In a competitive job market a well-written CV or application form, good networking skills, and good interview technique can make all the difference.
A CV is a summary of a person’s life in terms of education, achievements and work history. It should be short and concise; a maximum of 2 sides of paper. It is often the first thing that an employer will see of you, and they will use this to make a decision on whether or not to take your application further. Therefore it is important to spend time on your CV to ensure that it will give prospective employers a good, clear view of who you are, what you have done, and what you can do.
Tips on writing CVs
- There is no need to write 'Curriculum Vitae' or 'CV' at the top.
- Don’t use abbreviations such as " " (ditto) in a list, just retype it.
- Keep the format consistent:
- Use the same format for dates (e.g. if you start using 10/2011, don't then use October 2011 for date).
- If you bullet point your key roles for one job, don’t then write in paragraph format for another one.
- Think about the job you are applying for and tailor your CV to each job. For example, if you apply for an administration post, concentrate on writing about your skills from previous jobs which can relate to this post. For example elaborate on your previous roles which incorporated admin duties. Don't write lots of paragraphs on roles which are not relevant such as bar work for example.
- Keep it clear and simple - there is no need for fancy borders and/or graphics. It should be in a clear font, a good size for ease of reading, and be in a format which is easily readable.
- A CV should be no more than two pages.
- If you cannot fit your reference details on the end, it is acceptable to write: 'References - available on request' at the end.
- Make your contact details clear on your CV. With email addresses, it is worth considering opening up an account with a more professional address rather than something such firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips on application forms
- Fill in the application form - ALL OF IT! As a recruitment consultant the amount of half completed applications forms I see is incredible. Please do fill in all parts of the application form - recruitment consultants are no impressed with blank applications forms just because you brought your CV with you too. It doesn’t make a good first impression either!
- If there are parts of the application form you are not sure about, ring the company to ask. If you are bringing the application form with you to an interview arrive early and make a note of any queries so you can ask before the interview.
- Fill in as much detail as you can but CONCISELY - don’t ramble on unnecessarily. For things such as dates of employment, be as precise as you can. If you can’t remember the exact date put at least the month and year of the start and end of each employment.
- If it is a handwritten application form try to write as neat as possible as this will be the first thing your future employer sees.
- If it is an online application form that you submit, check your spelling before you submit - don’t assume the computer will spell check it for you!
Boost your experiences/skills
This is always a fantastic way of boosting your work experience on your CV! It is important to get work experience in an area which is relevant to the job you want to do. Volunteering your time and effort shows that you are ready, willing and able to do work and says a lot more about you than a role which has no relevance to the area of work you want to go into. It is important to make the most of any voluntary experience you can gain, if the people you are working with are experts in the field, ask any questions you may have or ask their advice on how to get your foot on the ladder.
Portfolio of achievements
It’s a good idea to keep a portfolio of achievements or record of achievements. It’s a good reminder of things that you have achieved and can help to boost your self esteem when applying for jobs in the current competitive job market. Keep your portfolio in a presentable format so that you can take it with you to interviews. It can be a good way to show what you have achieved to your future employer as well as be a good conversation starter. In here you can keep any written commendations that you have had from previous employers which is another good way to sell yourself in an interview situation. Please do note that giving copies of commendations to future employers do not make adequate references. They will still want reference details so they can write to them directly.
It is important to be aware of what you are good at as these can provide selling point for yourself to future employers. Make a list of all the skills that you have and think of ways that they can be portrayed on your CV or in an interview. What is equally important to be aware of is what other skills you need for the job that you want. A good technique to use when thinking about a job that you want is to imagine the perfect candidate for that job, then list all of the skills that candidate has. Now compare this to the list of your own skills; this can help to make you aware of the skills which you make lack, or may need to improve on.
Learn new skills
By making yourself aware of skills you can improve on, this lends itself to researching if there are any courses in your local area to help improve these skills. Local colleges may offer courses for free or a small charge and these are often evening classes to allow you to continue working during the day if necessary. You local Job Centre may also have information on courses and if you are in a position of financial hardship may be able to help you with the cost.
Keep in regular contact
With both existing contacts and any new contacts that you make - they can be the key to your new job. They may have contacts in a company you want to work for, they may be able to offer you some training or work experience with them or they could offer you some guidance on how to get to where you want to be.
- Read the job description and person specification thoroughly as questions are normally centred on these. Think about the questions that they could ask you at an interview and prepare what you would say.
- Practice makes perfect - ask a friend to run through a mock interview with you, it will give you practice at answering questions on the spot.
- Think about questions you want to ask your prospective employer - ask questions which give the impression that you see your future with THIS company, rather than seeing it as ‘just a job’. For example, ask about training the company offers.
- Print a map of the location of your interview, plan you journey taking into account traffic and public transport times. First impressions do count so don’t be late. If for some reason you are running late, it is polite to contact the interviewer to let them know and give them an estimated time of arrival.
In the interview:
- Say yes if you are offered a drink - taking a sip of your drink will help calm you down and can give you an extra second to think if you are asked a difficult question.
- Try to stay calm - one thing to bear in mind is that the interview is as much for you as it is for them. It is your chance to see if you want to work in the company as well as their chance to see if you are the right employee for them.
- It is better to pause briefly before answering a question rather than babble on and go off tangent and thus not answering the question.
- Try to answer questions as concisely as possible, then back up what you have said with an example or two.
- When the interview is over it is polite to thank your interviewer for their time.
Tips for staying positive
- Create goals for yourself. These don’t have to be big goals, but they need to be enough to push you towards what you want to achieve.
- Goals should be SMART:
- Measurable - maintains focus
- Attainable - not motivating or driving if impossible
- Results orientated
- Time bound
- For example, your goal could be ‘to find and apply for 3 jobs I really want and can do, today’.
- Specific - jobs you want and can do
- Measurable - 3 jobs
- Attainable - 3 jobs is attainable if you put you mind to it, whereas to find 100 jobs in a day that you want is rather unrealistic and may lead to decreased motivation.
- Results orientated - completed job applications will give u a sense of achievement.
- Time bound - today.
- It can be very easy to feel down if you get a rejection from a job, or if you have been made redundant. Think about something negative that has happened before in your life (e.g. maybe you failed your driving test the first time round). Then think about how you coped with it back then - a positive attitude, perseverance and practice for example may have led to passing your driving test the second time round. How you coped with things in the past can help you cope with things now. If you get a rejection from a job, you can remain positive and persevere with more job applications and focus on those rather than dwelling on the job you didn’t get.
- Use feedback to your advantage - interviewers will normally call you to let you know if you have/have not been successful in your interview. If they do not offer you any feedback on why you were not successful, ASK! Feedback is the key to improving for next time but remember that feedback is useless if you are not willing to take it on board and change.
- One example of feedback might be that you did not ‘sell yourself’ enough at the interview. You can work on this by thinking of key phrases you can use in an interview which help me ‘sell yourself’ and getting my friend to go through a mock interview and judge where you could sell yourself more.