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Careers Advisor

The good CV guide

3 steps to the best "professional you"

Writing a CV can be daunting but with a little preparation, research and some insider tips, your CV will become the canvas you need to pinpoint your talents and achievement. The CV is a recruiter's first insight into you as a candidate. The aim is to highlight why you are suited to the role, how your skills reflect what they are looking for and offer a personal insight into your character.

The best way to start your CV is to consider it as a Sales Brochure that tells employers what, when, and how well you have achieved your objectives. It should be concise, accurate but full of relevant information. Limit yourself to 2 - 3 pages, as this will ensure you only write the important facts.

Step one The structure

Before you begin you should start by forming your CV Skeleton:

  • Profile Statement
  • Personal Data
  • Work Experience
  • Associations
  • Interests & Activities

Step two Creating the body of your CV

Your Profile Statement

The profile is your CV introduction; a simple statement that highlights your career aspirations, ambitions and your current skillset. This is an easy way to highlight key skills you think the employer is looking for in approximately 80 words. You may be applying for a role where multitasking is essential, therefore that you "thrive in fast-paced environments" could be an advantage.

Getting personal - personal information

The personal information needs to be up to date and accurate. If an employer likes your CV but cannot find a telephone number or email address, then your CV may be discarded. Ensure that your CV includes your name, address with postcode, telephone numbers and an email address.

When it comes to email address - try not to use a personal email with a frivolous address. i.e. is possibility going to considered less serious than

Your education and achievements should be listed in reverse chronological order - this is the easiest way to read. If applicable start with your professional qualifications, then move onto your further education ending with your higher education achievements.

Where you've been - Work Experience

This is the main part of your CV, the part the employer really cares about. When highlighting your Work Experience start with your current/most recent position highlighting your activities and achievements with the greatest detail. Now move back through your job history.

All about you - associations & interests

Make your CV personable. The aim is to offer a well-rounded view; the work side and the human side. At the end of the day, you will be spending considerable time with your employer and their new teams and you must easily adapt to their culture. Include any memberships/associations you are involved with followed by a concise range of interests. You should mention here whether you are keen to relocate if the role location does not match your address.

Step three Review

Always check your CV through. It may feel like you have been writing to for a long time but you must leave it and go back and review. This ensures you've not written glaring grammatical, spelling or content no-no's.

The bad CV guide

The definitive don't list

Don’t apologise or mention anything negative

Always be positive, don’t be negative.

Don’t use technical jargon, abbreviations or in-house terms

Remember the initial person reading your CV may not be from the intended department.

There is no need to mention your age, height, weight, religious/political preferences or even your salary expectations.

Don’t ask about the salary, but please mention your own salary if asked about it, be honest and don’t exaggerate.

Photographs are unnecessary unless they have particularly asked for one

If so, use a professional one as opposed to one you in a social situation, eg a nightclub etc.

A small font is not conducive to easy reading

Try and adopt a size 10-12.

Don’t cram everything onto one page

Consider taking advantage of white space. You want to make it easy and enjoyable for the employer/recruiter to read.

The interview preparation guide

Get prepared

So, your CV and application have been successful and now you need to prepare for the next stage, the interview. This preparation is crucial as are the examples you provide.

You need 5 things to start your preparation:

1 Your CV & covering letter

You must know exactly what you have written in your CV & Covering letter. When asked, you must be able to evidence anything you have highlighted with examples of work or scenarios.

2 The job specification

Understanding every element of the role and demonstrating knowledge in those areas will ensure you are not be caught out in the interview by any question.

3 Company information

More often than not employers want to know why you want to work for them and a generic answer won't do.

Know the company's core competencies, market position, competitors and what makes their culture different. More often than not employers want to know why you want to work for them and a generic answer won't do. Use research and individual reasons for your application. Make it personal.

Research can be done on the Internet via the corporate website, competitor websites, databases, company literature, newspapers and trade publications.

4 Questions

Always prepare questions to ask as the interviewer will enquire. Create a list of 5-10 questions and decide sequence and priority. Be careful to always listen as the interviewer may well answer your question within the interview.

5 Time to rehearse

The final task is to rehearse. Answer typical questions out loud so you can hear and time your answers.

Typical Questions you may be asked:

Why do you want to work for the company?

Talk through your CV.

What attracted you to this role?

What do you know about the role?

The being ready on the day guide

Arriving early and facing the interview

On the day

There is a lot more to your interview than turning up. Consider how are you going to look, where are you going to park, whether you have enough petrol, does your pen work? Read the following for flawless day of the interview tips.

What to wear

  • An interview is a formal business occasion and the dress should be considered thus.
  • Plan what to wear the night before so to avoid a rush/panic in the morning.
  • Try and reflect what you think the interviewer will be expecting.
  • Be comfortable.

Your arrival

  • Plan to arrive 15-20 minutes early
  • Know name / position of the person you are seeing.
  • Get into the role before entering the premises.
  • Read any corporate literature available.
  • Expect to do most of the talking - but listen effectively and answer all questions.
  • Try and relax, smile.
  • Listen effectively and observe body language. Use your body, especially eye contact.
  • Ask your questions and make notes on the answers.

The online identity guide

Your cyber-self

Approximately 25% of HR professionals have considered what is said online as a reason to reject an application and 60% of recruiters do this for every application.

Managing how you are seen online is important. The chances are that your online identity is more active than you imagine. If you use Facebook, make comments on Twitter or update your work employment details on LinkedIn, then your reputation is online and is constant.

Even if you are not blogging or networking online on a regular basis it may still be possible to find out about you online. Normally this might not be a consideration but when you are looking for a new job, what people can find about you may affect the future of your application. Approximately 25% of HR professionals have considered what is said online as a reason to reject an application and 60% of recruiters do this for every application. The question is, what does the Internet say about you?

Check your rep.

Put your name into a search engine and see what the Internet says about you. Consider what type of persona is being conveyed and what a prospective employer would think?

Manage your rep.

Building a reputation means considering what type of things you make public property. It is now relatively easy to clean up your online presence with most professional sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn letting you remove comments or edit your profile. Consider posting worthwhile comments on appropriate sites, forums and discussion groups as you will position yourself professionally when you search your name.

  • Work time posting is not good etiquette. Remember sites display date and time of your posts.
  • Keep status updates away from negative work topics.
  • Try not to get drawn into controversial and extreme conversations - it may feel right at the time but later you may regret it.
  • Stick to the rules, they are there for a reason.
  • Some photographs are hilarious but may not be considered professional. Think before your tag yourself.
  • Keep your security settings/privacy settings as high as possible.

The redundancy guide

Take a deep breath

Redundancy is a difficult stage to find yourself in. The aim is to maintain focus. Take a step back and give yourself time to get to grips with the loss of your job.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years, not 2-3?

One of the most tempting options is to start applying for every job you see; this is not the most productive route. Once you have taken time for yourself, really consider what it is you want to do. Many people find that after redundancy, they want to move in a new direction. However you must maintain focus. Don't apply for a range of jobs with the off chance that your skills are transferable. Sticking to what you know and being targeted and streamlined in your approach is the best route to success.

  • Take time for you.
  • Do not apply for too many jobs at once - recruiters recognise serial appliers.
  • Take time over your CV - tailor it to the role you are applying for.
  • Increase your chances by sticking to what you know - don't over stretch your skills.
  • Consider a change in direction. Where do you see yourself in 10 years not 2-3?
  • Keep up with a routine. Create a daily timetable that includes breaks.
  • Some short-term voluntary work, charity work or fundraising looks good on the CV.

The perfect covering letter guide

Cut through in 20 seconds

It is a widely known fact that employers take 20 seconds to skim through a covering letter. That means you need to say something that ticks the boxes immediately.

Be clear.

Don't use long sentences when a short, concise and informative one will do. All you need to do is highlight the important points as easily as possible.

Know who it is you are writing to.

Do some research. Take a look on the website or on LinkedIn to find the appropriate contact to whom you should address your letter.

To start,

you want to be strategic in your approach. Consider the following layout:

  1. Why are you attracted to the company?
  2. Why are you attracted to the role?
  3. Why would you be a good fit?
  4. When are you available?

It is vital that you sound like someone who will easily fit in with the company culture. Look at the language used in the job advertisement and the types of phrases on the corporate website. These key words become points of reference or hints into what the company is looking for. Make sure you take advantage of these.

When discussing your appropriateness for the role, you must evidence your claims with credible examples. Showing you can do what employers are looking for is a sure fire way to imply you would be more than comfortable in the role.

Finally, proofread and re-read again. It is vital that you do not have grammatical problems, spelling mistakes or discuss unimportant points in your covering letter. You are making your first impression, make sure it is perfect.