What makes a great CV and cover letter? We ask expert Lo Constantinou from Good Copy

Lo Good Copy

We recently caught up with Lo Constantinou the founder of job advice platform Good Copy.

Good Copy is a CV writing and cover letter writing service that supports people with finding a job by helping them to ‘put you on paper’.

Tell us about Good copy and who you help

My primary audience is 94% women, but I help anyone who is looking for a new position. I like to say 'you've either lost your job or lost your joy'. It could be redundancy or that the pandemic and the last two years made you reassess things. I try and help people who are ready to make a move. Also, people who feel like the system was working against them, and need somebody in their corner who's been there and done it.

Can you tell us about your 'Pay It Forward' scheme and how it started?

This is a programme that I run every three months or so. I offer a giveaway of a number of free CVs, but they've all been paid for by the kindness of strangers. Usually from my clients. When they pay me they'll pay double and they'll say, 'put it in to pay it forward'.

I get a lot of people who reach out because they've created their own business and they've become successful and want to support others. 

It came from a client of mine, who was thrilled with her CV but I didn't realise that she was actually an angel investor. She really champions women in business. She put forward this idea about paying twice and it snowballed from there.

There have been 35 CVs that have been funded by the kindness of strangers. Some of these women have connected with one another, which has been really lovely. It really does help people who faced things like redundancy, declined flexibility, discrimination and sexism.

I had a couple of people who had been made homeless as a result of the pandemic. So their CV that was paid for by somebody else helped them to start the process of getting back on their feet. It's been a really rewarding part of the business to launch.

What are your top 3 tips for creating an effective CV? 

This sounds so silly, but people forget a killer, personal profile. You want to hook people straightaway. The average recruiter looks at your CV for 7 - 9 seconds before they decide.

It's a staggering statistic and it doesn't make you feel great when you think about all those CVs you sent off. Get key things straight to the top and get a really, really inviting personal profile. 

You need a good balance between your hard skills and your soft skills.

Your soft skills are the things that are personal to you. For example, that can be your collaboration, your communication, or if you're particularly creative.

Your hard skills are not things you're born with, they are the things that you learned along the way. They could be management, coding, anything like that. What you want to show on your CV is that you know how to write a healthy mix of the both of them.

The rule of 10. As brutal as it can sound, don't include jobs that are older than 10 years on a CV. There are obviously exceptions you know, people who've worked in the same place for 10 plus years. Typically, you find that a job that you worked 10 plus years ago, is not going to be relevant for what you're applying for today. You need to value that precious space on your CV.

Is there anything else you should leave off your CV? 

There are a few things you don't have to disclose on a CV. For example, you don't have to disclose your full address, date of birth, marital status, ethnicity, ethnicity, pronouns or gender.

You also don't need to disclose any references, your reasons for leaving or your salary. That's because those facts come later in the process. 

What are some ways candidates can make their CV stand out? 

The main thing is to get your personal bio right. That's the first thing recruiters look at. You need to showcase who you are straight away in the first couple of seconds. Again, a killer opening bio. 

What’s your ultimate piece of advice when it comes to writing a cover letter?

Be brutal! You are writing a cover letter, not a memoir. It's important to remember that you have to stick to the facts, keep it relevant and keep linking everything that you say back to why you are the right person for that job.

It's great to talk about any volunteer work you might have done but what does that tell the hiring manager about your team leadership skills, about your financial planning? Anything like that, you need to link it back to why you're the right person for that job and not go off on tangents.

If you think about when you see an Instagram caption that is a little bit too long so you just scroll on by, imagine that on a 2-3 page Word document. You should always stick to one page when you are writing your cover letter.

Let’s talk interview prep! What should you prepare, when it comes to research? 

One really important thing is to learn about the business. Go further than a typical Google search. Have they been in the news lately? Are there any cultural pieces written about them or about the interviewer so that you can find some common ground? 

You need to be up on exactly what's going on with the business. Find out if they have a specific mantra? Do they have a specific ethos? Some businesses may have an educational platform or a chosen charity. What do you know about that? What do you know about the actual company and what they do?

Lastly, it sounds a little bit cliche, but you need to look good to feel good. I think the two go hand in hand. I always say to every single client when I'm prepping them for an interview, you need an outfit that you can sit, stand and walk-in.

It's all very well looking great not being able to breathe in your amazing dress. But what if they say let’s take you on a tour of the building. That doesn't necessarily mean going out and spending a tonne of money on something new. Have you got anything in your wardrobe that always makes you feel great? Can you thrift anything or borrow from a friend or a parent? Just make sure that when you go in you feel comfortable that you can move around in your outfit, and that it's gonna make you feel a bit more confident. 

What are some good questions to ask at the end of an interview? 

I always like to try and ask one or two questions, you don't need to go overboard. Try and do one that's more of a personal angle and one that's more of a professional angle. With your interviewers, it's really important to build that connection because when you leave the room, they're still going to be talking about you.

You can ask them questions like:

  • What's your career journey been like here?

  • What do you enjoy about working here?’

That gives people the opportunity to open up to you a little bit more. Then you build more than just small talk.

Then you’ve got the more professional questions like:

  • Why did the last person leave?

  • Where do you see this position in six months' time?

  • Is there an opportunity to grow within the business?

  • Do you promote from within?

I like to just round it off by setting any boundaries like:

  • When they're going to get back in touch

  • What does the rest of the recruitment process look like? 

  • What are the next steps from here? 

Should you follow up after the interview? 

They should set some sort of timeframe with you. Even if they say, we're gonna take the weekend. Make sure that you give people that time. We're seeing a much higher volume of candidates which means that people are interviewing a lot more people. I personally think that when that time frame exceeds and you've not heard anything, I would follow up. I always say follow up with a call, not an email.

What’s your ultimate piece of interview advice? 

Make them laugh! Obviously, don't go in there telling jokes and pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But try to find a real connection to the interviewer. You don't just want to leave with an awkward handshake so just be authentically yourself. If you pretend to be somebody else on your CV or on a job application, you'll end up in a job where you can't be yourself. So it's always best even if that might not be the right fit for them. 

What changes have you seen in the way we create CVs over the years? 

I've been writing CVs professionally since 2012 and I've seen quite a few different trends come and go. I've noticed the rise of the creative CV, that’s your cookies, your doll's houses, your bicycles that maybe come with a message on we've all seen them go viral on Twitter. I think that comes from the universities that tend to encourage the students to be as bold as possible.

That's great. But, you've got to do it within your own limits. You don't want to just be sending off these dollhouses to anybody, make sure there is a job there at the end of the day and make sure that it's the right thing for you. Sometimes a whisper is stronger than a scream.

The other thing I've noticed is apps including apps like Canva, where people can make their own creatives. The main thing to remember with a CV like that is that PDFs don't typically travel very well. Often when information is in columns, things can get skewed. 

There's also a thing called an ATS, which is an applicant tracking system. When you hit send on your CV, it goes into the ATS. The ATS samples through any keywords and pulls through your structures, deciphering your CV for the person who's hiring. An ATS typically doesn't understand a PDF as well as it understands a Word document. That's because it's not written in the same structure. It's not likely to be chronological. You've got things in various columns, lovely boxes and templates. And while they might look great to you, the main thing is that it looks great to a hiring manager. 

How do you see the future of CVs and job applications? 

I think we will see kind of a rise in Tiktok applications. I recently read that some American companies were starting to advertise and apply through Tik Tok. I don't know how it would work for different industries, you're always going to need a certain paper and pen type application. But as things progress, we will see a rise of content more than words. There's always going to have to be a way to show people where you've been and what you've done. I think that everybody needs a strong CV in their toolkit anyway. But there will be more videos, and more viral content. And I think people use LinkedIn now as a platform when I first stepped into recruitment 10 years ago, 11 years ago. LinkedIn was not as prominent as it is now for job seeking.

What's one thing do you wish someone told you when you first started looking for a job? 

I wish somebody told me to not be so hard on myself. I used to find job adverts were written to either catch you out or put you off. It made you feel as a young person looking for a full-time role that you maybe weren't the right fit before you even got to the end. It was like they wanted to test you before you applied.

I would have liked an injection of confidence. To know that you're in your late teens, or early 20s, you're not meant to know what you want to do at that point. Don't be so hard on yourself. 

When I was managed out of the workplace after I had my daughter, I thought I should have had a stronger career but a stronger career. But the reality is this happens to 54,000 mothers a year in the UK workplace. It doesn't matter what their job is. It just matters that they've had a child. So don't beat yourself up for things that are so far beyond your control. All you can do is work hard. And sometimes it is about paying your dues, no one's going to step into their dream career on day one. It'd be great if we all did, but you've got to sometimes go through those struggles because the reward at the end is really good.

What is the future of Good Copy?

The future is some long term partnerships with businesses that want to do good, like Breakroom. I’d love to continue to help as many women and people as possible and support people who don't feel like they have anyone in their corner. I'll continue to do right by my 7-year old daughter and show her that you can have a baby and still have a career and make a difference.

There are so many good jobs out there, especially people you want to work in frontline jobs that are flexible for parents. 

Follow Good Copy on Instagram for help and advice here.

Check out Breakroom’s advice on how to write a killer CV as well as an impressive cover letter. 

When you’re ready to send out that CV and cover letter, find out what a job is really like before you apply at Breakoom, 

Make sure you’re getting the deal you deserve, by telling you everything you need to know before you apply. From shift notice and sick pay to work stress and salary.

Published on 19 April 2022