CV Tips & Interview Success

CV Tips


The term 'Curriculum Vitae', commonly abbreviated to CV, can be literally translated as 'course of life'. Sometimes referred to as a résumé, it's a summary of your career history that is often the first phase in getting yourself noticed by potential employers.

Why CVs are requested

When employers have a vacancy they need to fill they will put together a person specification; a list of the skills and experience they want the ideal candidate to possess. From this list, the job advert is created, which is where they will ask you to send them your CV.

How closely your CV matches the person specification is the key factor in determining whether they see you as a suitable person to carry out that role within their organisation. Unlike an application form, a CV allows you to decide which information is most relevant to each role you apply for. It needs to be:

  • Concise
  • Accurate
  • Engaging
  • Thorough

The key word here is concise. It's not a place to list all your achievements and experiences as this would make it long, unwieldy and, in a busy recruitment office, a turn off!

Your personal advertising campaign

Like any advert, you should use your CV as an opportunity to sell. You want to sell your skills, your qualifications, your experience and your ability to do the job. Advertising is all about attracting attention and appealing to the needs of the buyer so highlight your strengths and achievements to interest of the recruiter.

The skill is in honing your CV to the opening and demonstrating how any experience you have gained can be useful to the company you are applying to. Every time you complete a training course, volunteer or gain new responsibilities you should update your CV.

If you're a recent graduate and can't demonstrate a long career history, you can still list gap year experience, part time work, charity work, internships and association memberships explaining how the experiences you've gained during these will help you in your future career.

Putting it together

There is no perfect layout format and different people in different situations will need to lay their document out in a different way. Take a look at our free CV template for a few ideas. A CV with clearly headed sections will be appreciated by employers and it will allow them to find the details they're after easily. This means clarity, good spacing and short, sensible blocks of information. Every CV should include the following sections:

  • Personal details
  • Education
  • Experience

There are additional sections that you could also decide to include

  • Personal statement
  • Skills
  • Hobbies and interests
  • References

All work experience and education information should be listed in reverse chronological order (i.e. With the most recent at the top), allowing your reader to see what you've done recently, then to continue reading if they think it's relevant to their needs.

It can be a daunting prospect putting together your CV, but it's a lot easier if you remember three key things; Employers want to know how your experiences match their requirements, it's better to go for quality over quantity, and finally, your CV is designed to get you the interview, not the job at this stage…getting the job will depend on your interview preparation!




CV Writing


It is that time of year again, the results are in and the job hunting begins for many, so let’s get that CV right!

Where do CVs go wrong?

If you want your CV to be shortlisted, you have to make it very easy for the employer to see why you are the ideal candidate for the role by emphasizing your relevant skills and experience. The way your CV is presented will also be subject to scrutiny. For instance, you may claim to have great attention to detail or be an excellent communicator, but the employer is unlikely to believe this if your CV is sloppily presented or the language you use is clumsily expressed.

What to avoid!:

Lack of Relevant information

Many candidates make misplaced assumptions about what is important to the employer and so fail to provide the relevant information in their CV. Do your research and show that you have the specific skills, experience and approach required within the first half page of your CV, so the recruiter can quickly see your suitability.

Insufficient evidence

Unsubstantiated claims won’t work. You need to prove you have what they need. So instead of your CV saying you have 'good communication skills', give an example of where you demonstrated this to good effect e.g. 'write monthly blog on company developments as part of our social media strategy'.

Too generic

Many candidates write a broad CV because they want to keep their options open. However, unless it is clear who you are and what you do, then recruiters won’t know what to do with you.

Errors

Nine out of 10 CVs have errors on them and are often rejected on that basis alone. Your CV must be impeccably presented if you want to demonstrate your professionalism and attention to detail. Always ask someone else to check it over for you.

Negative information

Your CV should include only positive information. Never criticise a previous employer or refer to difficulties or disappointments unless you were able to turn them around.

Poor language

The use of jargon, clumsy expression or clichés can sabotage the chances of even the most capable of candidates. Instead of using the 'I' pronoun, such as I did this, I did that', use positive action words to lead bullet points e.g. 'Initiated this, created that”, which will seem much more dynamic. This will give a very energetic feel to your CV and help reinforce the message that you are an upbeat, 'can-do' type of candidate.

Software issues

When you apply online for a role, your CV is scanned by software before human eyes ever see it. Formatting options like columns, shading, boxes etc may look nice, but they could interfere with the software’s ability to store the information on your CV. So make your CV as plain as possible or if you are uploading a pdf file, make sure it is compatible with the software.

Online recruiters will use key words to search for CVs containing particular skills and qualifications, so ensure that your CV includes the relevant key words likely to be used.

Scoring a job: Interview preparation


Once you’ve bagged yourself an interview, you need to get your thinking cap on and start preparing.

Get to know the company inside out

You need to get into the vibe, or at the very least, get good at pretending to be really interested in what the company does. Remember that you’re competing with other people who might have more experience than you. Get a feel for what the company does, and how it achieves that. What do they do that makes them unique? Ask yourself honestly: why are you applying for a job with them and not another company? What do they do that you really like? Identify their competitors. Is there anything their competitors do well that they could try and replicate? This sort of information is really useful for you to have in mind; employers like candidates who are innovative and come up with solutions. You might also want to look at the industry more broadly - is there legislation about to be pushed through that will drastically affect that sector?

Read and re-read the job specification

Simple stuff, but there’s no point going to an interview off the cuff and having no idea of the kinds of things they might ask you. If you read the job/person specification, it should mention the kind of skills or attributes they want their new employee to have. Use that to figure out what kind of questions they might ask, and think of ways to answer it. For example, if they say that you need to be a team player, you should think of a scenario where you’ve played a key part in a team, and how you helped to make that project or team a success. Which leads onto the next point nicely…

Write out real life examples you can use

You need to have a notepad with a go-to list of examples of scenarios where you have proved that you have a certain skill or ability. It can be from work, from university, or even in an informal context. Think of scenarios where you’ve proved you have the following: communication skills; leadership skills; initiative; problem-solving skills; organisational skills; commitment. Some of these skills and examples might already be highlighted in your CV, but it doesn't matter if you say it again. It’s also a good idea to try and think of examples where things have gone wrong – don’t be too eager to share them at your interview, but if you don’t have a ‘bad’ story where something didn't go quite to plan, some employers might be suspicious - they know that nobody is perfect, and it's best to own your mistakes.

Go through it with someone

Do a mock interview with someone else! Two heads are always better than one – if you have someone around who has a spare half an hour, explain to them the job you’re going for, and give them potential questions to ask you. They might be able to come up with some good questions for you as well. Doing a mock interview helps because rather than having it written down, you get the opportunity to talk it over with someone, and see how confident you are at reeling off your experiences quite easily.

Always ask questions

At the end you’ll get a chance to ask questions. Never let it go by! Asking questions may seem irritating but actually it shows you’re interested in the job, and that you’re engaging in a conversation rather than being interrogated. Before your interview, start writing down really simple ones like “Is there a uniform?”?” “Who do I answer to?” – then think of other things that you want to know about your potential job. The interviewer might answer these for you in the course of the interview, but make sure that you at least get out a notepad and ‘check’ to see if you have any questions that are unanswered. If not, explain to them that you had questions but that they’ve answered them. They’ll be pleased that you were keen enough to really think about the job. If you're feeling confident, you could also ask the interviewer about them and their career; how did they get to that position? What's the company like?




What happens if you don't get the job?


Sometimes, even if you have a storming interview, you won't get the first or even the second or third job you interview for. This isn't necessarily a reflection of your ability to do a job; sometimes employers will cut their list down to two or three candidates, and they cannot choose, so pick an arbitrary reason to employ one person. The person that gets the job over you may live closer, which means they're less likely to be late. They may know someone who works at the company already, so they will fit in more easily. Don't let rejection dishearten or discourage you because it's not necessarily that you are not good enough.

Popular questions and ideas to think about

  • How did you get here/how do you plan on coming in to work? (If you live far away)
  • Give me a scenario where you’ve worked in a successful team?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve worked under pressure?
  • Talk me through a time when something went wrong and the steps you took to correct it?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • What made you apply for this job?
  • Where else have you applied for a job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Describe yourself in 5 words
  • What do you like doing outside of work?

Again, your agent should always coach you through your interview, they will know the culture of the client and can tell you how best to approach the interview.

If in doubt, come and speak to us at The Recruitment Bar, call us on 01536 711340 to book an appointment today.

Not sure how to lay out your CV?

Download our CV template guide below to help get you started!

Do’s

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  • Research: Find out exactly what the employer you want to impress is looking for, then write a CV that exactly matches their requirements.
  • Evidence: Prove what a great candidate you are by including examples of achievements, improvements you made at work or problems you solved.
  • Two pages: Aim for a two-page CV. Any more than this and you are likely to be waffling, but any less and you have not provided enough information.
  • Proofreading: Thoroughly check your CV for errors and ensure that what you have written makes sense. Then ask someone to double-check it for you.
  • Covering letter: Always provide a covering letter or email to go with your CV, as it’s another chance to convince the employer of your suitability.

Don’ts

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  • Be negative: Avoid any criticisms of past or present employers, or mention any difficult periods in your career history. Your CV needs to be very positive.
  • Photo: Do not use a photo with your CV unless you are specifically asked to. It’s usually only relevant for work like modelling or promotions work. 
  • Rely on one CV: Expect to have a number of CVs that you change depending on the job you are applying for. Always tailor your CV.
  • Use fancy layout: Avoid unusual fonts, columns, tables etc in your CV when writing it in a Word document. The formatting can so easily go awry when it is read by a recruiter.
  • Be disheartened: If your CV is not being shortlisted then talk to a career coach or someone who works in your chosen area, to check whether your CV is doing you justice and that it is a good match for the roles you have been applying for. Advice and feedback from others is the best and quickest way to turn around a job search campaign which doesn’t seem to be working.


If in doubt, give The Recruitment Bar a shout, we would be happy to sit with you and go through your CV and make recommendations for improvement – call 01536 711340 today!



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