the job. This is also a useful format for mature students who may have developed extensive experience in other areas and are looking to change career direction.

Chronological: Essentially presenting your skills and experience in date order, most recent first. This is a useful format to use if you can directly relate your skills and experiences to those which the employer seeks.

Academic: Typically used for academic roles including research positions and can be longer than other styles. Academic CVs usually include a synopsis of research, publications, conferences attended, successful funding applications and specific skills such as research techniques and methods used.

  • Further information on some of the possible styles of CV, and CV and cover letter templates, can be accessed here.
  • If you are a Massey student of graduate, you can access additional relevant material (including a range of sample CVs, by selecting the 'Resources' tab on Massey CareerHub.
  • As you develop your CV, we strongly recommend that you make use of the checklist accessible below:

CV Checklist (231 KB)

Content of a CV typically includes

Personal details - name and contact details

Relevant skills and attributes

Education and qualifications

Employment history

Achievements

Interests and activities

Referees

Where applicable: Prizes and awards

Where applicable: Positions of responsibility

A personal profile or career objective is an optional section. If you decide to include one, keep it to 3 or 4 lines and tailor it to the role. Outline who you are; what you can offer and what you are looking for. There is no need to include information which might lead to discrimination – for example, your date of birth; gender; religion or number of children.

Readers will be particularly interested in any achievements that you’ve had and in the results of these. Detailing these achievements and results makes it easier for them to see the skills you will bring to the job. Giving good examples of where you have achieved a result and the skills you used to achieve it will help you stand out from the crowd. When listing your key strengths and outlining your work achievements, remember to choose results that are relevant for the particular role and to show the skills that an employer is looking for.

Sample CVs

  • You’ll find a range of sample CVs, links to CV seminars and related CV materials  in the 'Resources' section of Massey CareerHub.

Identifying skills

The skills that you can offer

Employers will expect you to be able to hit the ground running. For this to happen you’ll need to use at least some of the skills that you’re developing at university, in work experience of any type and in your extra-curricular activities.

A skill is the capacity to do something well and is generally acquired. In this regard skills differ from strengths or attributes, which can often be seen as innate.

You develop skills in every facet of your life – for example your studies, work and extra-curricular activities. Many of these are easily transferable into other contexts and your skills portfolio will be refined and developed throughout your life.

Skills are important and employers will want to see that you have the ones required for the role to which you are applying. They’ll expect you to stress these in job applications and interviews, explain what you mean by them and provide evidence that you have them. You’ll need to:

  • Be clear about the skills required for your chosen career;
  • Identify any skills gaps that you have that might make it difficult to enter this career;
  • Consider how you might fill these gaps;
  • Be confident in writing and speaking about your relevant skills;
  • Ensure that you have evidence of your skills.

For more information see:

What can I offer to employers.pdf

The skills that employers want

Skills may be named and grouped in different ways but commonly they include skills that are job-specific and others that are transferable and applicable to many different roles. The latter can include:

Adaptability and flexibility

This is connected to imagination and creativity. It concerns openness to new ideas and changing circumstances, a willingness to adapt and make the best of opportunities presented by change rather than automatically resisting it. Your personal circumstances and commitments may determine whether more or less flexibility is possible in your career and at different times in your life.

Analytical

Here your skills could include an ability to identify and critique problems, to recognise underlying principles, to define parameters and to construct strategies and solutions.

Business acumen/commercial awareness

This includes having a keen and demonstrable interest in business and an understanding of the environments in which an organisation operates. Within this could be knowledge of the economics of the business, of its customers and competitors, of the challenges that it faces and of its need for Cost efficiency and effectiveness, customer care and its markets.

Creativity & innovation

Creativity and imagination relate to intelligence and are considered extremely valuable attributes in the work environment. They are also hard to define. Imagination in a work context is about seeing new ways of doing a job, "thinking outside of the square", solving problems or organising work that doesn’t merely follow set practices. Creativity does not mean only artistic talent. It means a way of thinking constructively and being inventive, as well as following up with practical suggestions. It means asking yourself, "Is there a better way of doing this?" Exhibiting an interest in finding better ways of doing things will show your employer that you have imagination and creativity which may result in being asked to participate in projects.

Communication

Good communication is the key to being successful and satisfied in many situations: work, personal, social. At work, communication skills are most commonly shown in your ability to use and understand language, whether spoken or on paper. You need a good command of language to get your ideas, opinions and feelings across clearly. Listening carefully is a fundamental communication skill, as is the ability and confidence to ask questions when you need to understand something or get information from someone. Competence in a language other than English also counts as a communication skill.

Customer service

This could include an understanding and experience of service protocols, knowledge and aptitude for sales. In delivering good customer service you will show a detailed knowledge of the product or service that you are assisting clients with.

Furthermore, you will need to be approachable; empathetic, good at giving and extracting relevant information, listening, dealing with conflict and at acting as an ambassador for your employer. Additional customer service skills and attributes could include resilience, self-motivation, an orientation towards quality, accurate record keeping, an interest in people, cross-cultural sensitivity and lateral thinking.

Decision making

Here your skills may include the ability to clarify the nature of a problem or issue, to systematically collect and analyse required data, to use creativity and initiative to generate alternative solutions to the problem or issue and to produce possible options for its resolution.

Determination and drive

This includes your ability to make things happens and to get things done. Additionally, it may include the ability to show resilience, persistence and perseverance when things are tough. In some instances, it may require you to look for different and better ways of doing things.

Influencing, negotiating and persuading

Here you may have the ability to discuss and reach mutually satisfactory agreements with others and to convince people to take particular actions. Effective influencers can find common ground with others, argue a case and challenge conflicting views, handle objections and negotiate and persuade.

Here you may have the ability to discuss and reach mutually satisfactory agreements with others and to convince people to take particular actions. Effective influencers can find common ground with others, argue a case and challenge conflicting views, handle objections and negotiate and persuade.

Initiative

Do you make decisions easily and then follow through with them? Do you get things done without waiting to be asked? Employers sometimes set the term "self-starter" or "self-motivated" to describe these qualities. Another word is "enterprising". It means they expect you to be resourceful and use your own disciple and energy to achieve projects or tasks. It may also mean that you will be expected to take the lead in situations.

Interpersonal

Interpersonal skills are the ones you used most in dealing with others and then can take many forms in the work environment. They may involve making contact with new people, motivating others, negotiating, reasoning abilities, supervising, teaching skills, explaining, listening, directing, accepting direction, advising, sharing, resolving conflict, making unpopular decisions, and just getting on with all sorts of people. Interpersonal skills are closely linked to communication skills.

Leadership

Leading people is not about telling people what to do. It means making people want to or be willing to do something. Any job which involves directing a team, managing a project, supervising people or teaching a skill is essentially about leadership. Your first job is not likely to involve these tasks but employers will be looking for evidence of leadership potential. Respect for others, sensitivity to honest reactions, sharing information and ideas, showing genuine concern, being willing to take risks and show initiative, having a sense of vision as well as proportion, communicating clearly about objectives are all components of good leadership. Sometimes it involves making personal sacrifices or showing you’re willing to if necessary.

Maturity

This could encompass the extent to which you exercise good judgement, your ability to adapt to challenge and change and your capacity for appropriate discretion.

Motivation

Including your drive and ambition, maintenance of interest, willingness to learn and desire to contribute.

Numeracy

Those with good numeracy skills will commonly be competent in understanding and using numerical and graphical information. They can draw conclusions, explain findings and make deductions and in doing so will often utilise critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

Persistence

This includes your capacity to persevere, to overcome rejection, obstacles and problems; ability to complete tasks and deliver solutions on time.

Problem solving

Those with good problem-solving skills are typically able to see and do things differently. They can evaluate information or situations and break them down into their key components. Then they can consider various ways of approaching and resolving them and decide upon the most appropriate of these ways.

Problem solving requires you to use analytical and critical thinking skills. Doing so helps you to evaluate problems and to make decisions. This may require a logical and methodical approach; creativity and lateral thinking; communication, persuasion and negotiation.

Research

This may include your capacity to identify and use information sources, investigate design experiments, test data and report findings.

Teamwork

This can include your capacity for working with others effectively, your ability to co-operate, strengths in handling conflict and in assuming different roles as required and flexibility and adaptability. As a good team worker you may well be able to keep teams to task, have an aptitude for leadership, be skilled in recognising the strengths of other team members, be competent in encouraging others to contribute and have the ability to work with people who have different backgrounds, personalities and experiences to your own.

Those who have good team working skills can co-operate, solve problems collectively and work with and through others. They are effective in contributing their own ideas effectively, take their share of responsibility, can act assertively as required and seek, accept and learn from constructive criticism whilst also being able to give positive, constructive feedback to others.

Time management

Good time managers have the ability to set clear goals, break these down into discreet steps, and reviewing their progress. They can prioritise, focus on urgent and important tasks, schedule, persevere and deal well with change and the unexpected.

In job applications and interviews for any type of work you’ll be expected to stress the skills and attributes that you have that match the needs of the recruiter. Employers are keenest on those who can concisely describe their experiences and the relevant skills; competence and confidence developed through this.

Before you apply for work you should:

  • Research the roles that interest you in as much detail as possible – using job advertisements, job descriptions, organisations’ websites and, where possible, by connecting with people in these roles.
  • Clearly understanding the skills and competencies that you have that are relevant to these roles - and evidence of where these have been developed.
  • Structure material and answers on your skills, attributes and experiences in a meaningful and easy-to-understand way.

For more information on skills see:

Defining your skills

Transferable skills

Cover letters

In almost all cases, you’ll be expected to submit a cover letter with your CV. Typically, this will be the first of your documents that an employer reads. It is crucial that it shows how you can ‘add value’ to the organisation, the ways in which you feel you match the role’s requirements and your passion for the job and organisation. In doing this you’re aiming to motivate the employer to read the rest of your application.

Most cover letters are one page in length and are addressed (where possible) to a named person. As with your CV, pay close attention to your spelling and grammar and keep a copy of all the documents that you submit.

It is possible that you’ll be applying speculatively to an employer – for example, where you know that they are not currently recruiting or you are unsure whether they are or not. In this instance your cover letter should still show that you’ve researched the organisation and the roles that it has.

Stress what you can do for the employer and why you particularly want to work for them. Enquire about possible vacancies and the possibility of a meeting or phone call to discuss your career ideas. With speculative applications the onus is on you to remain proactive so end your letter by noting what you intend to do next – often this is that you plan to call the employer to follow up your letter.

Typically, cover letters are four paragraphs in length, structured as follows:

Paragraph one

Paragraph two

Who you are
Why you are writing
What you are responding to – that is, the role and where you saw it advertised

Make note of the other documents that you’ve included – e.g. CV and academic transcript

Why the role appeals to you
What you have that makes you a suitable candidate Emphasise how you meet the job criteria – stressing your relevant skills; knowledge and experiences

Paragraph three

Paragraph four

Why you want to work for the organisation
Show that you’ve done your research
Stress why you have chosen the factors that you have. Many employers have information on their websites that will help with this – under tabs such as about us; why work for us; mission; values or what we do.

Finish by stressing your keenness to discuss your application further at interview

For more information on CVs, cover letters and on-line job applications see:

Preparing your cv.pdf (208 KB) CV checklist.pdf
Cover letters.pdf Sample cover letter.pdf
Describing the results of your achievements.pdf Online job applications.pdf
Action words.pdf Age concerns in applying for work

See also, CV and cover letter resources from Careers NZ.

Seminar on CV and cover letter development

Should you have any issues viewing this seminar you can access help here. Additionally, to access any links outlined in the seminar please select the link symbol at the bottom of each seminar’s screen.

Skills Transformer

Skills Transformer

Skills Transformer provides science, technology, engineering and maths students (in particular) with a structure to help them recognise, write about and talk about their skills: transforming them from dormant experiences to useful, persuasive evidence.

Undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and maths can often find reflecting on non-technical skills frustrating and unnecessary. Skills Transformer shows you, through hearing from graduates from your own degree disciplines, why transferable skills are vital to working successfully in technical jobs after graduation and why writing and talking about them is fundamental to securing a job.  Access this resource here.

Adobe Connect CV's Seminar

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