Applying for jobs

CVs and Covering Letters

CVs and Covering Letters are critical in standing out in a crown in your job search.  On average, you have 15 to 20 seconds to catch an employer’s attention.  Your CV and Covering Letter need to be impactful in order to catch recruiters and hiring managers’ eyes.



There are 3 steps to developing an outstanding CV as a Birmingham Business School postgraduate student.

  1. Follow our CV guidance to create your CV using our video and CV Guide.  We’ve also developed frequently asked questions to answer common queries you may have.
  2. Upload your CV into our customised VMock CV platform.  Vmock is a unique CV platform which provides you with access to instant and personalised feedback online and customized suggestions for CV improvement.
  3. Once you have improved your CV using Vmock, we highly recommend either booking an appointment  or email your CV to receive e-guidance, 

CV Guidance

CV Guide:

Download our CV guide which contains sample CVs including a one page CV:

Careers in Business CV Guide 2018

A two page CV is standard for the UK, however; if you are aiming for a job in an Investment Bank or consulting firm, then a one page CV is frequently preferred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to include my GCSE/A Levels/Overseas school qualifications?

Only if the job description asks for them – otherwise, focus on your most recent qualifications.


I have overseas qualifications, should I convert them to the UK system if applying there?


Provide overall grades (perhaps as a percentage or GPA) or your top grades if that isn’t applicable.  Recruiters will contact you if they require an explanation of your grades.


Should the CV be one or two pages?


Most employers will accept a two page CV. Some industries prefer a one page CV, for example, investment banking and consulting. You may also choose a one page CV if you have no work experience or limited extra-curricular activities.


I don’t have any relevant experience; what should I do?


Competitive sectors like investment banking are difficult to get into without relevant experience, however, whether you need it depends on what you’re applying for.  We advise that you examine the job description and apply if you meet the requirements, but make sure your CV provides clear evidence for the skills the company is looking for.


I have a lot of professional experience; do I have to stick to two pages?


For most of the positions and levels that our students apply for, a two page CV is recommended.  If you have held several positions in one company, you could group these positions together rather than listing them separately. Focus on your most recent, most relevant experience, and reduce the number of bullet points for less relevant experience.

Do I need an interests section?


The interests section can help to build a picture of your character and can help break the ice at interviews, especially if you share an interest with your interviewer.  However, it needs to be an interest that genuinely engages you, and says something unique about you rather than things that everyone does such as reading or socialising.


Is your sample CV applicable to countries outside of the UK?


Different countries have different requirements. You can use Passport Careers for advice on CVs for a range of countries -

Get Started with Passport Career - for STUDENTS of Univ of Birmingham Business.pdf.


Careers in Business are excited to partner with VMock, a unique CV platform which provides Birmingham Business School postgraduates with access to instant and personalised feedback online and customised suggestions for CV improvement.

VMock incorporates rich historical data, employment outcomes, robust knowledge sources and recruiters’ criteria along with University of Birmingham specific customizations to provide automated feedback and suggestions. Using machine learning, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, VMock identifies core competencies reflected in student profiles, and helps them optimize their skills.

Getting Started with VMock:

  • Sign up on
  • Upload your CV to the platform. (you have up to 10 uploads for the year)
  • Receive instant feedback and customized suggestions for improvement.
  • Incorporate the feedback to your CV.
  • Upload the edited CV to your improved CV.

** Get started with our User Guide (PDF - 223KB).

Once you have improved your CV using Vmock, book an appointment with Careers In Business at to tailor and customize your CV to suit individual applications.  Alternatively, you can email your CV to to receive e-guidance on your CV.

**Please not although using Vmock isn't required to book a face-to-face appointment, it is highly recommended**

Covering Letters

Whereas a CV is a factual document designed to demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge and experience matching the job description, a covering letter is a motivational document showing why you’re interested in the role and company and stating why you make a good candidate for the position.

It should answer the following:
Why you want to do the job, why you want to work for that company and why you make a good candidate for the role.

Sample covering letter.pdf

Once you have written your covering letter, book an appointment with Careers In Business at to tailor and customize your covering letter to suit the role you are applying for.  Alternatively, you can email your covering letter to to receive e-guidance on your letter.  Please ensure that you also attach the job description or link to the specific job you are applying for.

Online applications

Most large companies will have an application tracking system which will enable you to apply directly for roles that they are advertising through their careers/vacancies pages.  It’s typical for you to have to register your details first and create a password – make sure you save this so that you can access your application again in future.  You may then get a set of drop down menus and be asked to complete sections about your Education and Experience.  If the menus provided don’t apply to your experience, there is often an “Other” tab that you can select.  If you have any problems with completing sections; email a screen capture to us at


  1. Most companies will provide details about their application process; read this first so that you understand what kind of documents and information are required – you might not need your CV, for example.
  2. Follow any instructions given; if you are invited to upload a CV and covering letter then do this but make sure you’ve removed graphics, tables, boxes as some systems can’t read this.
  3. Keep a record of who you’ve applied to; it’s very easy to lose track of online applications and remember you might not be able to access the job description once the application deadline has expired so save this in case you get invited to interview.

Open or text-based questions

Some forms will include questions such as Why have you applied for this position?  Why do you want to work for us?  Describe a time you worked as part of a team...and so on.  It’s typical to be given a word limit for your answer; make sure that you make use of this as short answers won’t demonstrate much effort.  For career and company motivation questions you really need to show that you’ve taken time to examine their website and read key reports (e.g. their annual report) and used additional sources of information (e.g. industry magazines).  Ideally you’ve spoken to their representatives at a careers fair or you’ve reached out to alumni working there through LinkedIn.  Once you’ve gathered this information you then need to sit down and think about which factors link to you.  A common mistake that a lot of students make is to just repeat what they’ve read on the company’s website.  Remember the recruiter knows what the company does and what it’s like to work there; what they want to know is what interests you and what motivated you to apply.  For competency based questions (Describe a time that….) use:

  • Situation – briefly describe the situation
  • Task – if applicable, outline your objective/aim
  • Action – using active language e.g. I managed, organised, resolved – detail what you did
  • Result – finish with the outcome

Once you have written your draft application, book an appointment with Careers In Business at and one of our career advisers can review your application before you submit it.

Psychometric Testing

These are very commonly used in the UK especially for graduate management trainee schemes.  Typical tests include:

Verbal/Numerical Reasoning.  It’s useful to practice these in advance using sites such as and on test providers’ own websites e.g. SHL, Cubiks, Kenexa, Saville Consulting.   We also have books you can borrow from our team – email us at for details.

Personality Questionnaires.  There are no right and wrong answers in personality questionnaires as they are designed to measure your behaviour, and are related to your preference rather than ability. You should not try to ‘second guess’ what the employer is looking for – select the answers which most closely reflect how you would typically act or respond.

Situational Judgement Tests.  During this type of test you’ll be presented with a range of scenarios that mirror the kinds of situations you might experience in that particular job.  It is useful to familiarise yourself with these kinds of tests – we recommend . It is also useful to understand the skills and competencies you’re being hired against as that will give you an indication of the behaviours that the company expects of its employees.  It is typical to be asked to judge effective and ineffective responses to a given situation.  It is likely that ineffective responses are those that do not move the situation forward/resolve the problem, make the situation worse or require unethical action.