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CV & Interview advice

CV & Interview advice

CV

Your CV is an essential career document needed to present yourself effectively in the job market. A good CV will considerably boost your chances of getting a face-to-face interview by highlighting relevant skills, experience and value to a potential boss. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to writing and presenting a CV and each document will be as individual as the jobseeker it belongs to. However, by following some basic principles you will be able to present the information in a clear, concise and persuasive way. You may need to put together more than one CV if you intend to apply for different types of job across different sectors. This will enable you to emphasise the particular achievements, skills, experience and personality qualities that a particular employer is looking for. It is usually possible to tell what an employer is looking for from the job advertisement or job description; alternatively you may need to research the role and the company yourself to ensure that your CV has the right focus.

Content:

An employer will expect to find information covering the following areas:

Personal details - include your name, address, phone number and email address.

Work experience - list the most recent experience first, as it brings to the fore the most recent and, often relevant work. Describe your work experience in short sentences using straightforward, positive language. As well as describing the job, point out any general qualities that arose from the work such as ability to manage staff or work to tight deadlines.

Education - list brief details of qualifications - GCSEs, A-levels, degree - along with grades attained. Applicants looking for their first job since school, college or university can include their education information before work experience.

Skills - include specific skills such as IT skills or languages.

References- it is usual to provide the names and contact details of two referees, one of which should be your most recent employer. Graduates and school leavers with limited work experience can nominate college lecturers, teachers or managers during work experience. Be sure to tell your referees in advance, so they will be prepared.

Hobbies - including details of your interests away from the workplace is optional. By adding details of specific hobbies, you are giving an employer a more rounded picture of your personal qualities, don’t overdo it. Do not use a long list of hobbies to cover up a lack of work experience.

Presentation:

Ensuring your CV is well presented and easy to follow is as important as including all the relevant information. Most employers see hundreds of CVs and yours may get less than a minute of their time.

Most people follow a historical CV format, as this is familiar to employers and is easy to write with employment history placed in chronological order. It also gives a good idea of career progression. However, if your career history is fragmented due to career breaks or a period of unemployment, you may consider a skills-based CV that highlights your abilities and aptitudes. It gives you the chance to describe what you can do, rather than detailing a list of jobs.

Whatever your choice, your CV should look clear and tidy with all the information easy to find. Most employers will expect to find the information under clear headings highlighted in bold or capitals, such as WORK EXPERIENCE or EDUCATION. Put dates on the left-hand side and indent information to make it easy for employers to find their way through your history.

Do:

  • Use a confident tone and positive language.
  • Concentrate on your achievements not your responsibilities. This means listing things you have done - such as products launched, sales increase, awards won - not rewriting your job description, and quote figures whenever possible.
  • Make your most relevant experience and skills prominent to encourage the employer to read on.
  • Keep it to the point and concentrate on the quality of your achievements, not the quantity.
  • List other skills that could raise you above the competition such as languages, driving licence, IT skills.
  • Be ruthless with yourself and keep it to a maximum of two pages. Only very senior, experienced, executives have more.
  • Check thoroughly for correct spelling and grammar -spotting errors is a quick and easy way of weeding out weaker candidates when faced with a mountain of CVs to read.

Don't:

  • Leave any gaps in your work record - employers may assume the worst, for example that you were fired.
  • Lie - many employers use information service companies or sophisticated new software to check CV details for accuracy, including educational qualifications, places of study and the veracity of job references.
  • List all the one-day training courses you have ever been on.
  • Include a photo unless you know the employer wants one.
  • Use elaborate fonts, or colours – keep it simple.

INTERVIEWS

The short time you spend at a job interview could have a dramatic effect on your career and your ambitions. This advice combined with the guidance provided by our Consultants will equip you with valuable information on how to conduct yourself at interviews with prospective employers.

Remember that the interviewer is trying to fill a vacancy. They are not there to knock you out of the process; they are hoping that you will be perfect for the job. They will want to ascertain your skill set in detail but they also want to know how well you will fit in with the existing team.

Preparation:

  1. The advantages of advance preparation for interviews are numerous. Naturally, if you know what you want to say ahead of time, you can usually articulate it more effectively.
  2. The first step in your preparation is to identify your skills, interests, and career goals before you arrive at the interview. This will help you answer the interviewer's questions about your goals and desired direction within that organisation.
  3. The next step is to study your prospective employer. The purpose of research is to learn about the company's services, or products, the number of employees, the financial situation, competitors, problems, the management style and employee benefits.
  4. Impressions are formed during the first two to six minutes of the interview. Therefore, what you wear can affect your chances. Dress should be appropriate for the organisation with which you are interviewing. You should aim to convey an image of professionalism, authority, and competence.
  5. You may wish to carry a briefcase or a professional-looking notebook with your questions written in advance. It is often helpful to take a portfolio to a job interview. Generally, a portfolio includes an additional CV and letters of reference.
  6. Always allow ample travel time in order to be punctual. You should arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the interview.
  7. After you have informed the receptionist of your arrival, select a chair that will allow you to sit upright and alert. While you are waiting, read any organisational literature that is available or notes that you have taken along.

During the Interview

  1. Expect to be nervous at the outset. Interviews most often begin with what's called an "open-ended icebreaker" - the interviewer's invitation to "tell me about yourself." If you anticipate a lead-in opener, you will have ready answers and should find yourself beginning to relax.
  2. First interviews normally take about an hour during which time that candidate's accomplishments are reviewed. Under the best circumstances, you should leave the interviewer with the impression that you can do the job. Often, however, you won't know whether you want the job until you've met with the company representative for the second interview.
  3. To build a good rapport you should speak clearly, listen closely, and show by gestures and facial expressions that you are receptive to the interviewer's thoughts and questions.
  4. In answering questions, pause to give yourself time to compose an answer that is concise and thoughtful.
  5. If you feel you haven't communicated your reply clearly, try again until you are sure that your message has been received correctly.
  6. Feel free to refer to your notes in answering questions. Listening to the interviewer is as essential as speaking honestly and forthrightly about your abilities.
  7. Concentrate on what is said rather than how you are doing, and you will most likely create a good impression.
  8. Listening to the interviewer's questions and statements will help you formulate your responses and obtain a better understanding of the organisation's views and work environment.
  9. The interviewer may give you the first sign that the interview is coming to a close when he or she asks if you have any further questions.
  10. At this point, you should ask questions that will reflect both the insight you've gained from the interview and your professional values. Be careful not to ask something the interviewer answered earlier, although this is the perfect time to ask for clarification on anything you're not sure you understood.
  11. You might choose to bring up one or two additional strengths or skills that further match you to the organisation - again, brief statements only.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

This is a commonly asked question and seems to prove a stumbling block for many interviewees. It is not the place to admit your biggest flaws or crack jokes but it's also not the time to pretend you don't have any development areas, as it would either make you look conceited or unrealistic about your own performance.

So What Can You Do?

You don't want to open up and do a full-blown character assassination on yourself. Yet you have to answer the question.

Think about your strengths. This will give you a solid foundation before you think about "weaknesses" and means you'll avoid the temptation to beat yourself up about not being perfect.

Think about your last appraisal or what your current colleagues would say about you, even ask your friends. What are some areas you can improve upon? Where do you excel? As for weaknesses, it's often better to think of them as "development areas", rather than "faults". Are there any areas where you could improve? Be honest with yourself. The employer is looking for proof that you can identify your areas for development and then do something about them.

So you'll need to admit that you're not perfect, whilst showing that you are already working on the issues and giving examples of the progress you have made. Have you been on any training courses? Or maybe you've taken on a project at work to increase your skills? It's usually a good idea to make the "weakness" something small. Avoid major topics such as "organisational skills" or "time management"!

If possible, choose a development area that doesn't affect your ability to do the job for which you are being interviewed.

How To Answer:

The key to a good answer to most interview questions is to give examples that back up what you're saying. Don't expect them to take your word for it. If possible, demonstrate how you're already improving your "weak spot". It's also a good idea to turn your "weaknesses" around, to have a positive slant. For example:

"Some people call me impatient. That's because I have drive and enthusiasm to get the job done, but I still make sure I plan and don't miss anything." Make sure your answer is appropriate to the company and role. The example above would work well for a high-pressured, deadline-driven role. But it would be less appropriate for a job that required someone to studiously follow through the same project for five years.

General Advice:

  • Be articulate
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Demonstrate confidence
  • Avoid "yes" or "no" responses
  • Show enthusiasm
  • Respond to nonverbal cues such as nodding and smiling
  • Avoid excessive mannerisms and fidgeting
  • Avoid bringing up negative information about past job experiences, co-workers, or former employers
  • Always present the best of your background or qualifications Interview

Mistakes:

  • Lying
  • Negativity towards past employers
  • Being Rude/ Overfamiliar
  • Complaining
  • Talking about people you don't get on with at work
  • Appearing to be too nervous, or too confident
  • Not being prepared
  • Not having researched the company

Closing the interview:

Do not accept or decline the position on the spot. You need time to think about and consider the implications and options – Thank the interviewer for their time and ask what the next stage will be, expressing your interest in the role if genuine. Follow Up: As soon as you have finished write down the key issues uncovered in the interview. Think of what will qualify you for the position and match your strengths to them and conversely think of the potential concerns the employer had and how you would overcome them – and get in touch with your Merit Consultant!

Our follow up now is critical.

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