You found a job in the UK and you’re going to apply? That’s fantastic news!
You don’t have a CV tailored to the English market? No problem at all!
In this post, I’ll explain the things you need to know when applying to a British company.
You know how to write a CV already. You know what your skills are. You’re not stupid enough to put, ‘I enjoy going to the cinema and then also the pub,’ as your relevant interests. So instead of walking you through the process as a beginner, I’m here to tell you about the pitfalls you might encounter as you navigate the different expectations of German and English-speaking employers. If you keep these tips in mind, your application will make the best possible impression.
I’ve applied for jobs and received applications in two languages, so I’m well versed in the differences between Austrian and British CVs. The biggest contrast comes in the first section, where you give your potential employer your vital statistics.
First, for a job with a British company, you should title your CV with your full name and then, if you want, the words Curriculum Vitae.
Next, give the information the employer will need when they want to contact you to offer you an interview. You should give your home address, email address and telephone number. If you have a website related to the job you’re applying for, you can add that too.
So far, so similar, but there are a few things which I have seen on Austrian applications which you should never add to a British CV.
Your date of birth.
Your place of birth.
Your photograph, unless it’s specifically requested in the advertisement and makes sense for the job you’re applying for. If you want a modelling or acting audition, a photograph is probably necessary but, however much you had to pay for your headshots in Austria, they do not belong on a CV for a job in the UK.
There is a simple reason for this. If the employer does not have this information, they cannot discriminate against applicants. It is your right to be certain that the decision made about your interview was not based on age, gender, nationality, or appearance. Although it is not technically illegal in the UK for employers to ask for this information, if you suspect that it has been used against you, you could take the employer to court. Likewise, ladies, if an employer asks you about your intention to have children, do not answer (and possibly walk out of the interview, as this question is so close to being illegal in the UK it suggests that the company is unscrupulous).
The exception to this rule is the online form which is used by large organisations. These forms will ask for your date of birth, gender, ethnicity and criminal record among other things. However, although the data is collected, it will not be shown to the hiring manager until after a job offer has been made. It is collected so that organisations can check that a diverse range of people are applying for jobs and being invited to interviews. It is not used to weed people out before they get to the office door.
The Structure of Your CV
Most CVs for British companies are divided into the following sections which usually appear in this order. I’ve noticed a lot of variety in the structure of Austrian CVs, but this layout is standard for English speaking companies.
First, education, with the highest category of qualification listed first.
Next, further qualifications and awards. This is where you can brag about additional courses you’ve done at work, your formal language qualifications, and any other achievements which show your continuing professional development.
Afterwards, your voluntary experience, especially if it’s relevant to the job.
Finally, your skills and interests. This is where you write more about your language abilities, your driving (use the phrase ‘full, clean European driving licence’, if you have one), your fitness, and any teams or organisations you’re part of, especially if you have a formal role. There doesn’t have to be a lot of detail but remember to add relevant examples. It is hard to avoid ‘buzzwords’ like hardworking, good team player or attention to detail, but these become less clichéd if you can show how you have proved yourself to have each skill. It’s great if you’ve completed a marathon, but what really helps your application is the extra sentence explaining how this shows not just your physical fitness (which is of benefit in any job), but how the endurance and organisational skills you needed in training show your perseverance and dedication to the projects you put your mind to.
At the bottom of your application, add your references. If you’ve run out of space already, you can also use the phrase, ‘References available on request.’ If there is room, it’s not unusual for companies to ask for one professional reference from your most recent employer and one personal reference from someone outside of work.
The Covering Letter
To an extent, you should tailor your CV to each job you apply for. If you want to be a florist, your blog about houseplants should take up more CV space than it would if you wanted to keep indoor gardening as a hobby and apply for a job in an office instead. However, while it should be professional, a CV can sometimes be quite cold. On the other hand, your covering letter is your chance to show your personality as you give more details about your skills and experiences. While your CV should be no more than 2 pages long, the covering letter gives you an extra page (or an email of about 400 words), in which to sell yourself.
Covering letters are not unique to British applications but, like CVs, they do follow a standard structure:
The Greeting – If there is one, use the name provided on the advertisement. If not, Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Hiring Manager is appropriate.
Paragraph 1 – Explain where you saw the job advertised, why you’re applying, and when you would be able to start.
Paragraph 2 – Explain why you’re interested in working for this company specifically, then tell them why you’re suitable for the job.
Paragraph 3 – Continue highlighting your relevant experience, keeping in mind the requirements listed in the job advertisement.
Paragraph 4 – Say thank you, ask for an interview and invite them to contact you if they have any questions about your application. If you’re struggling for a final sentence, simply say that you look forward to hearing from them soon
The Signature – If you know the name of the person you’re writing to, end with ‘Yours sincerely.’ If it was ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ use, ’Yours faithfully.’ You should sign off in this way even if your covering letter is attached as a document to an email. If the covering letter is just the body of the email itself, ‘Kind regards,’ will suffice.
If you need a little more help…
If you’ve got a big application coming up, I offer a special proofreading package for CVs, covering letters or personal statements. I’ll read over all the aspects of your application to check for mistakes and make sure that you’ve formatted everything consistently. I’ll get to work quickly and get it back to you in time to meet your application deadline, all for a fixed package price. Get in touch if you’d like another pair of eyes on your work, and let me help you with the first step on the road to your dream job!