A strong CV, supported by a well-written cover letter, is the first step in a successful application for any quantity surveyor job. Here is some guidance for how to make a CV and cover letter as relevant and impactful as possible.
What to include in a quantity surveyor CV:
The opening paragraph of a CV tailored for a quantity surveyor job application should take the form of a personal statement, highlighting the most relevant attributes to the role in question. Quantity surveyor candidates should focus on a working knowledge of commercial, land and building laws, as well as demonstrate a good grasp of general areas such as report writing, mathematical and numeracy skills. It is important here to be specific and ensure that any statement can be backed up by evidence when it comes to the interview stage of the application process.
Starting with the most recent examples, this section of the CV should be a comprehensive list of all employment history, with particular focus given to the most relevant to the job in question. It is important to strike a balance between being brief and concise, yet detailed enough to avoid sounding too vague or general. The applicant should describe any quantity surveying projects he or she has worked on, highlighting specific industry-relevant skills that were developed and applied such as project management, cost analysis and reporting, valuation of completed work, and client and stakeholder liaison. Finally, it is critical to be able to explain any gaps in employment history.
This is another opportunity to provide tangible evidence of skills and experience, and prospective employers will expect to see relevant professional qualifications such as postgraduate courses accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), as well as membership of this organisation and participation in their training and events.
It is important here to strike a balance between technical quantity surveying skills, such as the preparation of tender and contract documents, and monitoring of site resources, with soft or behavioural skills such as people management and being a team player. It is also a good opportunity to showcase skills that are not immediately thought of as essential to the quantity surveying industry but which may still be of interest to a prospective employer. IT or people management skills, for example.
Getting the cover letter right.
A cover letter should be succinct and to the point and not repeat anything in the CV. Instead, it should provide, on no more than a single sheet of A4, a snapshot of the most attention-grabbing and relevant information. An applicant should consider what the prospective employer is looking for and apply this in the letter.
The basic points to address in a cover letter are:
- Why the candidate is applying for this position. Here is where an applicant should show an ambition and desire to progress personally and professionally.
- Where the candidate saw the advert. This in itself is a chance to demonstrate knowledge of the industry through mentioning events, contacts or publications that are specific to quantity surveyors, such as the RICS Building Surveying conference or Modus, the RICS member magazine.
- What makes the candidate the ideal fit for the role, backed up by a few relevant examples of recent quantity surveying projects.
It is critical to remember that any prospective employer will be viewing a range of cover letters and CVs, so wherever possible an applicant should seek opportunities to make his or hers stand out from the crowd. This can best be achieved by moving towards a discussion of specifics as quickly as possible, making sure to highlight real-life application of skills that have been outlined as essential requirements for the job in question.
One approach is to try and describe a quantity surveying project as if telling a story, giving it human interest. For example, applicants could start with how, and why, they were brought into the project, thereby demonstrating that they have contacts in the industry that think highly of them and value their involvement. Then briefly discuss each phase of the project and their contribution to it through tasks such as managing construction costs, ensuring adherence to health and safety rules and regulations, and quick decision making. This should then be finished with any positive feedback or endorsements from external sources.
Finally, the cover letter is also an opportunity to give a tangible demonstration of skills such as precision, an attention to detail and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely. To that end, the cover letter should always be spell-checked and proofread for grammar, personalised without being informal, and easy to read.