Your CV gives an initial snapshot of your working history. It provides the opportunity to sell yourself and show what you can bring to the role. A strong CV will secure an interview, creating a good impression prior to the first meeting.
- The cover letter should be treated as your personal marketing literature; it introduces you and your CV and is your first chance to make a good impression.
- If you are replying to a job advert, include the job title, reference number and if possible the publication you noticed it in.
- The content should be brief, structured and should avoid repetition of information covered in your CV. Outline your current situation, why you're seeking a new challenge and also state why you're interested in working for the company. Highlight your transferable skills, achievements and versatility.
- Write down all the facts about yourself, your career and training experience.
- Decide how this will relate to the job you're applying for.
- Clearly state the dates you were employed, and write a short, bullet point description of the duties for each.
- Finally, make sure you have included any requested information, such as expected or current salary and benefits.
- Personal details: full name and contact details, including address, telephone number and email.
- Profile – This is your opportunity to really capture your audience and sell yourself. Ideally, a one-paragraph profile that sums up your professional and personal attributes, such as: key roles to date, your experience in a specific sector or industry, your ‘unique selling points,” e.g. problem-solver, team player etc.
- Employment record: career history should be presented in reverse date order, with a short overview of the main responsibilities and career progression. If you are embarking on your first position, emphasise your training, skills and relevant work experience.
- Educational history and professional qualifications: names of institutions and dates attended (most recent first) grades and passes attained, training, development and computer skills.
- Hobbies and interests: listed last and kept to a minimum.
- References: you can either list up to two, or simply state 'available on request'.
- Use white paper and a plain font.
- Do not include WordArt, ClipArt, graphics or photographs, as this can make the document look cluttered.
- Keep to two pages if possible.
- Always check your spelling and grammar.
It is important to do some preparation before attending an interview. The more you prepare, the less likely you will need to think on your feet on the day.
- Ensure you speak to your consultant and they will be happy to help you find out as much as you can about the company, the culture, the job and the person who will be interviewing you.
- In most cases the employer will already be in possession of your CV so think about what skills or experience you may have that match the job description and be prepared to highlight these on the day.
- Take a copy of your CV and any certificates or references with you. Not all employers will ask for them but you should be prepared.
- Plan your journey and set off early. Should you be delayed in any way, ring your consultant or the company to keep everyone informed. If you do decide not to go, it’s essential you let your consultant know.
- Punctuality on the day is of key importance.
- Have some relevant questions prepared prior to your interview.
On the day
- Remember, appearances do count and the first few seconds are vital. Companies often have different standards of dress; your consultant will be happy to help if you need advice.
- When you meet your contact, ensure you walk in confidently, shake hands, look them in the eye, smile and introduce yourself.
- Watch your body language, sit upright and look keen and interested. Keep control of your hands as touching your hair, fiddling with a pen or button, for example, can be distracting.
- Be natural, be yourself, be positive.
- Relating to the key areas of the role, ensure that you demonstrate how your experience matches.
- Offer precise and detailed answers to questions, highlighting any relevant experience.
- If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification.
- Think about what is going to make you stand out from the crowd. Make sure you highlight the benefits of employing you.
- If you are interested in the position, it’s always beneficial to say so. Ask what the next stage is and if the interviewer thinks that you are suitable for the role.
- When the interview has finished, stand up, smile, shake hands and thank the interviewer for their time.
Frequently asked questions
The following questions often asked at interviews:
- What do you know about the company?
- Why do you want to leave your current company?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What skills could you bring to the job?
- What do you like doing best/least in your current role?
- What do you consider to be your strengths/weaknesses?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- Do you prefer to work in a team or alone?
- Can you work under pressure? Describe an incident where you have had to do so.
- How would you handle difficult clients/customers?
- How do you like to be managed?
- Where would you like to be in five years?
- What salary are you looking for?
- Why should I employ you in this position?
Questions you may wish to ask at an interview:
- What is the most important aspect of the job?
- Who will I be working for/with?
- How many people are in the department?
- Are there any periods when business peaks? What effect will this have on the job, if any?
- Are there any training schemes from which I may benefit?
- Are there promotional prospects?
- What are the other benefits?