Your employer’s first impression of you isn’t usually face-to-face – they’ll read your job application first. So if your CV isn’t up to scratch, you’re much less likely to score an interview.

But how do you write a CV, what is a cover letter, and what if you don’t have any work experience in your trade yet? This guide will help you nail that first impression, and show you where to get help if you need it.

Why write a CV?

Your CV, also called a resume, is your first step towards a new job, says Kevin Everett from Building Recruitment.

Kevin Everett
Kevin Everett

“This is the most important part of the whole process because it’s your chance to make a great first impression. Employers and recruiters will use these documents to determine whether or not they’ll take you further in the process or not.”


Reasons your CV is important:
  • It gives the employer an idea of what you’ve done so far.
  • It shows you have the initiative to write your CV and apply for the job.
  • A tidy, well-written CV shows respect for the employer and yourself.
Match your CV to the job

Don’t just write one CV and send it to all potential employers. You should tailor your CV to fit the particular job you’re applying for, says Kevin.

“If you’re applying for a position where the most important part of the role is erecting frame and truss, you should focus on highlighting your previous frame and truss experience.

“You want the employer to see your CV and think you’d be a perfect fit for the role.”

To get it right, Kevin says it’s important to read the job ad so you can focus on the skills and traits they’re looking for. You can also do research like visiting the company’s website, so you understand more about where you’ll be working.

“Find out as much information about the position and the company as you can.”

While you want to give your potential boss all the relevant information, you don’t need to include everything you’ve ever done – like the certificate for ‘best team player’ that you got in primary school.

“The idea behind a resume is not simply to record your entire life story, but to market the experience and skills you have in a way that matches you with the position you are applying for,” says Kevin.

How to write your CV
Make sure you include this information in your CV, says Kevin.
    1. Your name and contact details. Include your phone number and a work-appropriate email address (not terminator99@mail.com) – and in case you miss the employer’s call, make sure your voicemail message is professional and includes your name.


    1. Personal statement. This is a short paragraph to introduce yourself, your qualities and ethics and what you would bring to the company if hired. E.g. ‘An enthusiastic, hard-working construction trainee experienced in roofing, timber work and erecting frames and trusses.’


  1. A snapshot of your work history including the company and your job title. Always put the dates you worked in each role and include the months, not just years; writing ‘2015-2016’ could mean you worked there for a year, or you could have just been there for a few months. For each place you’ve worked, include detail about your job responsibilities and achievements.
    • Helped build residential houses
    • General labouring
    • Required to meet H&S requirements


    ABC Contracting, Jan 2016 – Dec 2017
    Position: Hammerhand
    • Erecting frames and trusses
    • Attending toolbox meetings
    • Measuring and cutting materials
    • Wrapping building
    • Ensuring site is clear and safe at all times
    • Setting up laser level
    • Using nail guns, compound saws, power drills and skill saws
    • Ensuring all framing bottom plates were connected to floor slab as per NZS3604
    • Reading of plans
    • Using laser levels
    • Regular positive feedback from my employer regarding my work standard and ethics
    • Always turned up on time and never had to fix errors
    • Learned new skills such as NZS3604, using power tools and laser level
    • In nearly two years I have never had an injury


  2. What tools you own and what tools you have experience using.
  3. A list of your licences, training, education and qualifications (e.g. full drivers licence, Site Safe).
  4. Rather than listing referees on your CV, write ‘References available on request’, says Kevin. “Don’t include your referee’s details.” Then, when your future boss gets in touch to ask for your references, you can give your referees a heads-up before the employer calls them to make sure they’re not caught off-guard.
  5. Include your personal interests, and relate them to the job. For example, playing rugby helps show you’re a team player who is physically fit and enjoys being outdoors.
  6. What if I have no experience yet?
    If you’re applying for your first trades job, you probably won’t have a whole lot of experience to include.

    That’s okay – you can list projects you’ve worked on during your course as well as experience that shows you’d make a good employee.

    Unitec relationship manager Rangi Williams says experience isn’t just about your trades skills – it’s about demonstrating you’re ready for work.

    “Some employers might prefer to train you up their way and won’t require trades experience. But they do want you to have some experience with getting to work on time, being reliable, driving a vehicle, being drug-free, and showing you have a good attitude.”

    MIT relationship manager Naomi Tito adds that many people underestimate the value of the skills they do have.

    “Many trainees don’t realise the importance and relevance of ‘soft skills’. For example, working with youth shows leadership skills, while community engagement demonstrates the ability to contribute and be part of the wider community.”

    What if I don’t have any referees?
    If you haven’t had a job before or can’t ask your old boss to vouch for you, what can you do?

    First, try asking a tutor from your course if they’d be happy to be your referee. They’ll have seen you learn skills in your trade, as well as demonstrate soft skills like showing up to class on time.

    You can also ask people who know your character, even if they don’t know anything about your trade. This could be your rugby coach, the pastor at your church or a friend of your whānau.

    Remember, always ask people first before passing their details on to your future boss. If the employer gives your referee a call, it’s better if they’ve had a bit of time to think about the nice things they want to say about you.

    What is a cover letter and how do I write one?

    A cover letter is a letter from you to your potential employer. It tells them why you want the job and why you’d be the best person to hire. The cover letter is a chance to show your personality and your enthusiasm for the position you’re applying for.

      • Address the letter to your employer. It’s best to use their name if you can.


      • Say what job you’re writing to them about. The employer might be advertising several positions at the same time, so let them know which one you’re interested in. E.g. ‘I’m excited to apply for the position of steel fixer at Smith Construction.’


      • Tell the employer why you’re a good choice for the job. You can mention any relevant experience, skills or training, as well as your personal qualities. As a guide, look at the job ad to see what qualities and experience they’re after.


      • Be enthusiastic. Employers are looking for someone who really wants the job and will give it their all. Tell them why you want this particular job and why you want to work for this particular company. If it seems like you’d take any job, they’re not likely to contact you.


    • Sign off like you would usually finish a letter or formal email, e.g. Regards, Sam.
    Where to get help
    If you get stuck and don’t know what to write, don’t worry – there’s heaps of help out there.

    Here are some good places to start if you need to know more about writing your CV and cover letter.

    Building Recruitment
    From CV writing tips to career advice, Building Recruitment can help you find the right job.

    Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT)
    MIT can help you write your CV and apply for a job. Find their career resources online, or keep an eye out for their CV and cover letter workshops for personalised help with your job search.

    If you’re a Unitec student or graduate, get help writing your CV and cover letter with drop-in services or a one-on-one appointment.

    Te Wānanga o Aotearoa
    TWoA students can get practical help with their job application, including writing a CV and developing interview skills.

    MPTT Navigators
    Talk to your navigator to get advice on writing your CV and showing you’re ready for work.