Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) is the key that unlocks the door towards a successful job application and therefore an interview!
Employers use CVs and application forms to sieve through applicants so you need to make a good first impression. You can do this by:
- Presenting information clearly and concisely in a logical order.
- Focusing on what benefits you can bring your employer through your experiences and skills to date and your personal effectiveness.
It should give enough detail to attract the curiosity of the employer and set you apart from the other candidates, but if it is too long it may not be read. Don't be tempted to lie or over-exaggerate. Apart from the fact that there is software to combat this, you will get asked questions based on your CV at the interview.
Many employers ask for online applications and may ask for you to upload your CV. You need to make sure that it is in a easy to access format in a programme such as Microsoft Word so that they can easily open it.
Presenting your CV
The following are points for you to consider when compiling your CV, but don't treat them as rules - CVs are partly a matter of personal preference, as you want to stamp your individuality on them. (NB, this doesn't mean using your nickname, coloured paper/ink or attaching a photo of yourself in fancy dress - except in exceptional cases!)
It's a good idea to tailor your CV to highlight skills/experience/personal qualities that are particularly relevant to the job you are applying for. You can work this out by careful reading of the job description and/or doing some research into the employer you are applying to. Don't just rehash the job description and re-write the responsibilities but make the most of your relevant achievements by listing them.
Set out your CV in a tidy way. Your potential employer will be scanning it, looking for particular things and may not have long to spend on it. Avoid using too many fonts, or a jumble of text effects. Stick to a common font, in black ink and make subheadings stand out by using bold/uppercase.
Things to Include in Your CV
Contact details - Name, address, contact phone numbers, email.
A brief statement - describe yourself (Studying what and where etc).
Summarise your key attributes - tailored to the position being applied for (use short sentences and be positive. Don't write too much - a brief paragraph will suffice here and you can expand on it in a covering letter).
Qualifications - GCSEs, A Levels, Degree, etc. State subjects and pass grades/levels and always put the most recent first.
Skills - Languages (state level of competency, e.g. conversational, fluent), computer literacy (packages you are familiar with), ability to drive and clean license if the job requires it.
Work experience - either voluntary experience or paid work that has been gained again always stating the most recent first. (In a covering letter make links between your experience and what your employer might find useful - e.g. ability to manage people).
Interests - including a few of your hobbies and interests shows your employer that you are a rounded person. They may also indicate more of your skills e.g. that you can be a team player or have commitment (e.g. participating regularly in team games) or that you can take responsibility (e.g. running boys brigade club). However, be careful not to use this section as a substitute for work experience, just include a couple of interests. Membership of Professional Bodies can be included in this section - this will show commitment, enthusiasm and a desire to stay up-to-date.
Your Covering Letter
Covering letters are necessary to make links between the job description and your CV. They give you a chance to show that you possess the skills for the job.
- Start with: Dear Mr/Mrs Smith,
- Paragraph 1: Who you are and why you are writing.
- Paragraph 2: How your skills match the job.
- Paragraph 3: Why you want the job - what is your motivation?
- Paragraph 4: Mention enclosed CV and any other necessary details.
- Finish with: Yours sincerely and remember to sign.
Do not write one covering letter, then print off 50 copies and send them with your CV to a large batch of companies. This type of generic covering letter (along with your CV) will most likely be binned straight away. Employers are looking for ways of differentiating between potential employees and if you haven't gone to the effort of adapting the covering letter for their company then they are unlikely to follow up your application.
Each covering letter should be tailored to suit the company that you are applying to as well as highlighting specific skills that you possess which match that specific job.
Not only are interviews a chance for the employer to find out more about you and whether they think you will suit the job, they are also a chance for you to find out more about the job and organisation that you have applied to.
Before the interview
- Familiarise yourself with what you wrote in the application/covering letter.
- Look at the skills they have highlighted as important and think of examples of how you possess those skills.
- Research the company - both overall research and research focusing on your particular area is important.
- Practice answering typical interview questions with friends or family.
- Make a list of questions you want to ask the employer at the interview.
- Make sure you know where the interview is being held and at what time - try to arrive 10-15 minutes early so you can clear your head whilst waiting for the interview.
- Be friendly to all staff members that you meet and smile.
During the interview
- Remember that first impressions count! Dress smartly and appear tidy and well presented.
- Give the interviewer a good firm handshake and make eye contact with anyone you are introduced to - this will convey confidence.
- Sit straight on your chair, don't cross your arms or fidget - this will make you look nervous.
- Take a folder with you with the application form, job description, copy of your CV, invitation to the interview and other relevant information such as exercises you are asked to complete before the interview.
- Bring a notepad with you and write down any questions that you want to ask the interviewer.
- You will be asked a wide range of questions to enable them to assess the skills you possess, your motivation, your determination to succeed and your long-term career goals.
- When answering include examples of things you have done in your studies, work experience and hobbies that are relevant to the question asked.
- Observe the interviewers - how do they react to your answers?
After the interview
- After the first interview you might be asked to come back for a second interview or you could be offered the job after only one interview. If so well done!
- Alternatively, the company could contact you saying you were unsuccessful. If this is the case, don't despair and do not be afraid to ask for feedback. This is a very useful tool in finding out your interview strengths and weaknesses so you can improve for the next interview.
More Interview Information
For highly competitive jobs there may be several rounds of interviews, some may include psychometric tests at assessment centres and even telephone interviews.