Writing CVs and Cover Letters can be daunting, and it is difficult to know where to start. But it doesn't have to be - there is no such thing as a 'perfect CV'!
Typically, when you are applying for a role, your CV will be the most important document you will upload. It provides an effective summary of all your relevant key skills, work experience and best qualities you can bring to the role. Good CV writing can be used across all industries, if you are specifically looking for a role in the sustainability field, a good CV will effectively communicate your passions as well as your skills and experiences.
Hirers will often be viewing dozens of CVs for each job advertisement, so you want to make sure that you are making a stand out impression in your application. A recruiter will instantly notice when you have put time and effort into ensuring you are applying to the role with a tailored and well written CV and Cover Letter.
Let Your Passion Shine Through
This is where your cover letter will really be the highlight. If you are applying for a role within sustainability, you will want to make your passion for sustainability and action shine throughout your CV and Cover Letter.
Your cover letter should give a summary of your relevant skills and experience, and make links of these to your sustainability motivations. Always give evidence to show how your qualifications, values and experiences meet the required skills needed for the role you are applying for.
No Direct Experience Doesn't Mean No Experience!
The largest challenge to graduates, anyone new to the field, or those having a career change, is lack of practical work experience.
If you do not have the relevant experience needed for the role, this is where your Cover Letter can make all the difference between being shortlisted and not. For any role in the sustainability field, we want to know your passion. Your eagerness to make sustainable choices and how you can have a positive impact on the world - what evidence can you show to support this?
Direct experience can be hard to come by early in your career but it's lack of direct experience doesn't mean you can't show how good you would be for the role. Look carefully at what you have done already and how can these experiences can be transferred and matched to the required or desirable skills.
You may not have the relevant experience, but don't panic, there is always time. We all have to start somewhere. The field of sustainability is a blossoming industry.
Question: Is there anything you can do now that will enhance your experience?
Can you volunteer for a relevant charity?
Could you write some sustainability blogs?
Have you set up LinkedIn? Use it to talk about your passions and current sustainability issues.
If you are still at university, can you direct your research and assignments to best suit the avenue you wish to take?
If you are currently working, is there anything you can do in to make sustainable choices in your workplace? Can you make any environmentally conscious improvements? Can you start a sustainability working group or set up some events?
How can you show you are environmentally conscious or sustainability focused?
'Green skills' is a broad term generally associated with technical knowledge and skills required to tackle environmental challenges. According to the United Nations, "green skills are the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society".
However, green skills play a key role across all industries. More and more traditional roles are adopting and embedding 'green skills' into their job requirements.
Graduates with sustainability-related degrees are still finding it difficult to find and secure suitable jobs due to lacking the 'Green Skills' required for the role.
Some examples of green skills across all industries include:
Innovation and creativity
Monitoring and evaluation
Tips for CV Writing
Stick to the two page rule.
You should be able to condense all your skills and experience into a two A4-page document. You could have years of experience, but a five page CV will likely not be relevant enough to the job, and the recruiter will often stop reading after page 2.
Title and contact details
The only personal information you should have on your CV should be your name, email address and phone number - that is all. Keeping the title as just your name is simple enough - 'Curriculum Vitae or CV' is not necessary.
Do NOT include: Date of birth, ethnic origin, marital status, sexual orientation, a photo of yourself, your National Insurance number, work permit number (you should include eligibility to work if appropriate) or any other unnecessary personal data. This information will be gathered where needed and through equal opportunities or detail request forms.
Include a personal statement.
This is where you can highlight your unique selling points through a short summary (approximately 70 words) that will make you stand out from the competition. This should introduce you as an individual what are your unique selling points and what are your highlight skills or experiences.
Work Experience, Education and Training
Work experience should be listed with your most recent role first, working backwards in time. Keep it simple by listing the key and most relevant responsibilities and present your skills learnt/used with evidence. Think about balance of space - don't overflow it with all of your daily tasks. For education, the type of qualification, the dates and grades will be necessary.
Figure out the balance that works for you here, do you have more academic achievement than work experience? Place the emphasis wherever it is most relevant to the role you are applying for.
If you are a member within an accredited institution, make sure to state this. Any training, qualifications or certificates you have completed within or outside of work are all valuable and should be listed. Everything can be used to sell yourself further.
The balance of size, font and space.
Although it may be tempting to fill as much of the page as possible with all your amazing skills and experience, think about the use of white space. Use bullet points and short sentences to make it easy to read. Think about balance - not enough white space can make it look crowded and disorganised; too much, and it can look bare and limited. The optimum font size is 12, with size 10 the minimum. Use professional fonts such as Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri, or Verdana, for example, and stay consistent with this throughout.
Keep it up-to-date.
Make sure your CV is updated with all your up-to-date relevant skills and work experience. Aim to make sure this is updated on a regular basis.
PRO TIP: We recommend that you create a Master CV document. The perks of this are that it can be to any length of your choosing and you will have a master file of all of your skills, roles, responsibilities, training and qualifications for your entire work and education history. You can then edit this to build and create tailored 2-page CVs for each application that highlights the most relevant skills and experience to the role.
Pay close attention to the job essential and desired requirements.
Most likely, the hiring manager will be referencing to the essential and desirable requirements when shortlisting CVs. So, be sure to be making references to this, with evidence, throughout. Go through each point and make clear how and when you have shown this skill needed. But be honest - do not lie or exaggerate.
You don't need a skills graph.
This just our professional opinion but we really don't think it's useful. Not only does a skills graph take up unnecessary space, unless you have evidence of when or how you gained these skills throughout your CV or Cover Letter, this will likely be over-looked.
Check - does the role require a drivers licence?
If the role requires a drivers licence, make this clear and visible, whether in your CV, Cover Letter or both. This will also show you have paid close attention to the requirements. If you meet all the criteria for the role apart from the need of a drivers licence, do still consider applying - you never know, the employer may make some considerations!
Proof read your CV and Cover Letter to make sure you have no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Having a trusted friend or family member, or even a professional, to look over them can be really helpful.
It is best to apply to 2 jobs with a well tailored, personalised CV and Cover Letter to the specific role you are applying for, than distributing a duplicated version to 50 roles.
Entering the field as a sustainability professional should be a rewarding and ethical career. You are making a positive impact no matter how big or small through innovative thinking and presenting your skills to make a change. Take ownership over your skillset and make sure you are proactive about continually seeking opportunities to improve!
For more detailed tips about writing and editing CVs and Cover Letters, as well as more general application process information please visit https://www.changeagents.org.uk/interview-skills