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selling your skills

Applying for a job is all about selling your skills. What makes it so challenging is that you are both the product and the salesman - that gives you the advantage of knowing everything possible about what you are selling, but also the challenge of recognizing what your strengths are.

Selling your skills also makes you face that very British dilemma of not wanting to talk about or promote yourself. We are typically a modest, self-effacing people, but selling your skills effectively means being willing to let other people know what you are good at.

In the battle to sell yourself, your most powerful weapon has to be your CV. If your CV doesn't create the right impression, you will never get an interview - it is thus your calling card, your foot in the door, your first and most crucial tool in selling your skills to employers.

That means your CV has to more than the old, tired list of jobs and education that many people still imagine a CV to be. On a good CV the information about your jobs and education is merely the back-up, the information that supports the more eye catching parts of the CV - the profile and achievements section.

The profile and achievements sections are what employers read first, so this is where you do your selling. The profile section should be tailored for each different job, and should mention key skills the employer is looking for.

The achievements section is where you get to list your "career highlights" - the best things that you have achieved, examples of where you have excelled or made a difference in a particular field.

Ultimately, getting this right is all about matching your skills to what the employer wants, so it makes sense that you should customize this information for each separate application.

You do this by carefully reading both the person specification and the job description. Identify exactly what the employer wants, and work to show them how you are what they are looking for.

Supporting your CV will be the cover letter that you send. All CVs should be accompanied by a cover letter, and again, it should be adapted for each different job.

Keep the cover letter short and sweet, make sure it is error free and professional, and you will have already started to create a positive impression with the potential employer.