I hear people all the time say “Tonight I’m gonna write my CV”, “This afternoon my Cover Letter will be ready”. Maybe the first mistake here is when someone thinks he will write a good application in one night, in one day. What most of the students, graduates don’t know is that knowing how to write a CV or a CL (Cover Letter) is a whole culture, is about your experience in this field, is about how much you spent trying to write a good one. This, is a question of practice.
Learning how to be good at these is an incrementing process. You become better and better only if you repeatedly read what you had written in you CV, only if you always read about CV-writing best practices, common mistakes, distinguishing elegant touches, how to make your CV a masterpiece. The more you gather information about this culture, the more you become good at this.
I can recommend a couple of good articles which provide advice and tips about how to write a good application like this one and that one. Normal people will check just those two websites, distinguished people will look for at least two others this day, two more next week.
Build your CV in an original way, follow the KISS concept (Keep It Simple & Stupid), for example you can do miracles with Microsoft Word, add your touch, be artistic. Every space, every comma and every single word counts in your CV, then be wise on choosing terms, on putting punctuation. Terms like “Clean driving licence”, “Courses held in French” or “Successfully developed an application” definitely make the difference. That makes you win the recruiter’s good first impression.
Put your contact information in an original way, use tag clouds and spheres to underline your technical skills (there are a lot of ways to simply do it online), be specific on what you are, a title as “Graduate Junior Embedded Systems Engineer” or “Ingénieur Jeune Diplômé en Informatique, orienté Finances & Economies” are of course more attractive than the standard “Computer Science Engineer” or “Software Developer”. A good application requires creativity, inspiration, out-of-the-box thinking. The recruiter must know exactly what you want when reading your CV. There is no better than an oriented targeted candidate. Somebody who is talking in his achievements about web programming then about embedded systems, later about networks is somebody confused and “orientationless”.
Forget to to throw a bunch of programming languages and environments in your technical skills part. Recruiters hate that, they are not looking for someone who is a Wikipedia of programming languages. They are looking for someone who is, again, specific, someone who knows where he is heading, including what set of programming languages he wants to use. Then just put what you master, not what you have made a “Hello World” with. You could also include in this part your hardware and networks knowledge.
When listing your technical achievements, think about using the “Topic – Description – Keywords” method, simple, short, organized and effective. Recruiters like to read less words, to easily find the information they are looking for. Again, choose your words in each of these parts. Expand just a little bit the description in your most important achievement. Don’t forget, you are a student/graduate, you don’t have that important experience to talk about (the French people got it well that’s why they imposed a one-page CV for graduates and students), don’t talk about what you don’t know, you can get caught lying very easily. You are a graduate, you are fresh and new, you are in the bottom of the scale, you lack experience and you can get trapped with no problems.
For people who have strong extra-curricular backgrounds, this is your field. Play with words, “collaborative” is better than “team”, “Co-manager” or “Head of” are better than “Director”, “Representative” is far away better than “participated in…”. Try to divide this part part into “Positions Held” / “Responsibilities” / “International Participation” / “Awards”… Of course don’t fill half a page. I personally think eight lines are a limit, prioritize your points, what is highlighting must be the first.
When it comes to the “Interests & Hobbies” part, people usually are tired and pissed off as it is about the end of the CV. Recruiters know that very well. So people throw just a handful of general, global and always-true topics and notions like: travel, reading, sports… This is wrong, the more specific you are in this part, the more you will be believed. If you have some hobbies, think about writing exactly what you do, “Science fiction novels”, “Water polo one a week”, “Events orgnization as voluntry work” are specific real hobbies. If you don’t have any hobbies, then either you don’t know what are you interested in yet, or you should see a shrink :P
I hope this will help you improve your application documents quality. This will consequently improve your chances, this will make you a special candidate, this will make you school known and improves its reputation.