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Some Real CV Advice From People Who Hire People

Posted By, Monday 12 October 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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A CV should set you apart. It is your opportunity to make an impression on a prospective new employer and illustrate, as best you can, why you should be considered for a job. We’ve put together ‘real advice’ on CVs & cover letters.


Martyn Rosney and I have put this blog post together. Martyn runs a blog that advertises roles for people in PR and he gets a lot of CVs from people looking for advice and he also helps organisations recruit communications professionals. I’ve been helping people with their CVs and job applications for years now and also have a lot of them cross my desk here in Cuckoo.

We also got in touch with a lot of people we know both in the ‘real world’ and through Twitter. All of these people have one thing in common – they are, in some way shape or form, involved in reviewing CVs and shortlisting people for jobs and, ultimately, hiring people. The group includes Managing Directors, CEOs, HR professionals, recruitment professionals, small business owners, new start-up owners, and more.

As was to be expected, we all didn’t feel the same about everything but there was enough common ground to warrant a blog post with some advice for job-seekers from people who actually hire people.


  • Do not open your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ if you can avoid it. If you are going for a job the least you can do is find out who you are applying to. Also, it sounds stupid, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who misspell the name of the person they are applying to.
  • Do NOT use a standard cover letter. ‘I read with interest your advertisement for the role of INSERT JOB TITLE and I believe I could be a great asset to your company in the role of INSERT JOB TITLE’ is not the best way to start a cover letter.
  • Tailor your cover letter for the specific role. Yes, it’s a bit more work than having a standard one you use for everything but, you do WANT the job don’t you? Put a little effort in so.
  • If the job ad asks for a cover letter, then you need to send a cover letter. Not sending one means you have NO shot.
  • If you’re using the body of an email as your ‘cover letter’ then treat it as being just as important as a traditional cover letter. Remember, you’ve a better chance of some of your email being read than you do of someone clicking into your CV, downloading the file, opening it and reading it. Use the email.
  • Do NOT send a mail with ‘CV attached’ and nothing else. 
  • Do NOT send the same speculative mail to a load of companies, using the CC or BCC field. Even if you BCC it, it’s going to be obvious it’s generic and not specific to the business receiving it or to a role they may have available.


  • If you choose to include a picture, make sure it’s a recent one. We know of interviewers actually thinking a different person has shown up for an interview, such is the difference between how they look now and how they looked in the photo that accompanied their CV.
  • Give concrete proof & examples. Don’t talk at the person reading it. Show them what you’ve achieved. Use statistics. Outline competencies developed in previous roles. Note achievements.
  • Do not lie or embellish. You do not need to turn working in your local shop into ‘Senior Retail Supervisor’s Retail Assistant’. Say you worked in a shop and then explain what you achieved and learned there.
  • Do not write Curriculum Vitae at the top. It’s clear what it is. You don’t need to waste space with Curriculum Vitae written in size 20 font.
  • Save your CV as a PDF. When you’ve finished with your CV in Word, go to Save As and change it to save as a PDF. This looks more professional and makes it more difficult for someone to alter anything in there. It also makes sure the recruiter sees it exactly how you want them to see it. Different software can render your font choice unreadable.
  • Give the file a helpful name. Guess how many have the file name ‘CV’ or ‘My Cv’. That’s not very helpful to the person trying to keep track of them. Use a file name along the lines of ‘CV.JobRef2031.MarynRosney.pdf’.
  • Keep your CV up to date. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, add new experience or qualifications to your CV as you gain them. You may hear about your dream job a half hour before applications close and firing in a CV that’s not current won’t do you much good.
  • Do not list ‘Social Media’ as a skill. At least, do not do this on the basis that you have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and simply can’t tear yourself away from them. That’s not a skill. If you’ve Digital Marketing qualifications and / or real experience in delivering business results using social, then, by all means include them.
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  • Be creative. Take a risk. Do something to make yourself stand out. Most CVs look exactly the same. Trust us. People aren’t then same so why should their CVs be? Nicholas, in the picture above, did something very clever. Check out Leah Bowman’s LEGO CV and Jobless Paddy’s campaign for a job.
  • There is no excuse for spelling mistakes or bad grammar. None. Have someone else read over it for you. Fresh eyes catch things. Do not rely on spell checker to catch everything. It’s not designed to and will not catch everything.
  • Research the company. Most people don’t. Why should someone care about you if you don’t care about their company? If you do take the time ot do this then make sure it comes across in your CV, cover letter or email.
  • Use language of the employer, not the employee. Remember your audience and look to connect with them through the language you use.
  • Read the job description properly. Numerous people who fed into this blog post told of people applying for very senior roles that they would simply not be suitable for. Ambition is one thing, but make sure you know what you’re applying for.
  • Provide what was asked. If the job ad asks for 3 things and you send in 1 of those do you think you’re in with a shot at the job?
  • Take your time. Lots of employers we spoke to noted that applications received very soon after a job ad goes live don’t sit well with them. People applying that quickly probably believe they are showing how keen they are when, in reality, what it actually proves is that they (very likely) did not research the company and / or role and just fired off something generic. Take your time and give yourself the best shot at getting an interview and, ultimately, getting that job.


Loads of people are going for the same jobs, especially in the current climate. You want to stand out from the crowd. Spend some time on your cover letter / email and CV. Do yourself justice rather than just being another applicant.

We recently advertised some work and had over 50 applications in the space of a week. I can honestly say 2 stood out from the outset. Just 2.

We purposely left out things that caused a lot of debate among the employers / hirers we spoke to on this. Things like the perfect length of a CV, whether to include your references or say ‘references available on request’ and whether to include your Leaving Cert results and / or your date of birth are contentious and a matter of opinion. Including those would make this post less useful. 

We wanted this post to be as helpful as possible and, as such, have included things there was widespread consensus on. We hope it helps some of you out.

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Q&A with John Trainor, CEO and Founder of Onside

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Thursday 8 October 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    How has the rugby fan base changed in recent years, and what might that mean for sponsors of major events like the Rugby World Cup?

    Rugby itself has evolved as a sport greatly in the past decade, attracting a more diverse body of fans and participants and becoming more global in its reach. Women’s participation in rugby, for example, has increased by 20% in only the last year, with an estimated 1.7 million women and girls now involved in the sport. Rugby’s expanding geographical appeal is evident in this year’s World Cup, as well. The RFU expects nearly half a million international fans to travel to the U.K. over the six-week event, more than in any previous Rugby World Cup. This suggests that sponsors who integrate a more diverse and global perspective into their campaigns will engage a wider audience, a strategy that will prove beneficial to long-term success as brands look forward to 2019, when the Rugby World Cup will be held in Asia for the first time.

    How might effective sponsorship strategies for the Rugby World Cup differ, if at all, from those of other major sporting events?

    The Rugby World Cup is different from other comparable sporting events in that there isn’t an over-abundance of player celebrity spotlighting to capitalize on for brand awareness. Many rugby athletes have yet to reach the international stardom surrounding other professional sports, like football, and this presents its own unique set of challenges to effective sponsorship. Both the RFU and its associated partners have focused instead on emphasizing camaraderie, communal belonging, and other shared character-building values of the sport to build positive associations in the minds of consumers. Much of the team-centric rhetoric has been activated through grassroots initiatives to increase rugby participation and enjoyment across the globe by World Rugby, as well as major sponsors like Land Rover and Coca Cola.

    Social media has become a hot button for effective marketing campaigns, both during major events and for continued customer outreach. How have brands been approaching social media as an engagement tool during the Rugby World Cup?

    Social media marketing is indeed a hot button, especially when implemented with the right level of authenticity. The most prominent trend I’ve noticed is the way brands are emphasizing community and shared values, themes that have been at the core of this Rugby World Cup, to connect fans through social media. These themes actually translate quite naturally, as social media platforms are essentially realms to create “community” with others around the world. Dove played off of this relationship nicely with their #ScrumTogether campaign, which celebrated moments of friendship and unity during the event, on Twitter. Other successful examples include Land Rover’s #WeDealnReal campaign, which invited amateur rugby players to share their team stories through social media, and O2’s #WearTheRose campaign to encourage solidarity with England’s rugby team amongst its supporters.

    Are there any really interesting or unusual activation strategies that you’ve noticed during this year’s Rugby World Cup?

    It’s been fascinating to watch how emerging technologies, specifically virtual and augmented reality, have been used to engage fans in entirely new ways during this Rugby World Cup. An exciting piece of sponsorship activation was the Blippar AR app, which allows attendees to scan their World Cup tickets for special augmented reality content. And it’s not only tech companies that are promoting their brands through these platforms; AIG, for example, released a virtual reality app to provide New Zealand fans with a 360° view of the All Blacks’ haka. Technology is really providing us with new opportunities to create memorable associations.

    How do you think the Rugby World Cup is benefitting Irish sponsors and businesses, if at all?

    The Rugby World Cup holds great potential for Irish brands to reach fans and supporters at home, and industry practitioners would agree. Our Industry survey research indicates that 50% of sponsors see the Rugby World Cup as an opportunity to engage with consumers in Ireland, with 45% of both sponsors and rights holders viewing rugby as the strongest opportunity for growth of their business through sponsorship this year. Creating a partnership with the Irish Rugby Team has been, perhaps, the most obvious way to use the event for customer engagement, and companies that emphasize Irish heritage and pride, like Aer Lingus, have done so especially well.

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    Marketing Salary & Employment Sentiment Survey 2015: The Results

    Posted By Alternatives, Thursday 8 October 2015
    Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    We’re delighted to share the results of the 2015 Marketing Salary & Employment Sentiment Survey run by the Marketing Institute of Ireland in partnership with the Alternatives Group. This partnership has allowed us reach out to the broad marketing community and get the views of over 1,000 marketers this summer.

    The survey is the most substantial one of our profession and serves as your ultimate go to guide. It not only establishes salary benchmarks by sector but also provides valuable insight into overall market and marketing sentiment from those that are closest to customers, the marketers.

    In terms of results, we’re delighted to note, for the second year running, a dynamic and evolving marketing sector, significantly improved market conditions and sentiment and this is reflected in the positive feedback and future outlook of our respondents.

    To download the full report, please click on the image below.

    MII Marketing Salary & Employment Sentiment Survey 2015

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    Social Media & Product Placement

    Posted By Vizeum, Monday 28 September 2015
    Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    Advertising happens on every social platform. Whether it has been formally monetised or not is irrelevant; people (and brands) will find a way to promote on every corner of the internet, guerrilla-style or otherwise. Product placement in social is a bit of a grey area at present, but for brands and influencers alike, it’s proven too lucrative to pass up.

    Now often employed as a brand’s sole tactic, product placement on these platforms may be ‘brave’ in traditional terms, but understandable when you see the reach and high frequency that a lot of the ‘newer’ social platforms hold. In the most recent Social Messaging Quarterly, daily use of Snapchat usage was higher than any other platform (and 10% ahead of WhatsApp) at 63%.

    Some Irish influencers are reporting (and screenshotting) as many as 40k views on their public Snapchat stories. This is incredible, especially when compared to YouTube and Facebook video. It’s even more interesting to consider that all views are organic, and makes for the perfect product or brand placement opportunity. Influencers in most categories are used to talking about and reviewing products in a native tone of voice, and Snapchat is a great way to extend the reach of any campaign when working with any socially ‘famous’ figure.

    The self-destructing nature of content on Snapchat means that there is not much of a trail for the likes of the ASAI to follow (save for screenshots). It’s certainly imperative for advertisers request records of all paid activity on the platform, as well as the view count.

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    Given the popularity of Instagram with youth audiences, it’s unsurprising that Instagram is actually becoming a bit cluttered in terms of sponsored content and product features – though not all are disclosed as such.

    Another nice and less utilised tactic is to do a sponsored Instagram ‘takeover’. An influencer (or several) may create ‘guest posts’ on a brand account for an agreed period, and also encourage their own followers to engage with this content, which works very well in increasing affinity and following for brand accounts. With paid advertising approaching fast on Instagram for Ireland, we may see a slow-down in the ‘native’ approach as advertisers test capabilities on the ad platform.

    The procedure for disclosure on these platforms is a bit hazy, to say the least. There is no clear standard set out by the ASAI, but best practice is of course to be upfront. Using #ad or #spon is a good safeguard against backlash and even if legal guidelines are not in place, advertisers are best placed to uphold a good standard of integrity and honesty across the board.

    Hear from Vizeum at the next Marketing Breakfast

    On October 21st, Vizeum’s speakers Jane Madden, Head of Strategy and Meabh Connellan, Head of Digital, will be speaking about  – ‘The Truth About Content – Understanding the role of content and how you can leverage it to enhance your brand strategy.’ You can register to attend here

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    Digital has Forced us to Make Things That People Care About

    Posted By, Friday 18 September 2015
    Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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      I love this recent quote from Bob Greenberg, founder of R/GA:

      Digital has forced us to make things that people care about.

      His words are a clue to the future of the marketing services landscape we can expect by 2030. Historically our business has created demand by paying actors to play out consumer aspirations on film. But today we’ve recognised the need to create authentic stories and interactions that real people engage with, care about, power and propel across their peer networks in a heartbeat.

      We talk about a connected world today but in truth we’ve only scratched the surface of how consumers will relate with brands tomorrow and beyond as technologies such as 3D, wearables, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mobile commerce and programmatic advertising develop and mature. Then there’s the technologies we haven’t seen yet but which will come for certain.

      What will change? Simply everything.

      Will we still call it Marketing? I’m not sure we will. A customers experience at any touchpoint is influenced by everything from supply chain, brand, customer service, finance, human resource and everything else in the organisation so why should one entity be charged with managing the customer relationship with the brand?

      Will we still be selling ads? Not for much longer. The sphere of product and service design developments being created by tech driven companies for brands today will eclipse the traditional “Ad” business. Just look at as an excellent example of product innovation creating a story around safety for Volvo and we can see where brands will shift to in order to create a meaningful role in their consumers life.

      Will we still need agencies? Certainly not in their current form. We’ve more and more experts around the table today to cater for the growing number of silo disciples that add to the complexity of brand communication and activation.

      What will matter is not how many agencies but the orientation of the people around the table. We will only need three profiles – Visionaries, Storytellers and Performance specialists all focused on building a brand and consumer relationship that zeros in on the totality of the consumer experience with the brand.

      By 2030, we will look back at how slow, inefficient, bloated and fragmented our marketing services approach was in 2015 and hopefully be making things that consumers genuinely care about.

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