How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore

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How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore

Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 1.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An accesible introduction to the writing of CVs and covering letters, this provides clear, basic information but nothing more. Suitable for first time job seekers more than seasoned employees.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 242 Date: June 2009
Publisher: How To Books
ISBN: 978-1845283650

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Back home in the UK after a stint abroad, and job hunting for the first time in years, this book is a rather timely addition to my shelves. Having spent the last year and a bit teaching English, I also like to think I know a little about grammar and general language use. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the author of this book, and while it's all very well advising readers that first impressions really do count, this carries less weight than it should when you notice the dubious grammar in the first line of the introduction, and in virtually every chapter which follows.

The book's author was a head-hunter prior to setting up her own company, Impressive CVs, which lends its name to the book. The blurb on the back speaks of the company's success in producing interview-winning CVs. I've done some recruitment in my time and seen some shockers in this department, so I am certainly aware of the need of some members of the population to improve in this area, but it nonetheless surprised me that a CV writing company would use this as their boast, when surely it goes without saying that any such company will achieve this, or go out of business very quickly.

The book is heavily focused towards CVs rather than covering letters (almost 200 pages of the former, 30-odd of the latter) and includes a dummy's guide to the common mistakes made and how to correct these. It talks about the order to put things in, what those things should even be, what's worth including and what should be skipped. However, even though it's quite a chunky book, a lot of the pages are quite light on original content, either because of all the white space (and there's a lot of this) or because of repetition or reference to previously mentioned topics. The author is clearly keen on lists, which again spread things out thanks to all the headings, sub headings and sub sub headings. An example is the nine steps to job hunting where step 5 (Find a Job) has 6 areas, many with further sub areas. You could sum up what she says in a few words with none of this fanfare, and still get the same message across. At times it seems like she's including words just for the sake of it. In the section on Achievements, she actually tells you what to do if you have achieved nothing: leave this section out altogether. If you really need things spelling out to this degree, you might like to consider whether you're even ready to enter the world of work with no one to hold your hand.

The book is not entirely bad, but I do think it's aiming at a very specific niche of the population. Though it doesn't specifically say so, I would peg this one at 16+ school leavers, looking for their first job, and even then a session with the school or college career advisor would be more useful and relevant to your personal needs. The book's section on qualifications, where she implies people reading this may have Masters degrees or higher qualifications was a little far-fetched, and I would also disagree with her recommendation that including (Hons) after your degree title is important: having recruited many graduates in my time, I can honestly say this is not something I ever looked for (virtually every degree is an honours degree these days) and often made me roll my eyes when I saw the applicant had added this to a degree with a low grade, in a silly subject, from a Mickey Mouse university. Also good, this book is geared at the UK job market, and therefore has none of that resume nonsense you get in many other publications of this type since so often they are primarily focussed on the American market.

My favourite section, for entertainment value rather than education, was when she took some appalling CVs and gave them a make-over, explaining in detail what was wrong with the original. These few pages could be used as a check-point for anyone writing a CV, since they highlight common errors, and would save you having to read the rest of the book. It goes without saying that the errors made here have of course been referenced earlier in the Dos and Don'ts of the relevant sections.

The chapter on Covering Letters was also interesting because it's something I've never given much thought to: I wrote one once and it got me an interview, so I've basically used a version of the same ever since. But, as Tracey says, It is all very well to have a brilliant CV but if it not complemented by cover letter (sic)...you will be letting both yourself and your application down<. While there are no naff covering letters to laugh at, there are some apparently successful ones. One of these was, for me, clearly addressed to a certain organisation in my field, which made me wonder why they'd bothered to change the name if they were going to leave the organisation so blatantly obvious.

Interspersed with the author's advice is the advice of experts from companies such as KPMG and Tesco, but again what they have to say is often far from scintillating. Consider this little titbit from the Tesco dude: if you've got a good CV and you're interested in the organisation, an organisation will contact you if they are interested in you. Wow! Who'd have thought?

The book comes with a CD that includes numerous templates for CVs and covering letters in Word format, meaning you can edit them easily. However, this is again a repeated version of what you can find in the book itself, though I suppose would save you the effort of copy-typing. It would also be cheaper than enlisting the help of the author's company.

I was hoping to learn even just a couple of tips from this book, but there was nothing I'd not heard before, which was disappointing. Yes, it is an easy to read book that is laid out in a user-friendly way, but the voice is patronising and the lack of insider knowledge a bit of a let-down. Save your money and have a quick search on the internet for CV tips, because I guarantee the common-sense advice you'll get there will be at least as good as anything on these pages.

Thanks go to the publishers for sending a copy of the book to The Bookbag.

Anyone needing a refresher course on what it's like to be in employment and the rules which apply will appreciate The Unwritten Laws of Business by W J King and James G Skakoon.

Buy How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide for the UK Job Seeker by Tracey Whitmore at Amazon.com.


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