CVs, Cover Letters and Online Applications

CVs and cover letters

Use the range of resources below to help you make effective applications. 

Current students and recent graduates can attend one of our regular webinars or workshops on CVs and cover letters (book on the mycareer events page), and/or access 1-1 support by booking an appointment on mycareer or emailing the careers team. 

The University Careers Portal provides video, audio and tutorial resources, including input from a range of graduate employers.  The “Creating a great CV” pathway includes information on planning the structure and content of your CV whilst the online CV checker provides instant feedback as well as ideas for developing your document and an opportunity for an online review by a careers consultant.  There is also a cover letter builder which provides tips on content as well as examples to give you ideas.

Download the information sheet on CVs and Cover Letters which includes detailed guidance and examples.

Refer to Target Jobs "Guide to perfecting your graduate CV"  and "Covering letter essentials for graduate vacancies"

Visit the Prospects "CVs and cover letters" webpages

Download PowerPoint presentations on Creating an Effective CV and Creating a Cover Letter

Download the Creative CV Guide .

Online applications

As with CVs, current students and recent graduates can attend one of our regular webinars or workshops on completing application forms (book via the mycareer events page), and/or access 1-1 support by booking an appointment on mycareer or emailing the careers team. 

Visit the Careers Portal "completing an application" pathway.

Refer to the Prospects website "Example questions and answers" for guidance on responding to typical questions. 

For additional tips on how employers use application forms to select candidates, use the Target Jobs "How do you fill in a job application form" section. 

If you have a disability you may find it hard to know at which stage of the application process you should inform a prospective employer or whether you should tell them at all.

Under the provision of the Equality Act, if you have declared your disability the employer cannot dismiss your application on the basis of your disability if ‘reasonable adjustment’ can be made in the workplace.  However, if you have not told the employer about your disability it may be possible for them to say that they did not know about it and so could not have been expected to make any adjustments.

As regards disclosure, the most important thing to know is that there are no set rules – it's up to you if, when and how you tell a potential employer.  A lot of it comes down to personal preference: how comfortable you feel disclosing and how open you are about your disability. It's important that you consider the impact of not making them aware of your situation; do you perhaps have a disability that impacts on your communication skills which might make it harder for you to perform well in an interview? If the employer is aware of this they can then make the appropriate adjustments to help create a level playing field, allowing you to perform to the best of your abilities.

If you decide to tell a potential employer about your disability, the next stage is to establish at what point in the application process you should tell them. Here are some of the different stages at which you may want to disclose your disability and some key considerations to keep in mind for each.

1. Cover letter

Many candidates fear that talking about their disability in their cover letter may cause them to be disqualified early on in the process. If a company were to discriminate against you they would firstly be breaking the law, but you would also have to ask yourself: do you want to work for such a company anyway?

A reason to disclose early on is if, for example, you have gaps on your CV or perhaps a lower grade because of your disability. Discussing your disability will keep the employer from drawing their own, possibly negative, conclusions, while it is also a chance for you to discuss what you've achieved despite that disability. Focus on the positives: has your disability made you stronger in certain aspects for example? Which skills and strengths do you have because of your disability? And in which way does that make you perfect for the job?

It is important to bear in mind that the cover letter should focus on your skills relevant to the job. Any discussion about your disability should only form part of the letter.

2. Application form

You may be asked to fill in an application form which includes questions about any serious health conditions or disabilities. If you are asked to complete a medical questionnaire you must do so truthfully but be aware that there are restrictions on which health-related questions can be asked before a job offer is made: employers cannot ask jobseekers about health conditions unless their question is relevant to carrying out one of the duties in that role.

3. Interview

You may feel more comfortable discussing your disability face-to-face, in which case the interview might be the right time to bring it up. Again, make sure you focus on the positives: emphasise your skills and strengths and talk about what you think you can bring to the company. Be ready for questions from the interviewer, and perhaps take any useful information with you on accommodations they will have to make for you, but don't let the discussion surrounding your disability dominate the interview.

4. After you've received an offer

If you don't need any adjustments during the recruitment process you may be more inclined not to disclose until after you have received an offer: that's totally fine. Know that even at this stage, you're not legally obliged to tell your employer about your disability, but if you do require any accommodations or specific arrangements this is probably the time to make that known so that both you and your future boss are satisfied that you'll go into your new job feeling confident and able to perform your best.

When it comes to disclosing your disability, first and foremost consider your needs and don't let a fear of what might happen stop you from doing what you want to do. Go with the approach that you feel most comfortable with and remember, there are plenty of great companies out there that are looking for someone with your exact skill set and experience. Don't hold yourself back from these opportunities: if you think you can do it, apply.

Useful Resources covering disclosing disability, application processes and vacancy sources

The University Disability & Dyslexia Service provides a selection of resources including support organisations and employment schemes related to specific disabilities.

The Target Jobs website give sources of support and advice on how and when to disclose, rights at work and how to identify disability-friendly employers.

EmployAbility work with university students and graduates to ease the transition from education into employment. Their team offer you free support, advice and guidance throughout the entire recruitment process and beyond. Register with them to gain access to opportunities.

MyPlus is a site with a broad range of information on disclosure, applications and interviews. It also carries job advertisements. 

If you would like to discuss these issues further, then you are welcome to book a guidance appointment with a Careers Consultant. 

It is usual for employers to ask for the details of two referees. Ideally one of these should be academic and the other a current or previous employer. For undergraduates, you could ask your academic mentor, your personal academic tutor, a course leader, a module leader or your dissertation supervisor, but always seek permission and keep in touch with your referees so that they are aware of the roles you are applying for. 

If you do not have an employment based referee, you could use someone who knows you through a voluntary role, for example, or if you have no other options, a family friend. An employer will not accept a reference from a family member.

It is usual not to include your referees' details on a CV. Instead, insert "References Available on Request" at the end of the document.  

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